ITV and the British Museum to reveal the 50 greatest treasures discovered by the British public

Published: 8 years ago Author:

In a brand new landmark, 360º series, ITV1 will reveal the extraordinary treasures and historical artefacts discovered by ordinary people that have changed our understanding of British history. The 4x30, 2x60 stripped show, 'Britain's Secret Treasures', [working title] will be produced by ITV Studios, and presented by award-winning journalist Michael Buerk in his broadcasting debut for the channel, alongside historian and author Bettany Hughes, winner of this years distinguished Medlicott Medal for History.

The series will map out the 50 key discoveries recorded by the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme since it was set up fifteen years ago, with the order of the list being determined by Bettany and a panel of experts from the British Museum and The Council for British Archaeology. They'll trawl through the almost one million finds of the last fifteen years whittling them down to the top fifty. Each one will be judged on its national importance, beauty, cultural and historic significance.

Every year, a staggering 90,000 finds are reported to The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme. These can range from jewellery and religious artefacts, to scraps of colossal Roman statues and ancient coins that revolutionise our understanding of the past. The top fifty list will draw on the best of these including the extraordinary Crosby Garrett Roman helmet found in Cumbria, the Silverdale Hoard of Viking silver that revealed an unknown Viking leader and the Palaeolithic Happisburgh Handaxe perhaps the oldest manmade object found in Britain.

The series will meet the members of the public who discovered these items and provide an insight into new discoveries that happen during the filming period. The programmes are scheduled to transmit in conjunction with The Council for British Archaeology's Festival of British Archaeology: a series of 800 events nationwide that encourage the public to engage with archaeology. will support the series during transmission with an appeal for people to send in photographs of new objects they may have found. These will be assessed by the British Museum and the best new find will be revealed at the end of the final episode of the series.

Roger Bland, Keeper of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum said:

We are delighted to be working with ITVS on this series and are excited about the opportunity it gives us to highlight the work of the British Museums Portable Antiquities Scheme. All the finds featured in the series have been found by members of the public over the last 15 years and show how they really are transforming our understanding of Britains past.

The series is commissioned by Katy Thorogood, Commissioner, Daytime and Factual with Alison Sharman, Director of Factual and Daytime who said:

We are delighted to be working with ITVS and the British Museum on this ambitious project. The public have discovered some extraordinary finds and behind every treasure is a story that illuminates our understanding of Britain's rich and varied history.

The Executive Producers for the series are Ed Taylor and Michael Kelpie, Creative Director, ITV Studios. The Series Producer is Jon Stephens. Michael Kelpie, Creative Director, ITV Studios commented:

Britain's Secret Treasures is a tremendous show about ordinary people who have found extraordinary objects. Through the stories of these amazing objects, we will discover the rich history of Great Britain and bring that history to life using a range of production techniques including CGI, dramatic recreation, rich archive and first person narrative. 

Notes to Editors:

  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme (managed by the British Museum) to record archaeological objects (not necessarily Treasure) found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past. More information can be found on
  • All finders of gold and silver objects, groups of coins from the same find, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1 January 2003 also qualify as Treasure. Potential Treasure finds must be reported by law to the local coroner, which is normally done through the finders¹ local PAS Finds Liaison Officer. If declared Treasure, they may be acquired by a museum at their full market value (normally split 50/50 between finder and landowner), valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee, which is an independent committee of expert. The Treasure Process is administered by the British Museum. More information is available on or

Contact: Hannah Boulton/ Esme Wilson 0207 3238618


There are 1 comments on this story.

  • john wrote @ 16:02:01 on the 9th April 2012.

    I can understand hoards and other newsworthy items will appear in the top 50 list but the PAS is very little understood outside of the detecting and archaeology world so perhaps this programme will show items that have no intrinsic value but are very important historically and people should be encouraged to take items to thier local museums through this programme. John.

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