My Ten Top Locations
To try to decide where to go detecting in a country so rich in history is difficult but hereís ten places to be going along with.
East AngliaI think the area around my Suffolk Home is a wonderful place to detect. I have found two Roman sites, a spot where a Medieval lamb fair was held, as well as Iron Age and Bronze Age finds. The whole of East Anglia is a landscape rich in Britainís history, and the potential for fascinating finds is endless. Some of our greatest treasures have been found not far from my house. There are the amazing hoards from Snettisham (Norfolk), Hoxne and Mildenhall in Suffolk, and just over the border into Norfolk at Thetford. The gold torcs (necklaces) found at Snettisham were buried during the 1st century BC, while the Mildenhall and Thetford treasures are from the 3rd and 4th C AD. All over the region Roman finds ranging from a Gladiators helmet found at Hawkedon (Suffolk) to numerous coins in caches both large and small have been discovered. Itís not just Roman finds, discoveries associated with, the Vikings, the Anglo Saxons, Tudor times, the Civil War and later are commonplace.
YorkGeorge VI said, ďThe history of York is the history of England.Ē After the Roman invasion York became a garrison town and when they left it became Eoforwic, the centre of the kingdom of Northumbria. In 866 it was over run by the Vikings and became Jorvik until King Eadred of Wessex drove out Eric Bloodaxe, the last Viking ruler, in 954. William the Conqueror went to York in 1069 to suppress the Northern rebellion and over the next three centuries York grew to become Englandís second city. It suffered through the Wars of the Roses and the dissolution of the monasteries, before seeing a revival under Elizabeth I. York came under siege during the Civil War when many buildings were destroyed before growing into the modern city, aided by the arrival of the railway in 1839. The area around York provides fascinating potential for dectorists.
NottinghamshireThe region around Newark is rich in history, and not just because it was besieged three times during the Civil War. In 1999 just to the north of the town an early 7th C Anglo-Saxon sword pyramid, valued at around £20,000, was found in a field by a detectorist. Known as the Collingham Jewel it may have belonged to a noble man killed at the Battle of the Trent in 679 AD. Around twenty miles to the west of Newark is Fishpool near Newstead Abbey where over 1,200 gold coins, as well as jewellery from the 14th and 15th C were found on a building site. They may have been buried at the time of the Battle of Hexam (1464) and the face value of the hoard in the 15th C was about £400, the equivalent of around £290,000 today.
KentI was born in Penge in South East London, which is not far from Kent, the gateway to Britain for those that arrive via the channel tunnel. Two thousand years ago it was where the Romans arrived and began leaving evidence of their invasion and settlement. In 1957 at Bredgar 34 Roman gold coins were found while digging the foundations for a bungalow. The coins included four gold aurei of Claudius which were in mint condition and were thought to have been buried in 43 AD when the Emperorís legions landed at Richborough. It proves that you are just as likely to find something buried in your back garden as you are in open farmland.
SomersetAncient history is everywhere in the West of England, and where there is no tangible evidence of our ancestors the gaps are filled by myth and legend. There have also been some wonderful Civil War finds often associated with rich Royalists burying their wealth to avoid it being found by Cromwellís army. In 1693, shortly after the Civil War ended, the 9th C AD Anglo-Saxon 'Alfred Jewel' was found near the Island of Athelney in Somerset; itís arguably the greatest single find ever made in England. Probably owned by King Alfred it bears an Anglo-Saxon inscription that translates as ĎAlfred Had Me Madeí. Athelney lies a few miles to the south west of Shapwick where over 9,000 Roman coins were found by two detectorists in 1999. Not only was this a wonderful discovery, it also turned out to be the site of a large villa complex.
Oxfordshire, and the Heart of EnglandThe landlocked counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, with their proximity to London, offer a deep and varied slice of our history. Many of the countryís main arterial routes linking the capital with the rest of Britain run through this region. Searching close to old trackways and roads is a great place to look for things dropped by travellers. In 2003 over 5,000 Roman coins that had been hidden rather than lost, were found at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire. Amongst them was a single coin of the Emperor Domitianus who probably ruled Britain for just a matter of days. The only other coin of this emperor to be found was in the Loire, in 1900, and until this one turned up the French find was thought to have been a fake. This single Oxfordshire coin find proves the value of the responsible detectorist.
CumbriaThe area north of the Lake District is both beautiful and rich in history. Itís proximity to Hadrianís Wall means that the area produces many Roman finds, especially around Carlisle, as well as further to the east and to the south of the wall. There is also much Viking history in the area and last year at Cumwhitton a hoard of swords, spears, jewellery, fir-making materials, and riding equipment was found on farmland by a detectorist. One hundred and eighty years ago, and thirty miles away a silver and gilt bronze vessel known as the 'the Ormside Bowl' was found in St. Jamesís churchyard at Great Ormside, which takes its name from Orm the Viking. This artistic gem of the Dark Ages was probably made c. 800 Ė 850 AD and can be seen in York Museum. Museums throughout the country hold many of the remarkable treasures found by detectorists.
The Scottish BordersOften overlooked, as drivers speed northwards towards the Highlands, this beautiful area is rich in history, much of which is associated with the wars and border skirmishes between England and Scotland over the centuries. In 1992 over 1,200 gold and silver coins dating from 1546 to 1638, were found on farmland near Kelso by a detectorist. Early reports suggested that they had been buried by the monks from Kelso Abbey, but the abbey was in ruins from the reformation. It is likely they were buried in 1644 when the Abbeyís ruins, which can still be visited, were used by General Leslieís Covenanter army. Not far to the north of Kelso, at Duns in Berwickshire, 22 silver coins were found in the 19th century. Itís thought they may have been concealed in 1639 when Charles I men were humiliated by the Covenanters lined up on the heights of Duns Law duping them into thinking there were many more men behind him.
Wroxeter, ShropshireThis was the administrative and commercial centre of the Celtic tribe known as the Cornovii and later became Viroconium when occupied by the Romans. There are a number of Roman military sites close to the Village including a large fortress at Eaton Constantine three miles to the south east, a small auxiliary fort to the south, and a legionary fortress, established in 58 AD, just to the north. After the army left to move north to Chester around 80 AD, Viroconium became the fourth largest town in Roman Britain. To the north of Wroxeter lies Shrewsbury and in 1999 a 14th C silver finger ring was found by a detectorist near the 16th C moated manor house of Albright Hussey, which was the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403). Fought between Henry IVís army and the rebelís led by Henry Percy (Hotspur) it was first time that English longbowmen had faced each other on a battlefield.
Mold, FlintshireIn 1825 an elderly man and his wife claimed to have seen a ghostly warrior wearing golden armour while walking home from market, not that anyone locally believed them! Eight years later a Bronze Age gold cape dating from c.1900-1600 BC was found by workmen quarrying for road stone. They found a skeleton with a gold breastplate/cape in a field known locally as Bryn-yr-Ellyllon, which translates as 'Goblin's or Fairies' Hill'. So called because there was a burial mound in the centre of the field, which is where this most fantastic of finds was discovered Ė one that has no real equal anywhere in Britain. The British Museum eventually acquired the cape in 1836, where it can still be seen.