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Metal Detecting

Herefordshire Council, like many others, encourages the co-operation of everyone to ensure that we protect archaeological sites and monuments. As such, the valuable information that metal detectorists can provide is of great use if accurately recorded.

Objects give us considerably more information about the past if they are recorded in a scientific way and only in the place where they were found, with the context of their position fully recorded. It is often the stratigraphy that gives us the best archaeological information about an area.

While it is often the case that metal detecting only removes objects from the plough soil, where the stratigraphy has already been damaged, recording the position of an object as exactly as possible is still of vital importance to the archaeological record. If finds of pottery and flint are also accurately recorded it is possible to map out settlement sites. This helps to improve our understanding of the county's heritage.

A metal detectorist can become part of a team of trained enthusiasts and join a field walking programme, where the area is walked in plotted transects and any objects retrieved are recorded in their exact findspots. The finds are later identified and a report is written. This type of research can provide valuable information about the history of the local landscape.

If you are interested in researching the past and getting involved in archaeology then please contact the Tim Hoverd, the Archaeological Projects Manager, who will advise you on research beneficial to the Historic Environment Record.

If you metal detect

If you choose to metal detect other than as part of an organised project then:

  • Remember that you must always have the landowner's permission to metal detect. This applies to both private and publicly-owned land. Any finds that you may make on private land without permission belong to the landowner, and you may be prosecuted for trespass. Permission must be sort from Herefordshire Council before operating on any Council or Public Land. 
  • Remember it is illegal to metal detect on a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) without a licence from Historic England.
  • Remember it is illegal to metal detect within the Area of Archaeological Interest (AAI) without a licence from Herefordshire Council.
  • Remember that, on land under the Environmental Stewardship Scheme, metal detecting is not permitted on sites of archaeological interest without the written permission of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Where legally-protected sites (SAMs) are concerned, written permission from Historic England is also required. You should also note that the stewardship agreement holder is required to protect and maintain archaeological sites and other landscape features on the farm, including those on land not in the stewardship agreement. This also applies to metal detectorists working on such land.
  • Only metal detect on ploughed fields and do not dig below the ploughsoil.
  • Record where you discover finds as accurately as possible, giving the date of discovery and providing a six- or eight-figure National Grid Reference. Ordnance Survey maps tell you how to work out the correct grid reference.
  • If you discover finds, contact Herefordshire Archaeology immediately. This will not affect your legal rights, but may allow more information to be recovered. Removing all the artefacts can damage the very information that we are trying to recover.
  • You can also take your finds, with the information on when and where you found them, to the Herefordshire Museum for identification. The museum will not keep the objects. The person to contact is Judy Stevenson (telephone 01432 260692). Alternatively, you can take your finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme's Finds Liaison Officer for Herefordshire and Shropshire, Peter Reavill. He is based at Ludlow Museum in south Shropshire (telephone 01584 813641).