There is a Telegraph article, in the News Topics, "How About That" section, about former bricklayer Peter Beasley who quit his job in 2003 to spend more time searching for ancient artefacts. The keynote of the article however is how much money he has made from it. According to the newspaper, he has uncovered more than £500,000 of treasure with his metal detector."He has sold a Roman pendant worn by Caesar (sic) for £30,000 and is selling a Norman ring later this year with a guide price of £80,000. His biggest sale was a haul of 250 Roman coins found in fields near Petersfield for £100,000 to the British Museum in 1996".
But of course "it's not about the money" is it? Mr Beasley told the reporter: "I just love exploring and it is all about the discovery. I came into this business as a hobby to keep me out of the house but it is serious. I am fascinated by the history of our land and it is the buzz of finding something it is a great feeling to dig something up that you know is hundreds of years old".
Obligatory mantra number two is then duly trotted out: "Of course I have found an awful lot of tat down the years, moles' teeth and countless pieces of scrap metal, but you have to keep going – it is an obsession."
Beasley began the hobby 1979 when a work colleague sold his metal detector to him for £80 ("after he fell down a well on a dig"). "Within two years he was regularly finding coins and other artefacts dating back to Roman and Norman times, most of which have been given back to the farmers who own the land as a thank you present".
Apparently he digs for six hours-a-day, three days-a-week on fields close to his home in Waterlooville, Hants. That's some 930 detecting hours annually. We are not told how many of those finds he has made have been reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Searching the name Waterlooville on the PAS database produced no results, from the surrounding district (Havant) we find 212 records of reported finds, but 189 of which are coin entries imported from the "Celtic Coin Index" and mostly from metal detecting on Hayling Island. So apart from these, the PAS database has been enriched by 23 items from 930 detecting hours a year since 1979. Oh, and Mr B. has pocketed part of the 500 000 quids worth of coins and other bits the state has forked out to have stashed away.
Beasley admitted to the reporter that he still rues the find that got away when he unearthed a Saxon shield, spears and a skeleton while roaming fields at Clanfield. "After a dispute with the landowner he was banned from the 15-acre site, which he believes is home to a Saxon haul of jewellery and up to 3,000 graves worth millions". Grave robbing certainly pays in Britain eh?
Oh but there are compensations, Mr Beasley claims he has since stumbled upon another prize find,
"a six-inch square piece of lead discovered at the site of a Roman villa near Winchester with a grid pattern etched onto it. He believes it acts as a map for locating estates of Roman soldiers who retired to the south of England after fighting for the empire. "I have a theory that it can help me find anything, anywhere in Europe. "If it was to get into the wrong hands it could have devastating effects but I am determined to use it for the good of history."Phew, eh? So that will not be being shown to the PAS then, in case they put the "map" in their database and others can see it and get there before Mr Beazley? (I can't find it in the database; so "using it for the good of history" means using it to get all the Treasure out himself perhaps?) Anyway, what's he doing metal detecting the site of a known Roman villa near Winchester. Does the Portable Antiquities Scheme encourage this? Why?
Photo: Peter Beasley, from “Portsmouth News” of 25 September 2008 ,