Wednesday, 15 September 2010

More on the Crosby Garrett Detectorist

Well, no sooner had I posted up my reply to Roger Bland who continues to shield the identity of the man who wants to sell the Crosby Garrett helmet, than two little birdies started twittering...

As usual in all these metal detecting cases, there's a vital piece of information about it in local newspapers that did not make it to the national ones. It's always worth checking through them, and Marcus P. did it for me (thanks). Lo, a local newspaper (Westmorland Gazette: 'Rare Roman helmet found near Appleby', 14th September 2010) specifically reports the finder is from Peterlee County Durham. As if in confirmation, The Peterlee Mail has a similar article ('Metal hunter detects Roman helmet" 14 September 2010). Peterlee is on the east coast (Wingate, east of Durham) 77 kilometres from Crosby Garrett. There must have been a reason why the anonymous finder was using a metal detector in that field with earthworks so far from home. What else had he found there previously? Oddly enough Christie's reports the 21 year old had been metal detecting the same land for seven years and "found nothing" (sic). That would mean he was fourteen when he began driving the 80 km to the search site.

Dr Bland revealed in his comments on my blog that the Crosby Garrett finder has a metal detecting father. Now it may be a coincidence but a father and son detecting team precisely from Peterlee is reported in another local newspaper (Hartlepool Mail, 'metal detector find declared 'treasure' 06 November 2008). How many of them can there be? This article refers to one Richard Hunter Senior and Richard Hunter Junior who were finding out all about what is and what is not Treasure as they took part in a Treasure inquest about an item from Bowes, Barnards' Castle (coincidentally just down the road from Crosby Garrett). Notably in the text the Senior Hunter is quoted as saying: "You don't really make money out of metal detecting unless you are very lucky". (See also here "Mr Hunter said: 'A similar find to that, worth an estimated £1m, would be an answer to my prayers'”.)

Now Mr Hunter's name rang a bell, and here he is in a case I think I've written about here before (Brian Dooks, Metal detector users squabble over ownership of medieval silver seal, Yorkshire Post 30 January 2008 - similar texts in several newspapers, and on the BBC website), about a squabble over a silver seal matrix from Catterick (47 km from Peterlee) at another Treasure inquest. Here it is notable that the squabble was about where and when the item had been found. This story is very confusingly written, but Mr Hunter's reporting of the item to the PAS apparently behind the back (?) of the man (Carl Richardson) who claimed to be its sole finder seems to play a large part in his claim to a share of the proceeds of the sale. I have argued here that a motive of the unnamed finder of the Crosby Garrett helmet for reporting the helmet to the PAS may have been to establish a claim and give the otherwise unsubstantiated claim of provenance some institutional backing. So a somewhat similar situation.

Regardless of how one interprets these stories, let us note the wide range of locations where Mr Hunter Senior is reported searching for artefacts. Despite what the British "archaeological" pro-collecting lobby claims, this searcher is not researching the history of the surroundings of his home, but getting in his car and driving to more productive sites far away.

Another thing of interest emerging from Roger Bland's account of the PAS involvement in this case. Their Finds advisor met with the FINDER who brought the item to London, it was the Finder that told them of the Landowner's intentions and apparently acted as a go-between when the subject of donating it to the museum was broached. If the landowner was involved (unless he's one of the few that own half of England between them), there would be no problem for anyone establishing the probably provenance of the object from the address of his farm, and yet Roger Bland reveals this was unknown until 30th August. This seems to be suggesting that the unemployed Peterlee man is for some reason acting as the agent for the landowner in this sale. I wonder if the unemployed anonymous finder has been claiming a Job Seekers Allowance (used to be 'Unemployment Benefit') while doing all this work?

Is Richard Hunter Junior the finder of the Crosby Garrett helmet ? Unlikely, because Dr Bland specifically notes that the Crosby Garrett finder had never reported anything before, and thus he'd not be at a 2008 Treasure inquest would he? Still, if there is another get-rich-quick father and son detecting partnership in Peterlee, I am sure the local newspapers will eventually write of it.

Photo: Richard Hunter Senior.

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