Wednesday 6 April 2011

"Differnt" kind of Artefact Hunting Organization

A metal detectorist "Mark Shacks" (real name?) has set up a new "metal detecting club" of Hidden History Discoverers, using as a logo the Christie's copyright images of the Crosby Garrett helmet no less. Anyone can join. Once joined they may view the permission page to see if there is anywhere in their area that they can search, they have written to councils all over the country and obtained permission for their members to artefact hunt on their land. If there is permission, as a member of Cumbrian Seekers who already have permission to detect there they can go on the land. As an example of one of these agreements, on RallyUK there is a sample letter to him from one of those local councils, one a very long way away from "Cumbria":
Hello Mark, Thank you for your enquiry. The best piece of land is the open ground at Rushbrooke Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, please see the attached copy of a map which shows the area you can use edged in bold. The Members of the Council require a fee of £20.00 per day for using Stratford District Land - this fee is currently under review and will probably be increased from 1 July 2011. We also require a Public Liability Insurance Certificate for £5m+. Should you decide to come we would send you an Application Booklet to complete and return, which also specifies certain conditions that you would need to comply with, which are as follows:
(1) You will reinstate any digging straight away and it mustn't be to a greater depth than 50cm.
(2) Any digging must not be left unatteded for any time.
(3) Please specify which days you want to detect on - we will not give a blanket consent.
(4) Please note that until we confirm the acceptance of your completed Application Booklet you do not have our permission to proceed.
I hope this helps, should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Regards [*********] Customer Access Officer (Administration)
Stratford on Avon District Council, [...]

A major problem here is that there is no Rushbrooke Road in the town, there is a Rushbrook Road, but it has no open land on it. It seems an odd mistake for the district Council's Customer Access Officer (and what on earth do THEY do?) to make.

One wonders whether Mark Shacks is contacting councils rather than farmers knowing that they might not have had any contact with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, so they do not know about reporting finds, nor the Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting so they are unaware of what might reasonably be required of people detecting on Council land. You will note that the helpful council official was more worried about what holes would be left, rather than what the holes are being dug into and what is taken out of them. Like whether any of them will ever get seen by a local museum.

What kind of "hidden history" is being sought on random pieces of council-owned land, and how is that "history" disseminated to the citizens of the region being emptied of the evidence of the local history the land contains?

Also, do councils have they the legal right to authorise people to remove publicly owned artefacts? Suppose for their five pounds membership fee and twenty to go a-digging on council land they found a two-million pound Stratford-Upon-Avon helmet? The residents of Stratford might have a few questions of their councillors...
Vignette: "Hidden History" seekers, or just plain loot seekers?

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