Periodically finds of precious metals are made in the course of agricultural work.
The Treasure Act 1996 replaced Treasure Trove legislation and extended the protection of law to a wider range of finds. Treasure is now defined as:-
- All hoards of gold or silver coins at least 300 years old (a hoard is defined as two or more coins found in close proximity)
- All hoards of other coins with a precious metal content of less than 120% and at least 300 years old (a hoard is defined as ten or more coins found in close proximity)
- Objects at least 300 years old with a minimum precious metal content of 10%
- Objects found in archaeological association with treasure
- Any object over 200 years old of outstanding historical, archaeological or cultural importance
Under the Act, the finder is responsible for reporting them to the District Coroner within 14 days. This can be done by letter, telephone or fax. The owner and the County Historic Environment Record will be notified, although the find will be regarded as confidential until the issue of 'treasure' is resolved or in cases where site security or other issues are considered important.
If the object is not identified as 'treasure' the National Park Archaeologist will inform the coroner, who may then decide to give directions that the find should be returned to the finder without holding an inquest. If the find is believed to be 'treasure' the coroner will inform the British Museum. This will decide whether they, or any other museum may wish to acquire it. If so, an inquest will be held and the find valued to ensure that the finder receives a fair price. If no museum wishes to acquire the find it will be returned to the owner.
Failure to follow the terms of the Treasure Act 1996 may be punishable by fine, imprisonment or both.
A national voluntary reporting scheme (The Portable Antiquities Scheme) has also been established to ensure that other items of archaeological interest that are not treasure are recorded. These can be reported to the County Portable Antiquities Scheme Officer (see below).
The National Park Archaeologist welcomes consultation by landowners to establish whether land contains known archaeological sites and whether it is appropriate to allow metal detecting. The landowner is strongly advised to enter into a formal agreement with any detectorist who is given permission to search land.