Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

50 Finds from Staffordshire by Teresa Gilmore

Thor's Cave, Manifold Valley, Staffordshire Moorlands. (Author's collection, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

Over 13,000 finds have been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) as being found in Staffordshire and this book highlights fifty of those finds and their significance to the county. The majority are in private ownership, but some have been acquired by either the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery or Tamworth Castle. The finds I have selected are a personal choice, with them either having come in to me for recording or are of major significance to the county. More information can be found on each find by searching on the PAS database (www.finds.org.uk/database), using the database record number, often prefixed by WMID or another similar combination of letters. Treasure cases are referred to using both their PAS database record number and a reference number which takes the form of yearTnumber, e.g. 2016T1037.

The chosen finds come from inside the modern county boundary, not the historic one, but include the unitary authority of Stoke-on-Trent.

Each of the fifty finds should be considered to be ‘Treasure’, either by the legal definition of Treasure or because they were a ‘treasured’ possession.

Treasure is legally defined as:

* Any artefact older than 300 years old, with a precious metal content of greater than 10 per cent;

* Two or more precious metal coins from the same find-spot;

* Ten or more base metal coins from the same find-spot;

* Two or more items of prehistoric metalwork from the same find-spot, found after 2003;

* An item found in association with an item of treasure, i.e. a pottery vessel that held a coin hoard;

* Anything that could be classified under the original Treasure Trove legislation, i.e. less than 300 years old but hidden with intention to recover, with a significant precious metal content.

To be recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, finds do not have to be classified as ‘Treasure’. Any archaeological find, over 300 years old, is worth a record.

Letocetum, Wall near Lichfield. The bath house remains are in the foreground, and the mansio is in the background. (Author's collection, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

These finds provide tantalising clues about the lives of everyday people in past societies. From cooking pots to brooches; from ear scoops to hair pins; from coins to weights; from axeheads to bridle bits; each one helps complete our archaeological jigsaw puzzle.

All artefacts recorded have been found by metal detectorists, field walkers or members of the public. The PAS record includes an identification of the artefact and details of where it was found, with a minimum of a six-figure Ordnance Survey (OS) grid reference (100 metre square).

Knowing where something has come from can change the understanding of an artefact.

For instance, a Roman coin by itself can be just a stray loss, but being found alongside other coins and artefacts of similar dating might indicate a settlement.

A selection of different finds types encountered, not to scale. (C. Birmingham Museums Trusst/Portable Antiquities Scheme, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

Responsible detecting is promoted, so landowner permission must be sought prior to detecting. All land in England and Wales is owned by someone, whether it is private, Crown or public. Finds are then reported to a local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for recording on the PAS database.

We advise that metal detectorists adhere to a code of conduct, recognised by the National Council for Metal Detecting and the PAS. This recommends that permission is sought, the Countryside Code followed and that finds are shown to the landowner and reported to the PAS. The code can be found online at https://finds.org.uk/getinvolved/guides/ codeofpractice.

Scotland is not covered by the PAS, due to different landownership laws. There, all archaeological finds found below ground are considered to be Treasure and must be declared. The Scottish version of the PAS is Treasure Trove Scotland, managed by Historic Scotland and based in Edinburgh at the National Museum.

Generally most archaeological work undertaken in Staffordshire, and the rest of the country, is the result of development, e.g. a new housing estate or road-widening scheme. The National Planning Policy Framework, in particular Planning Policy Statement Five (PPS5) and its predecessor Planning Policy Guidance Sixteen (PPG16), states that prior to any development occurring, where appropriate, an archaeological investigation has to take place.

This investigation can take many levels: from a desk-based assessment, which makes reference to previous recorded finds, known standing buildings and sites, to assess the potential for archaeological remains; to trial trenches dug through selected features, like Time Team; through to a full-scale excavation, where a large area is opened up, features sampled and dug.

Tamworth Castle. (Author's collection, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

PAS data contributes at the start, at the desk-based assessment level. Each find recorded by the PAS adds another dot to the map, sometimes supplying dating for crop mark or earthwork features in the area. The more dots there are, the more information we have for an area, so the full potential can be assessed and the right approach can be recommended to the client, such as excavation.

A strength of the PAS is that, through recording these finds, it means that fields and upland areas not under threat of development can be surveyed. These areas would not get investigated by other means.

When looking through the PAS database, there is a strong bias towards copper alloy and lead artefact types, as opposed to ferrous (iron), lithic (stone) and ceramic (pottery) materials. This is explained by a discrimination feature on most metal detectors, allowing them to tune out ferrous signals and concentrate on those from other metals, such as copper, lead and precious metals. Most ferrous finds tend to be modern. Lithic and ceramic materials are not picked up by the metal detector, but rely on visual scanning methods, such as field walking or good observation.

Teresa Gilmore's new book 50 Finds from Staffordshire is available for purchase now.