Read on and find out!

*Rusty and in a Sorry State

In a previous post I looked at the detectorists’ database, the UKDFD. The item I revisited was a pen or fruit knife found in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire.  Another good example of a find telling us a lot about our social history. *‘Rusty and in a Sorry State’ doesn’t refer to me!

The picture below show a clean knife, but it was rusty and in a sorry state when rescued. Should have taken a ‘clod shot’ or video, but it wasn’t the fashion then. We were primarily metal detectorists with enough to lug around without a mountain of movie gear. In retrospect I regret not taking a ‘before’ shot showing its condition before cleaning.

Mrs John worked wonders with her diligent restoration and conservation skills so it now looks in almost pristine condition. Some details were easy to record. For example, it has a mother-of-pearl handle with two ‘stainless steel’ blades made by Fisher in Sheffield. But I was intrigued by the letters or meaningless word, IBAISAIC . What could it mean? Finding out proved to be a little more difficult.

I searched Mr Google with few positive results and it wasn’t until I proudly (well, I was a rookie swinger at that time) showed my find on a detecting forum that all was explained . . . by a former vacuum cleaner repair man! He told me that knives of this type were given by Hoover salesmen as gifts to retailers in the late 1930’s. This information has been confirmed by the manufacturer who told me to ‘take care of it because it’s a collector’s item.’ I’ve seen one for sale on eBay at £40 – £60.

The original presentation box. Found on Etsy UK.
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Is Metal Detecting a Sport?

Detecting Skills – You need to be able to laugh at yourself, have a sense of humour plus the ability to tell a white lie.

In 2016 or thereabouts Garrett started advertising ‘treasure hunting’ as a sport. They still are. At the time this fact dismayed many English detectorists who regarded their metal detecting as a hobby. What do YOU think?

It’s a well known fact that to take part in any sport you need skill and ability. Here’s just a few examples. They are not all mine, but  have been inspired by, borrowed, and adapted, by an entertaining piece I once read by Maurice Darling in an old detecting magazine. 

Sporting Skills


Snooker – using a straight stick to knock a coloured ball into a hole, even after smoking endless cigarettes and consuming copious amounts of beer during the game. (It used to be like that!) You gain points by causing your opponent to foul.

Pool – same as snooker, except that you use a smaller stick and fewer balls. Beer is readily at hand. I had a friend who was an expert at this game of pocket billiards – as the game is also known in America.

Darts – darts has long been a bone of contention in the debate around what constitutes a sport, with some seeing it as the ultimate pub game.

Rugby – rugby is a free-flowing game that features a combination of strength, speed and strategy to move a ball into the opponents’ territory. Rugby is a full-contact sport. Be prepared to donate a pint of blood every two weeks.

Fishing – the challenge here is to find and catch a fish. Having accomplished that, you then throw the critter back. Actually, the only skill you need here is to stay awake and not fall in the water.

Football – you attempt to put a ball into the back of the other team’s net. If you do this then the only other skill you need is to be able to run the length of the pitch and give all your team mates a kiss after skidding along on both knees. Practice pulling your shirt over your head as you fall to the ground.

Detectorists are capable of all the sports above with few problems, but wielding and understanding a metal detector is far more demanding. 

Continue reading “Is Metal Detecting a Sport?”


Once Upon a Time . . .

This is the story of an inspirational long-distance runner who won two gold medals in 1908 and the memories rekindled by a detectorist digging in a Northamptonshire field in 2016. 

There are certain events in history that most of us can recollect. Although you may not remember the date, you will know something about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, the devastation that occurred, and the petrified town of Pompeii. The volcano has spewed lava many times since, but not many will remember the eruption of 1906. If that event hadn’t happened, this tale may have turned out a little differently, but like all good storytellers, I must start at the beginning.

The Coales Gold Cross-Country Medal

Preliminary information was relatively easy to determine for the medal was in good condition and marked MIDLAND COUNTIES CROSS COUNTRY ASSOC. 1908. The reverse has SENIOR CHAMPION and the hallmarks showing that was nine-carat gold fashioned by V&S of Birmingham in 1907. The medal was about 3” by 2” in height and weighed 21g.

Justin Owens and his wife Helen live in Coventry, have been detecting for about eight years and are members of the Coventry Heritage Detecting Society of which Helen was/is secretary. They often make the journey from their Warwickshire home to Northamptonshire to detect with the well-established Central Searchers group run by Richard and Gill Evans. It was on one of their digs that Justin found something interesting, which forms the catalyst for this story.

The dig was in the Brigstock area and Justin was wielding his Minelab E-Trac as usual. He tells me that he’d been swinging uneventfully for about four hours and found ‘nothing’ of note. In a deadpan voice he commented, “and then it happened. I suddenly heard a good signal … and at about three or four inches found gold”. 

Although I tried to elicit how he felt at the discovery, Justin was matter-of-fact and calmly stated that he showed it to Richard Evans who confirmed that he’d found a gold medal! And that’s where we really begin! So many column inches have been written about the finding of an object … this account is about what lies behind the find, the research undertaken, the history uncovered by diligent detectorists and a satisfactory conclusion.

Justin and Helen
Continue reading “TALE OF TWO GOLD MEDALS”

Victorian Mourning Jewellery

A couple of blogs ago I mentioned that after the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria sunk into a deep depression and stayed in seclusion for many years, rarely appearing in public. She mourned him by wearing black for the remaining forty years of her life. 

In the 40’s when I was growing up, I remember that my parent’s were very superstitious. Was this a legacy of the Victorians? If someone died in the house, the clocks were stopped to ward off more death and bad luck. 

From what I recall the dead had to be taken out of the house feet-first. I never understood why until, many years later, I consulted my  friend Mr Google He said that they had to be carried this way to prevent death from taking another family member. Mirrors were draped in cloth to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the glass. Neighbours drew their curtains in respect. The deceased lay in the front room and we trooped past paying our last respects. It scared me.

Trendy Victorian-Era Jewellery Was Made From Human Hair

Even today, it’s quite common to hold onto a piece of jeweliery from a dearly departed relative. But during the Victorian era, mourners didn’t just wear Grandma’s favourite earrings: they actually wore a bit of Grandma, herself. This  was a way to keep the dead person close-literally. 

Pieces of the deceased’s hair were often included in mourning jewellery either coiled under a piece of crystal in a ring, braided into a necklace, or placed into a locket like the one below found by a Scottish detectorist.

Found by a Scottish Detectorist
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Bachelor Button, Solitaire & Cufflink Fastener

Metal detectorists make finds from all ages and probably half of the total items recorded on the United Kingdom Detecting Finds Database (UKDFD) happen to be post-medieval. It is also a fact that much of this later material was minimal or non-existent prior to the advent of the hobby. Even now the identification and dating of relatively recent items is often more difficult than that of the ancient counterparts. That’s quite a thought.

In January 2007 I produced the first UKDFD newsletter, Borrowed Times. In the same year an alliance was forged with The Searcher magazine to feature some of the more interesting finds from the database. I started writing a regular column for the magazine entitled Just for the Record.

Header from The Searcher Column

In my first article I said:

If it were not for the published works of detectorists like Brian Read, Gordon Bailey, Edward Fletcher and others, we would have very little to go on. But I can assure you that the UKDFD is building on the foundations laid by these detectorists and is destined to become an important resource in its own right.

The risk of confusing material of one period with that of another is greatly reduced if we have knowledge of artefacts from both periods – Roman and Georgian is a good example. It is with this in mind that I have looked at the database and selected a number of post medieval finds which I think you may also find interesting.

What follows is a reprise of one of those finds I borrowed from the database.

Bachelor Button Spring Stud or Cufflink Fastener

I don’t wish to confuse you but the cornflower, the famous flower of many romantic legends, was often called the Bachelor Button. Why was this? I understand that years ago the bloom was worn as a signal of availability. The name, Bachelor Button, may have arisen during Victorian times when the flowers were often placed in the button holes of men’s suitcoats.

So, bachelor button flowers, often called cornflowers, are an old fashioned species once considered a weed of arable fields. The development of intensive agricultural practices nearly wiped out the cornflower in the wild. This delicate, blue flower is now most likely to occur as a garden escapee, as part of intentional wildflower seeding, or as the result of the disturbance of soil containing old seed banks. Its strongholds remain roadside verges, scrub, waste ground and farmland. It flowers from June to August.

Continue reading “Bachelor Button, Solitaire & Cufflink Fastener”

The Black and Blue Reviver


When the muse has left me, which is often these days, I sometimes raid the United Kingdom Detecting Finds Database ( UKDFD ) looking for inspiration. This hobby-based initiative was founded in 2005: take a look at the short promotional video.

Deceitful Liquid

In 2010 I looked at some fascinating advertising tokens on the UKDFD found by detectorists and constructed a short post. The token – shown below – was so interesting and I think worthy of a place in this new blog. I have also added further details.

Similar to UKDFD 16518 Found in December 2008 by John Kineavy …

An advertising token of the 19th century, issued by Thomas Pryce, oil and colourman, of London. (Colourman: one who prepares and sells paint.) Both addresses shown on the token (1 York Buildings and 12 [Northampton Place], opposite Surrey Place) are in the Old Kent Road. Thomas Pryce is known to have been in occupation of both premises in 1827, and of the latter until 1840, when Thomas Eastman Pryce continued the business. OBVERSE : T PRYCE OIL & COLOURMAN 1 YORK BUILDINGS & 12 OPPOSITE SURREY PLACE KENT ROAD (J H) LONDON. REVERSE: SOLE MANUFACTURER OF DR WINN’S BLACK AND BLUE REVIVER FOR RESTORING ALL KINDS OF FADED MOURNING.
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