| Recently I realised an ambition and invested in a metal detector. My first few finds in Wrington have all been coins (amongst a good haul of old beer cans and bottle tops) which consist of the following; a 1797 George III pure copper 'Cartwheel' penny, 3 William III solid silver shillings, a Queen Anne solid silver shilling and a Queen Victoria solid silver shilling dated 1888 - this being the only coin of those mentioned in a good condition.
Which is all very well...
My thought is that surely there ought to be some means to collate such information on items found by myself and other local detectorists and historians in such a fashion as to be readily accessible by anyone with an interest.
My concern is, ironically, the very nature of metal detecting which is that of a selfish nature; when something is found it is now the property of the finder (in negotiation with the landowner of course) excepting fluke circumstances such as the recent 'Frome Horde' and the 'Roman Cavalry Mask' which are covered by the Treasure Trove act. The point is that once uncovered the find is taken away and possibly shown to the landowner and family & friends then either sold or kept in a private collection. This is all fine and proper and utterly legal. But what of the knowledge of the find?
I am the proud holder of a Certificate in Archaeology from the University of Bristol and my project for that qualification was an in depth investigation in the tumuli on Felton Common. What annoyed, exasperated and infuriated me about the tumuli was the fact that in the course of the last 250 years a group of antiquarians (forerunners to Archaeologists which only really became established as a science in the early 20th century) spent a couple of hours 'raping' the tumuli by excavating the burial chamber in the centre and removing the contents whatever they may have been- even a few fragments of bone left for modern Archaeologists could have told us a huge amount about builders of the tumuli and their society. If any records were ever made of the excavation they were certainly beyond my ability to recover, my tutor assured me that records were very seldom kept and the whole event staged as an excuse for a picnic by the well to do while the workers dug the monuments.
So my emphasis is on compiling a record of finds, however discovered, within the parish boundary of Wrington for future interested parties to refer to. After all what a metal detectorist is actually doing is removing tangible history from its context, which I have no problem with SO LONG as a significant find is recorded and other archaeology is not damaged or destroyed in accessing the find.
I was fortunate to know Julius Herrstein who was a fountain of enthusiasm for Wrington and its history. On several occasions he told me of a Roman brooch that had been discovered somewhere within the village by a metal detectorist. If he ever said exactly where it was found then I have forgotten, but I am quite sure he mentioned it was found near water as I mentioned the distinct possibility of it being lost during the weekly wash at the local stream (the Congresbury Yeo in Wrington). It is my dearest wish to examine this brooch and refer it to my former tutor at the University of Bristol or to Professor Mick Aston who lives in Sandford.
Better yet with an accurate fix on its discovery site it may be possible to determine further Roman features lost for nearly 2000 years whether they be actual Roman building remnants or pottery shards.
At the very least an academic study of this one brooch will likely be able to determine the date, the style, the means and likely site of manufacture as well as the status and possible gender of the wearer. To the best of my knowledge there are 2 sites of Roman antiquity within 5 miles of Wrington, firstly the remains of a villa at Lye Hole and secondly more villa remains somewhere deep within Blagdon Lake! It is no stretch of the imagination to see activity within Wrington at the time of the Roman conquest (AD 45 - 420), it is a beautiful area with rich, fertile and highly productive land and this would certainly not have escaped the notice of the invaders, bear in mind that the over-whelming majority of England was forested in this period. I have also personally found 3 shards of Roman pottery from a molehill in a field just of Cook's Bridle Path in Downside. I am also sure that Julius Herrstein recorded other Roman finds discovered though I cannot put my hand to the relevant documentation at the present!
In summary I feel it is VITAL to those with any interest in local history, both now and in the future, to have a record of the sort I have proposed. Quite what form that record will take I am unsure, I only know that my meagre computer skills are totally inadequate for setting up an online database- perhaps you can propose an easy and workable system?
I believe that Wrington was mentioned in the Domesday Book, well- that's nearly 1000 years of history at the very least!