New plans unveiled which aim to protect treasure from being lost to the public


New plans aimed at protecting newly-uncovered treasure have been unveiled by the Government.

The proposals aim to ensure significant artefacts are not lost to the public and will instead be able to go on display in museums.

The move follows the growth in popularity of metal detecting, which has brought to light a number of Roman finds that do not meet the current criteria for the definition of treasure, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

Gosport War Memorial Hospital Inquests
Gosport War Memorial Hospital Inquests

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: “The search for buried treasures by budding detectorists has become more popular than ever before and many ancient artefacts now see the light of day in museums’ collections.

“However it is important that we pursue plans to protect more of our precious history and make it easier for everyone to follow the treasure process.”

Under the existing rules, objects are classified as treasure if they are found to be more than 300 years old, made of gold or silver or found with artefacts made of precious metals.

Once they have officially been identified as treasure they become the property of the Crown and can be acquired by museums for public display.

The changes to the 1996 Treasure Act would see artefacts defined as treasure if they are of historical or cultural significance.

DCMS said the new rules would have protected a bronze-enamelled brooch depicting a horse, which was made sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD.

The brooch is currently in The Collection Museum in Lincoln after it was donated to the institution by its finder, however it was not classified as treasure using the current definition.

Similarly, a Roman figurine found near Chelmsford, Essex, in 2014 which depicted a British person would also not have fallen under the current definition of treasure because it is made from a copper alloy.

The artefact is now in the Chelmsford City Museum after an export licence delayed its sale, however the new rules would also have meant the figurine would have been classified as treasure, according to DCMS.

A four foot-tall bronze Roman statue of a dog, which was uncovered in Gloucestershire by metal detectorists in 2017, was sold to a private collector as part of a hoard as it was not made from precious metal, the department added.

The new proposals were released as part of the Government’s response to a consultation into the Treasure Act.