METAL DETECTING

AN UNVARNISHED HISTORY
OF METAL DETECTING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
(THIS WILL BE A 'NO HOLDS BARRED' PERSONAL VIEW)
by David Wood.
As these pages build over the coming months I hope to give my personal account of the rise of metal detecting as a recreation in the United Kingdom.   The intention is to cover as much ground as possible without having to take account of advertisers, organizations or personalities, as so often happens in magazines and other media.   I hope it will prove interesting, I do not care if it offends and I trust it will serve as a WARNING to the next generation of detectorists not to make the same mistakes as mine.
 

IN THE BEGINNING

Several patents for metal detectors were taken out on both sides of the Atlantic during the latter half of the 19th century (believe it or not! some actually worked).    It was not until the need to find and eliminate the cruelest of man's inventions, 'MINES', that engineers really put their heads together and developed equipment that would locate them, and by the end of the second World War they had really become quite sophisticated, even though the technology of the time dictated that they would be heavy,  usually requiring more than one person to operate them.

In the late 1940s some archaeologists started to take an interest in mine detectors and a few started to experiment with them as an aid to their interests.    One such was the flamboyant and eccentric Professor Barry Cunliffe who used a team with metal detectors on his excavations at the iron age hill fort Maiden Castle, (Now a scheduled site) in Dorset.

It was not until the 1950s that any real progress was made in England into using metal detectors to recover small objects like coins.    Two young men from Berkshire (the Brothers Caiger-Smith) used ex-army mine detectors in the fields surrounding the Romano-British town of Silchester and on Parks and Commons in the Newbury area.   Not only did they recover quite a quantity of Roman and more modern coinage but they wrote and published a paper on the metal detectors and what might be achieved by in using them in the future.   In later life one brother became a teacher at a local school (St Bartholomews Grammar School), while the other founded and ran, until his death the famous Aldermaston Pottery.   They had sparked an interest in metal detecting that could not be put out and is probably one reason why Newbury, and local detectorists have played such a prominent part in the hobby from the earliest days!

 LINK TO PAGE2 (THE DETECTING EXPLOSION!)
 
EMAIL dswood@newbury.net