They went with the FLO: Metal detectorists unearth hundreds of hidden treasures

Iron Age and Roman coins, Saxon brooches, a rare Saxon key and even a 17th century toy gun were among the incredible haul of finds prised from acres of farmland at a rally of 1,000 metal detectorist in Oxfordshire at the weekend.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Finds Liaison Officer Anni Byard estimated that around 400 objects were found during Detectival 2018 near Leafield in West Oxfordshire last Saturday and Sunday.

Anni was at the rally to help record the finds and said: “Many of the bronze Roman coins were in a very poor state, many were unidentifiable beyond being of Roman date, but they’re still important as it helps archaeologists and local history enthusiasts build a picture of what was happening in the area.

“It seems clear that many, many centuries ago this was more than arable land Detectival has added new knowledge to our understanding of archaeology of the area.”

Two hundred artefacts and coins were recorded onsite by the Portable Antiquities Service and the Oxfordshire County Council’s Museum Service.

Another 89 items submitted for export licences and an amazing 97 objects were donated to the museums service for educational use.

These included Iron Age and Roman coins, a Saxon hooked tag and Saxon brooches, medieval buckles and gilded fittings and a modern tag naming a resident of Ascott under Wychwood.

The 17th Century toy gun would have actually fired by adding gun powder to the pan and lighting it. An Iron Age coin was identified as belonging to the local Dobunni tribe and dates from 50 – 25 BC. And it believed the descendants of the owner of a 19th Century ID tag has been traced to the village of Ascott-under-Wychwood.

Anni, an experienced archaeologist and author, said: “I’d like to thank Mark Becher and the Metal Detectives who stage Detectival for all their support and enthusiasm for recording the county’s heritage.”

Some of the finds will go to Oxfordshire Museum Service’s repository near Standlake which will be open to the public on October 14.

Myriad items are packed in to a double-storey climate-controlled warehouse – each and every piece reflecting the social and economic history of the county.

Anni says: “It is a breath-taking sight – row upon row of rare and priceless Oxfordshire ‘memorabilia’.”

There’s old shopfront signs, farm machinery, posters, portraits, a Witney Blanket loom, wartime posters, a staircase from a stately home, a turn-of-the-century pram, a children’s pedal sports car, a plushly decorated horse-drawn carriage used by nobility, a Roman’s gravestone – the first of its kind in the county – a suitcase of baby clothes not to be given to the ‘ungrateful’ or ‘cruel’ woman.

Treasure in this Aladdin’s Cave are regularly sent out in to the community, for displays in libraries, for educational purposes in schools, for illustrated talks and for show at the county museum. Members of the public can also make appointments to tour the facility and marvel at the contents and it is used by students to help in their research.

Perhaps the most unusual object has to be a 1950s Bendix washing machine with a sign proudly revealing it was used for a 30-year period.

Anni explains:“This is the store for all archaeological objects found on commercial digs in Oxfordshire, like the Westgate Centre where there was a big archaeological project and eventually all the archive and objects they found will come here.

“We hold everything that reflects the history of the county from really modern stuff like washing machines all the way back to ancient artefacts. If something is related to the county or has a history within Oxfordshire, like Witney Blankets for example, then we can collect it. It’s all part of our social history.

“We’ve even got items from Didcot Power Station, like the control boards, when that got torn down.”

Anni is appealing for more volunteers to become involved in Oxfordshire Museum Service, especially people with a keen interest in history and photography skills.

To find out more, email anni.byard@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Oxfordshire Museum Resource Centre is holding an open day on Sunday, October 14 between 10am and 4pm. Admission is free