Village has gone metal detector crazy
I WAS fascinated by news in last week’s Sunday Mercury that the site of a “guerilla” English civil war skirmish has been discovered in a secluded corner of Shropshire.
The scattering of musket balls, unearthed by a metal detectorist, paints an evocative picture of a farmhouse siege.
Historians knew such house-tohouse fighting took place, but have failed to produce evidence to back their claims. Now they have it.
Peter Reavill, finds liaison officer for Birmingham Museums Trust, explained many towns and villages used the conflict as an excuse to settle old scores.
“What the civil war was really about between the big battles, that’s the fascinating thing,” he said.
“One family had held a grudge against another family for generations. The war gave them an excuse to thump people over the head. It was an excuse to right wrongs and pursue personal vendettas.”
I like their thinking. If North Korea kicks off, I’m going to smash my neighbour’s greenhouse.
The spectre of nuclear war is some- thing, not returning my garden shears quite another.
The news item has only fuelled my fascination for the Civil War. I live close to Boscobel House in South Staffordshire, where King Charles II shimmied up a tree to hide from Cromwell’s men. That’s where he differs from the current Royal Charles – he’d have merely hugged the oak.
King Charles is also alleged to have hidden in trees in Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Strange man: half monarch, half monkey.
If only those Roundheads had looked up, the conflict would’ve been over in the blink of an eye.
The gripping story – a glimpse into a forgotten past – has spurred me to dust off my own metal detector, mothballed because it bleeped every time Uncle Norman, and his D-Day shrapnel, limped up the driveway.
“What I don’t get,” said Colin while frantically sweeping Farmer Smith’s field, “is who was the Staffordshire Whore.”
I switched off my metal detector and cast a pained glance in my colleague’s direction. “It’s ‘hoard’, as in ‘lots of them’,” I pointed out.
Colin thought long and hard. “They found more than one prostitute, then?” he asked, the autumn chill turning his words to smoke.
I explained that the Staffordshire Hoard was a priceless collection of Anglo Saxon artefacts discovered by a metal detectorative, detectorist ... chap with a metal detector.
If he could uncover a fortune, so could we. After all, there was a Roman fortress on a hillock only a mile from here.
Archaeologists have uncovered the foundations of a bath house and even a primitive central heating system. It’s incredible how advanced the Romans were.
“Yes,” nodded Colin, “he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that Mussolini knew his onions.”
“To be fair, you could see your face in his boots,” he added.
That’s why we are scouring the parish field, along with 52 other people, five of whom are only armed with Dyson vacuum cleaners.
“They are bloody good, though,” pointed out Colin. “There’s not a speck of dust on this field.
“One of those Dysons unearthed my wife’s lost wedding ring. Mind you, I had to hold the nozzle against our Staffordshire bull terrier’s backside for a good 15 minutes. My, did he yelp.”
I ignored the remark and continued combing the quagmire land.
“I’ve got something big,” shouted Colin. “The machine’s going crazy.”
“Colin,” I sighed, “are you wearing your steel toe-capped boots again?” He was.
Terry Herbert’s discovery of Anglo Saxon treasure in a Brownhills field and last week’s Sunday Mercury exclusive has sparked something of a gold rush in these parts.
The corner shop owner has sold out of metal detectors and is now sending the local populace into the fields armed with fridge magnets. To date, we’ve discovered more fridge magnets than you could shake a metal detector at.
Metal detecting has become so popular around our parish that I went out with one yesterday and unearthed ... a metal detector.
Now the parish council fears the craze is harming our community’s fragile ecosystem. A little over the top, I fear.
So far we’ve only dug up two football pitches – and that was a very worthwhile exercise. I found the most glorious set of goal posts.
It’s just a hunch, but I think there’s another set nearby.
On Wednesday, I came across a helmet in another of Farmer Smith’s fields.
“Roman?” asked Colin. “No, Japanese. Ancient Honda, I think.”
I’m still convinced there is treasure out there.
Our tiny parish is steeped in history. When King Charles hid in that big oak, he must’ve dropped some loose change, surely?
Farmer Smith was angry about the latest large gathering on his spud field, but one of our party detected something very interesting.
“A coin! A coin!” shrieked Colin. The mob dashed to his side.
“And it’s got a Roman Emperor’s head on it,” he announced, but which one?”
I grabbed the coin and scrutinised it. “Emperor Bobby Charlton, I told him.
“It’s a 1970 Texaco World Cup token.”