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THE THETFORD TREASURE HOARD

I am based in Thetford and for 17 of the past 35 years when I first moved to Thetford, I have been stump grinding throughout Anglia. I have been interested in Thetford’s rich history dating back to 1085 in the Domesday Book which lists William of Bello Fargo as the Bishop of Thetford. When I see the rape and loss of our local history by unscrupulous mercenaries treasure hunting with metal detectors on public land, or illegally scanning for treasure without permission on private land, it concerns me. I am disturbed, and so should you be of the circumstances surrounding the illegal find of the Thetford treasure hoard.

In my stump grinding travels throughout the Anglian region, I have often seen those with metal detectors scanning while hidden away from public view. My stump grinding work often takes me to locations that are neither open to the public, or on public view. I often see treasure hunting with metal detectors taking place on both private and public lands.

I am reminded of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Thetford Hoard, a treasure found in 1979 by an illegal scanner with a metal detector. This was truly the rape and loss of our local history by an unscrupulous mercenary armed with a metal detector. It highlights why illegal metal detecting should be reported without hesitation when on public land, or illegally scanning without permission on private land. Below is my summary of some of those circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Thetford Treasure.

There were highly illegal circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Thetford Treasure. The finder was metal-detecting without permission of the owners of the site. This site had been cleared for building work, and late in the afternoon during dusky light, in November 1979, a male scanner armed with metal detector, made his discovery of the treasure. Because he knew his search of this site was illegal he hastily gathered his find and in all probability overlooked a great deal of other items. If he had permission, the law requires reporting of a treasure find to the authorities. He did not have permission nor did he report his find. Instead, he unwisely attempted to sell the objects he had found to private buyers. Several months had passed before archaeologists learned of the find during which time the treasure location had been built upon making proper archaeological investigation impossible. Before the treasure hoard eventually arrived at the British Museum the finder was suffering from a terminal illness and died. The opportunity to question him on the circumstances surrounding his find was missed. Rumours persisted the treasure included many coins, but this has never been confirmed. It is quite likely the treasure as we now see it is incomplete and will remain so. A full account of the circumstances of its discovery is related to in the Johns & Potter 1983, pp. 13–15 standard catalogue. This lack of information makes it particularly difficult to speculate on the nature of the hoard and the original purpose of its concealment long ago.

My stump grinding operations as Blitz-A-Stump Grinding may be quite distant from these sort of events as described above however, it underscores the need to preserve our heritage from those who seek personal gain through vigilance and observation. I never know the exact kind of surroundings within which I will be removing tree stumps. I have worked within a broad variety of surroundings including gas terminal sites, military camps and RAF bases, H.M. at Sandringham, various National Trust locations, caravan sites, Forestry Commission sites, along quay side moorings, stately manor houses, construction and demolition sites, holiday camp and beach front sites, restaurants and pubs. I must confess, despite stump grinding at these interesting places, I still rely on my main focus–you the private home owner. Further, I have even seen metal detection taking place at some of these interesting locations. Discovery of the Thetford treasure hoard is what provides the incentive for this illegal activity.

Straying a bit but still keeping within topic, the news media has reported the wide deliberate destruction and theft of historic cultural sites by ISIS. They have sacked museums which further drives home the point of preserving our heritage. Perhaps one day my stump grinder may discover a treasure hoard buried within a tree stump.

Mike Lish
Mike Lish
An electro-mechanical technician and specialist in tree stump grinding over the last 17 years.

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