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Portable Antiquities and the Treasure Act


A coin

The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales

Every year in Britain many thousands of archaeological objects are discovered, many by people using metal detectors but also by people out walking or digging their garden or while going about their work. Only a small proportion of these finds are ever seen by museums or field archaeologists, which means that a great deal of potentially important information about our past is being lost. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme for the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. It was established to promote the recording of chance finds and broaden public awareness of the importance of such objects for understanding our past.

Following the introduction of the new Treasure Act in 1996, it was acknowledged that there was an urgent need to improve arrangements for recording all 'portable antiquities', and as a result the Portable Antiquities Scheme was established in six pilot areas. By 2003 the Scheme had been extended to cover all areas of England and Wales.

The Aims of the Scheme

  • To advance knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales by systematically recording archaeological objects found by the public
  • To raise awareness among the public of the educational value of archaeological finds in their context and facilitate research in them
  • To increase opportunities for active public involvement in archaeology and strengthen links between metal-detector users and archaeologists
  • To encourage all those who find archaeological objects to make them available for recording and to promote best practice by finders
  • To define the nature and scope of a scheme for recording portable antiquities in the longer term, to access the likely costs and to identify resources to enable it to be put into practice

Who is involved in the scheme ?

In Wales, the Portable Antiquities Scheme is managed nationally by a Finds Co-ordinator based in the National Museum Wales supported regionally by the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts, with a network of museums and record offices acting as local reporting centres. Between them, these bodies will collect, analyse and distribute information about all finds reported to them.

What do I do if I find something ?

Simply take your find to one of the designated reporting centres listed below and they will examine it. Each of these centres will have access to someone who should be able to tell you what your find is and how important it is. The reporting centre will also want to record certain details about you and your find. In the Clwyd-Powys area, the designated reporting centres are:

Map of reporting centres

Local reporting centres,

  • Helen Bradley, Community Development Service, Conwy County Borough Council, Government Buildings, Dinerth Road, Colwyn Bay, LL28 4UL - Tel. 01492 575572 / 01492 575 535
  • Susan Dalloe, Denbighshire Heritage Service, Denbighshire County Council, Ruthin Gaol, 46 Clwyd Street, Ruthin, Denbighshire, LL15 1HP - Tel. 01824 708274
  • Steve Grenter, Wrexham County Borough Museum, County Buildings, Regent Street, Wrexham, LL11 1RB - Tel. 01978 317971
  • Eva Bredsdorff, Powysland Museum, The Canal Wharf, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7AQ - Tel. 01938 554656
  • Will Adams, Radnorshire Museum, Temple Street, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5DL - Tel. 01597 824513
  • Nigel Blackamore, Brecknock Museum, Captain's Walk, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7DW - Tel. 01874 624121

Portable Antiquities Finds Co-ordinator: Wales,

  • Mark Lodwick, Finds Co-ordinator:Wales, Department of Archaeology & Numismatics, National Museum Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF1 3NP - Tel. 02920 573226.

CPAT also act as a regional reporting and recording centre for the scheme and if you are in any doubt about what you should do, or are unable to get to one of these centres, our Historic Environment Record Officer, Jeff Spencer, will be happy to advise you or examine your finds.

  • Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7RR - tel 01938 553670, email Jeff Spencer.

What types of find should I report ?

Roman coin We would like to know about everything that you have found - not just metal objects or things that 'look like they might be interesting'. We would urge you to let the staff at the reporting centre decide if an object is important, especially if you are unsure what it is. For instance, your nondescript lump of metal may turn out to be a fragment of a Bronze Age ingot and of great archaeological significance. Other finds, like worked flints,pottery and glass are also important archaeologically so should be shown to the staff at the reporting centre.

You should also remember that since the introduction of the Treasure Act in 1997 (see below) you are breaking the law if you do not report the finding of most objects made of precious metal (including many types of coin), so if you are in any doubt ... report it !

How will my find be recorded ?

Spindle whorl It is important that the reporting centre records a brief description of the objects that you have found. They would also hope to record where they were found in as much detail as possible so that this information can add to our knowledge of their archaeological context.

It may be possible for the reporting centre to identify and record your find on the spot after which you can take them away with you. However, the reporting centre may wish, with your permission, to photograph or draw them or to seek further opinion, in which case they will ask that you leave the finds with them while they do this. They will give you a receipt for anything that you leave with them.

All the information gathered by the reporting centre will be passed to the Finds Co-ordinator for Wales, who will put it into the Portable Antiquities Scheme finds database. CPAT will also copy some of this information into the Historic Environment Record. Precise details of findspots will normally be available only to the scheme's co-ordinator, the Historic Environment Record of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust and other statutory bodies such as Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and while each of these may wish to use the data within their own organisations they will not make public any information about you our your find if you do not wish them to. In due course museum or Trust staff may wish to publish information about more important or unusual finds reported under the scheme, but this will be fully discussed with finders/owners first.

Bronze Age axe-hammer

The aim is to make as much of the information as widely available as possible, while protecting archaeological sites from damage. Your personal information will be protected by the Data Protection Act (1998).

Alternatively, you are welcome to download and complete CPAT's Finds Recording Form. Send completed forms, along with photos of the artefacts, via email to Jeff Spencer or by post to him at CPAT.

Download CPAT Object Recording Form

To read this PDF file you will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download the most recent version of this software by clicking on the icon on the right



The Treasure Act (1996)

Bronze Age axe-heads

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an entirely voluntary scheme which encourages people to report their finds. However, under the 1996 Treasure Act everyone is legally required to report Treasure, or that which they believe may be Treasure. The Act came into force on 24th September 1997 and replaced the common law of Treasure Trove.

All of the following might be ‘Treasure’

  • A fragment of prehistoric gold or silver
  • One or more Roman brooches that appear to be gold or silver
  • One or more medieval finger rings that appear to be gold or silver
  • Two or more Bronze Age axe-heads or spears
  • Two or more gold or silver coins over 300 years old
  • Ten or more bronze coins over 300 years old
  • Anything else found (or that had previously been left) with any of the above
  • Any deliberately hidden gold and/or silver of any age whose owners (or their heirs) are unknown.

Single coins found on their own are not treasure, but bear in mind that finds originally deposited together may have become scattered by later activity.

Please note that the above is an interpretation by CPAT of the terms of the Treasure Act for information only, and has no legal standing. Full definitions and further information about Treasure and the Treasure Act can be obtained from the:

Gold bracelets

If you are in any doubt, it will be safest to report your find. You must report all finds of Treasure to the coroner for the district in which they are found either within 14 days after the day on which you found it or within 14 days of the day on which you realised that it might be treasure (for example, as a result of having it identified). You will not be breaking the law if you do not report a find because you do not initially recognise that it may be treasure, but you may be if you do not report it once you realise it is.

The obligation to report finds applies to everyone. Failure to report such finds, without good reason, may lead to imprisonment for up to three months or a fine (currently up to £5000), or both.

You may report your find to the coroner in person, by letter, telephone or fax. The coroner will send you an acknowledgement and normally tell you to take your find to a local museum (listed below) or local Welsh Archaeological Trust. The receiving body will give you a receipt. Although they will need to know where you found the object and other details about you, they will keep this information confidential if you or the landowner wish. The Historic Environment Record at the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust will be notified as soon as possible, so that the site where the find was made can be investigated by archaeologists if necessary.

If either the National Museum Wales or a local museum wish to acquire the object then the coroner will hold an inquest to determine if it is Treasure. The coroner will inform the finder and any other interested party about the inquest, and they will be able to attend and to question witnesses. If the find is declared to be Treasure then it will be valued, on behalf of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), by a committee of independent experts. If there are no objections to this valuation, DCMS will invoice the museum wishing to acquire the object and on receipt of payment will pay the finder a reward. The level of this reward will be set by the coroner, but will not exceed the independent experts' valuation.

If the find is declared not to be Treasure, or if no museum wishes to acquire it, then it will be disclaimed. The coroner will then notify all interested parties, such as the owner of the land where the object was found, of his intention to return the find to the finder. If no objections are raised to this then the find will be returned.

Museums may still wish to acquire objects returned to finders, as they may be of local or national interest, and may approach them with this intention; this falls outside the terms of the Act.

Local coroners for the Clwyd-Powys area:

  • J B Hughes, North East Wales District Coroner, Gittins McDonald, Marbel House, Overton Arcade, High Street, Wrexham, LL13 8LL - tel 01978 357775, fax 01978 368000 (for Conwy County Borough, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham County Borough)
  • Mrs Louise Hunt, HM Coroner for Powys, Divisional Police Headquarters, Plas y Ffynnon, Cambrian Way, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7HP - tel 0845 3302000 extension 681, or via website (for Powys).

Reporting centres for the Clwyd-Powys area:

  • Llandudno Museum, 17-19 Gloddaeth Street, Llandudno, Conwy, LL30 2DD Tel. 01492 876517
  • Rhyl Library, Museum & Arts Centre, Church Street, Rhyl, Denbighshire, LL18 3AA Tel. 01745 353814
  • Denbigh Library, Museum & Gallery, Hall Square, Denbigh, LL16 3NU Tel. 01745 816313
  • Wrexham County Borough Museum, County Buildings, Regent Street, Wrexham, LL11 1RB Tel. 01978 358916
  • Powysland Museum, The Canal Wharf, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7AQ Tel. 01938 554656
  • Radnorshire Museum, Temple Street, Llandrindod Wells, LD1 5DL Tel. 01597 824513
  • Brecknock Museum, Captain's Walk, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7DW Tel. 01874 624121.

For information about reporting centres in England and Wales see the regional contacts page of the Portable Antiquities Scheme web site.

For further information and advice please contact Jeff Spencer at CPAT


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