Detectorists in Surrey struck gold with more treasure discoveries recorded last year, new figures show

The Institute of Detectorists said many people picked up the hobby during the pandemic, likely leading to the surge in treasure finds in England and Wales.

The Treasure Act, introduced in 1997, defines treasure as discoveries older than 300 years. It includes coins, prehistoric metallic objects and artefacts that are at least 10% precious metal such as gold or silver.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show seven treasure finds were reported last year to Surrey Coroner's Court, which is responsible for holding treasure inquests.

This is up from four treasure finds in 2021. Over the past decade, 73 treasure finds were reported in the area.

Keith Westcott, founder of the Institute of Detectorists, said: "It was definitely the lockdown periods that brought the idea and interest of metal detecting to a lot of people who were sat at home, all day indoors thinking of what would give them a reason to get outdoors."

However, Mr Westcott added the growing interest in detecting must also be met with awareness of the hobby's requirements and responsibilities.

"Probably as little as 10% of what's found is recorded, so a dramatic improvement in that is needed if interest continues to grow," he said.

"People see these finds as objects of interest, but in reality it is part of an archeologic record of the area it was found in. So there has to be an understanding of the context around whatever is found."

Across England and Wales, 2022 saw a 20% increase in treasure finds on the year before with 1,087 reported to coroners. It is the highest number of discoveries since records began in 1997.

In the South East, 273 treasure finds were reported to coroners' courts last year.

The Ministry of Justice said the number of treasure finds reported steadily increased from 1997 when the Treasure Act was introduced, up to 2017. But since 2018 the number has been "more volatile" and was impacted by Covid-19 restrictions in recent years.

It added: "There has been a big surge in metal detecting activity during (and also since) the pandemic."

The increase in treasure finds comes as the Government has introduced a new definition of treasure which is due to be implemented later this year. It will update the definition of objects of historical importance to those more than 200 years old rather than 300 years old.

Additionally, objects can be of importance regardless of the type of metal they are made from as long as they provide an important insight into the country’s heritage.