Saturday 23 February 2019

Jobless man strikes gold as hobby pays off with buried treasure find

Terry Herbert with some of the 1,500 pieces which made up the Anglo-Saxon treasure hoard he found in a field with his trusty 14-year-old detector
Terry Herbert with some of the 1,500 pieces which made up the Anglo-Saxon treasure hoard he found in a field with his trusty 14-year-old detector
A sword hilt fitting
miscellaneous items
A strip bearing a Biblical inscription
A folded cross

Stephen Adams in London

FOR 18 years, Terry Herbert scoured the fields of Staffordshire with his metal detector, turning up nothing but pennies.

Undeterred by the taunts of passing motorists, he would slog on through the mud convinced that, one day, he would unearth that big find.

Now Mr Herbert is having the last laugh. On July 5, he hit the jackpot -- and the prize was far bigger than he could ever have imagined. For Mr Herbert, an unemployed 55-year-old, unearthed the biggest Anglo-Saxon hoard ever found.

Over five days he dug up at least 650 gold items weighing a total of more than 11lb (5kg) and 530 silver objects weighing more than 2.9lb (1.3kg).

It has three times the weight in gold found at Sutton Hoo, the Anglo-Saxon ship burial site in Suffolk.

Archaeologists working through the last clods believe there could be 1,500 items.

Millions

The treasure, described by one academic as "the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells", will rewrite history. It will also make Mr Herbert rich. It has yet to be valued but one archaeologist said it would be "millions".

The Staffordshire hoard dates from between 675AD and 725AD and contains "consummate" metalwork from swords, hilts and helmets, but also a number of Christian crosses.

One of the most intriguing objects is a small strip of gold inscribed with a Latin quotation from the Old Testament, which translates: "Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face."

Yesterday, the find was officially classed as treasure and now belongs to the British Crown, who will agree a payment.

Under the Treasure Act 1996, which obliges all finds of treasure to be reported, Mr Herbert will split the proceeds with the landowner.

Mr Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, said: "People laugh at metal detectorists. I've had people go past and go 'Beep beep, he's after pennies'," he said. "Well, no, we are out there to find this kind of stuff and it is out there.''

However, Fred Johnson, the landowner, said: "I'm not happy with Terry -- I think it's more about the money for him and I'm going to have to confront him about that."

Archaeologists agree the hoard was probably taken in raids by warlords in the kingdom of Mercia. Dr Kevin Leahy, who catalogued the hoard, said: "The quantity of gold is amazing but, more importantly, the craftsmanship is consummate. Its origins are clearly the very highest levels of Saxon aristocracy or royalty.''

Mr Herbert said he started seeing gold in his dreams after the first discoveries with his 14-year-old detector. It took him five days to unearth the hoard. "As soon as I closed my eyes I saw gold patterns, I didn't think it was ever going to end."

Leslie Webster, a former keeper at the British Museum, said: "This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries. It is the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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