British Museum ‘may be misusing treasure laws’ with Suffolk find

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The British Museum may be misusing treasure laws to help fill gaps in their collections, a man who unearthed a rare Roman coin near Hadleigh has said.

Jonathan Brooks told an inquest in Bury St Edmunds on Monday that he found the silver denarius coin while searching on farmland at Aldham on September 15 last year.

Experts at the British Museum said it was unclear why a hole had been drilled into the coin but wanted to acquire it for their collections and said it should be declared as treasure.

Mr Brooks, who had travelled from his home in Wiltshire for the hearing, told assistant Suffolk Coroner Nigel Parsley that single coins did not usually fall under the rules established by the Treasure Act.

The coin, described by Mr Brooks as “very rare”, had not become anything other than a coin through the addition of the hole, he said.

Mr Brooks, who was an extra and on-set advisor in the BBC’s BAFTA award-winning series Detectorists, told the inquest: “The hole could have been drilled by me, by a Victorian person or others over hundreds of years.”

The recommendation by the British Museum that it was classified officially as treasure could be a misuse of the Treasure Act to make the coin available to fill a gap in their collection, said Mr Brooks.

Mr Brooks said that while other finds he had made in the past had been declared as treasure, he believed this coin was not and should be returned to him.

The inquest heard that Mr Brooks had spent several hours with a metal detector, working with the permission of landowner William Crockatt, before his discovered the coin about 4cm beneath the surface of the ploughed field.

Assistant Coroner Mr Parsley said that, in the face of Mr Brooks challenge, he had no option other than to adjourn the inquest to obtain expert advice about the coin and clarification from the British Museum about why they believed it should be declared as treasure.