In the third of our Metal Detecting Journey series. Shilling King UK’s Dean Stainton introduces us to his adventure.
As I sit at my kitchen table staring at the beautiful Dorset hills, locked down once again and unable to detect while the UK exits Europe, Covid-19 vaccinations are in the air and our American cousins find themselves wrapped up in political turmoil, I find myself looking back on how I got started in the incredibly addictive hobby of Metal Detecting.
It was at about the age of 10 or 11, so in the late 1970s, I got a metal detector for my birthday and I loved it. I know it was a brown but that’s all I can remember if I’m honest and I used it as much as I could all around my parent’s house and a little beyond. I had no idea about permissions and landowners at that time. It was my new toy and I just wanted to use it. The very first thing I found was a King George V Penny from 1911 on a dirt path by what were called “The Allotments” and although I have no idea what happened to it, I was over the moon. My joy was short lived however, as one day, as I went home with another hand full of metal oddments to show my Mum, I left my detector propped up against the gate post at the top of the garden or yard and went inside. After pushing bits of rusty iron in my Mum’s face for what only seemed like 10 minutes, I came out to find that my sleek, brown treasure machine was gone…and I was devastated!!Well, I thought, that’s that then, and it was. We couldn’t afford another one so it was back to making go-carts and climbing trees in the graveyard for this city kid. So, I grew up, moved on, joined the Royal Air Force as a Propulsion Mechanic, travelled the world, became a Propulsion Technician, got married, had children, got an Engineering Degree, and generally lived my life as many others do until one day, I found You Tube.
Fast-forward from the brown machine around 25 years and picture me sat in some decidedly dodgy accommodation in the middle-east looking for something to pass the time and I discover something called “You Tube” and a chap called Deep Digger Dan, living in Germany and metal detecting!! Now, I know he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and now drives around in a camper van with his girlfriend but I found him to be very watchable. So much so that after he hooked me in with his ‘Live Grenade’ video, I watched his whole back catalogue. Well, I did say that I had a lot of time to kill.
He had such an impact on me in fact, that as soon as I returned to good old Blighty (that’s the United Kingdom btw), I went on line, found a shop called Regton Metal Detection Specialists and ordered a Garrett Ace 250 bundle. The dream of finding treasure, once again became a reality and although not brown but yellow, I felt that, once again, I had the right tools for the job.
At first I didn’t have much luck with permissions, as where we used to live didn’t seem to be very detectorist friendly, a reason for which I still cannot tell you to this day. So I spent what time I could detecting our little back garden and a strip of grass down the side of the house. This is where I found my first coin with the mighty 250, a 1950 King George VI shilling.
It was also around this time that I thought I might have a go at starting my own You Tube channel but what name could I use?? This is always the point at which most new creators get stuck and I was no exception. Thankfully I got past what some might call writers block and thinking of my first good find, went for the now ubiquitous “Shilling King Metal Detecting” adding the “UK” suffix at a later date. Yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful and if truth be told, I’m still not happy with it and wish I’d gone for something like “Deano Digs” or Digging with Dean” but it is what it is and to change it now would be too much of a pain. Just so you know, my first ever upload is still there for all to see if you fancy a laugh!!
So, rolling forward a little more, to when we bought a house and moved down to Yeovil in preparation for our future plans, things changed significantly. One day, a good friend and work colleague Trevor Hann, passed me a story he’d printed off about a portable steam engine tragedy, where four men, including the driver or operator, had been killed when it exploded whilst powering a threshing machine back in the winter of 1895. As I read through the article I suddenly realised that the driver of the engine was none other than Trevor’s great, great Grandfather!! This article is on the Archaeology and Metal Detecting Magazine website and the new App if you fancy a read.
Intrigued, I set about researching what had happened as I do like a bit of history and it turned out that the boiler explosion had actually happened on a farm only half a mile from the building we were both sat in!! After further research I found where all four men were interred and so allowed Trevor and his family to pay their respects for the first time in a long time. I then made a visit to the farm in question and spoke to the tenant. She introduced me to the local Church warden, who in turn, introduced me to the local museum curator, who finally introduced me to the land owners. After a brief conversation with them, I secured my first ever real permission in the County of Somerset (UK)and the best part about it is that it has never been detected…so I thought at the time. What I now know is that some fields have been detected and others subject to what’s called an archaeological recovery dig, where they clear the area of any artefacts of significant historical interest up to a depth of 12 inches (I think). No matter though. I’ve still had many great finds form this permission and continue to do so while also adding to local history.
An example of this is the first field, in which I started the search for the site of the 1895 boiler explosion. I seem to be finding a lot of WW2 artefacts. Cap badges, spent .303 cartridges and the like. Anyway, spring forward a few years and me finding the Somerset HER. Within this excellent free on line resource, I found aerial photographs the Royal Air Force photographic reconnaissance chaps had taken in 1946 to map the UK after the second world war ended. Imagine my surprise when I found a picture of this very field…with 5, yes 5, Nissen huts in it!! This was news to both me and the local residents, who were blissfully unaware of what had been going on right next door but I suppose that during the war, everything was a little hush hush but it did explain the reason I’d been finding what I had in field.
So here we are in 2021, several years down the line, fully conversant with the UK’s metal detecting code of conduct, insured with the National Council for Metal Detecting, swinging the Garrett AT Max with NEL Tornado coil, enjoying the fact that some of my finds are now recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, another 6 small but perfectly formed permissions acquired and with an extremely eclectic mix of finds from this one alone, including 4th century Roman coins, a 13th century Edward 1st hammered coin, 3 George III bull head shillings and ironically, one or two small jet engine but what’s the moral of my tale? Is there a moral I hear you ask?
Well I would say there is and that it’s this. “Never give up”. It took me a great deal of time and effort to secure a proper and legal permission, whereas others might manage to get several in what seems like no time at all but don’t be disheartened by that. Sometimes people can be in the right place at the right time. Like meeting a farmer on a beach while walking your dog with the wife and moaning about the lockdown on video and swapping numbers, which a friend of mine did just this week! That’s how it can be in this weird and wonderful hobby some times. Just keep at it and don’t be tempted to stray off the righteous path by “just going out anyway”. Nothing comes to he or she who waits but if you get out there and work for it, the spoils and indeed, the finds will be yours. Well, half yours and half the landowners but you get the picture and if you’ve got some research to show the landowner, then your chances of building a rapport with them and getting that all important permission are very much improved! Wine, chocolates at Christmas and the odd find in a display case can also help. I found an engraved silver fruit knife on one of my permissions and gave it to the landowners in a display box as the initials on the knife suggested that it was once owned by one of their ancestors and I thought it should be returned to the family. They couldn’t have been more grateful and that knife now sits on their mantelpiece in pride of place!! That’s what it’s all about for me and the reason I am a member of the National Ring Recovery Service run by the effervescent Morley Howard, a free service to recover lost personal items such as wedding rings and raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis charity in the process.
It’s also good to be able to show the landowner what it is that you’ll be doing. To be able to point them in the direction of your Facebook group or your You Tube channel and say “This is what I’ll be doing in your fields” and although not a pre requisite, it is in its self, yet another key to unlocking that first, second or even third permission. I personally have a YouTube channel, a Facebook group, a Detector Network account, a Twitter account and an Instagram account. All of which I use to promote detecting in a positive light and allow my landowners to see (if they so wish) exactly what it is I’m doing on their land because at the end of the day, you’re digging for things in their back yard. You’re hobby takes place in their world and it’s a good feeling to be able to show that you’re giving it the respect it deserves and leaving it exactly how you found it…excepting for the odd evicted worm of course.
So, whatever it is I’m trying to convey with this short piece, I’m sure you’ll agree that, although my long suffering and loving Wife calls it my geeky pass time, the extremely addictive hobby of metal detecting or time travel as the creator of “The Detectorists” Mackenzie Crook would have us believe, is one of the most addictive and fun things any man or woman can do with their clothes on. They do say that you’ve got to walk over it to find it and metal detecting allows me to walk over happiness and has it ringing up as a gold coin at around 6 inches.
Take care, good luck and happy hunting to you all.
Shilling King Metal Detecting UK.
We are enormously grateful to Dean for again writing for us, another fascinating article. To read Dean’s article about the Yeovilton Boiler explosion click here, If you would like to write your own Metal Detecting journey story, We would love to include it in the Archaeology and Metal Detecting magazine.
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