History of the Club
[Included in this history are comments related to the club’s role in the history of metal detecting in southern Britain particularly concerning the early conflict with archaeologists]
Writer’s Comment: In the years before the Club was formed, conflict had arisen with archaeologists. The primary concern was the illegal use of metal detectors by thieves to pillage and destroy archaeological evidence on certain sensitive sites – later in 1980’s one of these, in the southern area, was Wanborough, Surrey. The history pertaining to this site is well known by both detectorists and archaeologists and the activities of the thieves and vandals using metal detectors set the early seal on the relationship between responsible law abiding detectorists and archaeologists, causing mis-trust on both sides. West Kent Detector Club members however, assisted the archaeologists on the Wanborough site and helped to recover a number of coins and artefacts before they could be lost forever. On a brighter note, early co-operative efforts were being made to harness the valuable resource of metal detectorists particularly in Norfolk, where the late Tony Gregory forged relationships with local detecting groups and began to record their finds. Tony was an early, open-minded archaeologist who realised, how metal detectors with experienced users could be an aid to established archaeology. In London, in the 1980’s, positive links were being built between the Museum of London and the Society of Mudlarks who spent time helping with rescue excavations during a period of major construction in the city. This co-operation led to a much greater understanding of Medieval Life in London and several books were written that would not have contained such a vast amount of material had it not been for the assistance of the Mudlarks. Thanks to this legacy and others we now are progressing towards a more positive and co-operative future.
The club was formed in late 1978/early 1979 by two enthusiastic metal detectorists, Stephen Johnston and John Williams. The club was off to an inauspicious start when the first meeting arranged in Edenbridge to form a holding committee had to be cancelled due to inclement weather but eventually the meeting was held in a pub near to Biggin Hill. Initially, the club met in Oxted Library, Surrey for a monthly evening meeting. Club searches were organised roughly once a fortnight on commons, south coast beaches and the Thames foreshore.
In 1979 club members marched on the Houses of Parliament with others in protest against the Kent Bill, an attempt to ban detecting in Kent, at the behest of the Detector Information Group (DIG – the early representative body for metal detectorists).
Contact with the club members is maintained by our bi-monthly newsletter called ‘Eureka’, the first issue being published in February 1979 and it has just reached its 182nd edition in September, 2011. In 2012 the paper Eureka has been replaced by a website section entitled ‘Eureka’ and for the first time a Eureka Annual was produced.
Pictures: Cover designs for the Club magazine ‘Eureka’ – Earliest is at the top left and latest at the bottom right.
In 1981, we moved our evening meetings to the Biggin Hill Library – Biggin Hill being the home of Joan Allen Electronics, one of the larger suppliers of metal detectors and Peter Bettis, the then Managing Director, became our Club President which he still is to this day. We have, over the years, enjoyed financial support from Joan Allen’s together with generous allowances for prizes for our annual competition. In January 1981, a club competition was introduced for finds made on club searches and two trophies were produced for the ‘Finder of the Year’ donated by Peter Bettis and named the ‘Joan Allen’ trophy and the ‘Find of the Year’ trophy. A search competition was also organised for the first time that year and we searched for 100 buried tokens.
The token hunt competition has continued since 1981 to be an annual event but with 200 tokens planted although 2011 saw a change to a new ‘knock out’ version. We started to raise funds for the first metal detecting representative body called DIG (Detector Information Group). The club representatives also attended the inaugural meeting of the Southern Area Federation of Detector Clubs which was formed to assist DIG with protection of the hobby and to fight the CBA’s (Council for British Archaeology) STOP campaign. The National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) was formed incorporating the two federations in existence at that time, the Southern Federation and the North-Western Federation.
It was decided to create the Club Aims and Rules and these were first published in Eureka in 1982 and are now included in an A4 file called the Club Handbook, issued to all new members, which also includes a lot of relevant information about detecting in the current times. In 2013 the contents of the A4 file were transferred and are now available on the website in a Handbook section.
In May 1983, following publicity by the Southern Federation, the club members attended the first Brighton Beach clear-up, which was followed by members attendance at several more such events in Brighton in subsequent years.
The club also joined forces, for the first time, with the Shoreham Aircraft Museum to assist with the recovery of remains from crashed WWII aircraft. The association between our two groups continues to this day.
1984 saw the creation of the Club’s first honorary member when John Williams, the club’s co-founder, left Kent for pastures new on the Isle of Wight.
In 1985 The ‘Find of the Year’ trophy was split into the ‘Coin of the Year’ and ‘Artefact of the Year’. The committee decided to gift to the landowners who allow us to search on their land, a bottle of sherry and a box of chocolates every Christmas to show our appreciation. In 1985, following several failed attempts at anti-metal detecting legislation by the archaeologists, the club participated in the initial discussions at the Southern Federation on the first draft of the Portable Antiquities legislation – this was strongly opposed as it was seen to be the first attempt to legally control the hobby of metal detecting.
The ‘Artefact of the Year’ trophy was, in 1987, named the Fee Slade Trophy after a founder member who sadly passed away in 1985. After a visit and presentation by Charles Garrett of an Olympic medallion, a new trophy, the Charles Garrett trophy was constructed using the medal, to be presented to the winner of the token hunt; also the C-Scope trophy was added to the expanding list of club trophies and it was awarded to the club member outside the committee who had made the most significant contribution to the club.
In this year members were encouraged to write to their MP’s objecting to the proposed changes to the ‘Treasure Trove’ legislation and Club members gave farmers a hand clearing fallen trees after the devastating hurricane of October 1987.
1988 saw the Department of the Environment Portable Antiquities paper available for discussion. Club members spent a very rewarding day searching on Seasalter Beach recovering 14 rings of which 9 were gold. A new trophy was created from one of John William’s original cartoons and was awarded by the Editor to the member making the most significant contribution to ‘Eureka’ – our Club newsletter.
The club hosted its first major display in 1989 in West Wickham, Kent, being joined in the event by members of South-East London Metal Detecting Club and Mid-Kent Search and Recovery Club. This exhibition took a great deal of effort but was enjoyed by a large number of local people.
1990 saw the awarding of the second Honorary membership to the club’s Chairman, Brian Streeter. There were also feverish discussions on the draft Treasure Trove Law also known as Lord Perth’s Bill and in 1991 the club members put together their first outdoor exhibition at an agricultural show, on this occasion, courtesy of the National Farmers Union
and we also attended the first meeting with Kent Archaeologists to help build bridges between the two opposing sides, the resulting group was named KADLAG (Kent Archaeology and Detecting Liaison Group).
The club hosted its second major display in 1992, building on the success of the first one held in 1989. This time we were joined at the event by Shoreham Aircraft Recovery Group, Joan Allen Electronics and the NCMD (National Council for Metal Detecting). The proceeds of the event were donated to St. Christopher’s Hospice. The club also moved its evening meetings to St.Francis Church Hall in West Wickham, the venue of the exhibitions.
In 1994, Lord Perth’s Bill (more anti-detecting legislation) got its first and second reading in the House of Lords but ran out of time in the Parliamentary session and in 1995, the long time Club Chairman, Brian Streeter, emigrated to Australia but keeps in touch with the club members through occasional visits and the club magazine ‘Eureka’.
1995 The Southern Federation opposed the new NCMD constitution which they felt was trying to ‘regulate’ the hobby. This new constitution also effectively reduced the voting rights of the Southern Region and Federation of Independent Detectorists (FID) whose membership consisted of approximately half the total membership of the NCMD at that time. Following further conflict, primarily over how discussions about the new Treasure Act were being conducted, David Wood, General Secretary of the NCMD and the Chairman of the Southern Region, resigned and representatives from the Southern Region and FID stopped attending NCMD meetings. There followed a break away of some of the Kent clubs who formed a Kent Federation and continued to be loyal to the NCMD.
1996 saw the Treasure Bill almost become law and this caused major upset in the metal detecting world. In 1997, West Kent Detector Club, Southern Federation and Federation of Independent Detectorists (FID) played host to Dr. Roger Bland to discuss the Treasure Act which became law later in this year, voluntary recording schemes were piloted, and we met, for the first time, the Voluntary Recording Officer for Kent – Richard Hobbs. The Treasure Act caused the break up of the National Council for Metal Detecting together with some of the Regional Federations, new representative bodies were then formed with opposing views. These were challenging times for the hobby. The Southern Council for Metal Detecting was formed by David Wood and the then Secretary of WKDC (Allan Spence) became its Chairman. The council consisted of all the remaining clubs that had not followed the break away group that had formed the Kent Federation. The Southern Federation continued to exist at this time alongside the Southern Council until in 1998 the subscriptions paid by the Southern Federation to the NCMD were returned and it was effectively expelled from the NCMD. Shortly after these traumatic events, all the federations within the NCMD were renamed as ‘Regions’. The Kent Federation expanded to include clubs from Sussex, Surrey and Berkshire and was renamed the Southern Region.
In 1998, the club started serious recording of finds, although Club finds records go back to 1980, and guidelines are published in Eureka from the Kent Finds Liaison Officer (FLO), Richard Hobbs. A team from WKDC was dispatched to assist the RSPCA, by searching for a lethal dart fired at an injured deer. Ken Holyoake, Club Site Co-ordinator found it and as a ‘thank-you’ from the RSPCA, the Club was presented with an unloaded dart and an RSPCA badge which were later made into a Trophy to be awarded each year for the best recovery.
In 1999, the members of WKDC voted at an EGM to return to NCMD leaving the Southern Council/forum and joined the Southern Region and have remained there ever since. Catherine Read became the new Kent FLO taking over from Richard Hobbs and the first Portable Antiquities web site was launched. Some club members attended the inaugural meeting of SCADLAG, the Surrey County Archaeological and Detecting Liaison Group, to help build bridges in Surrey in the same vain as in Kent. In 2000, Romney Marsh Metal Detecting Club hosted a display day in Folkstone and members of WKDC attended with a display.
A new Kent FLO was appointed, Michael Lewis. Foot and Mouth Disease struck in 2001 and detecting activities were severely curtailed, the Treasure Act was reviewed and WKDC affiliated to Kent Archaeological Society. In 2002, the future of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) was uncertain because of funding issues, which were later solved by grants from the Lottery Fund and the PAS went national. The Kent Archaeological Metal Detecting Survey Unit (KAMSU) was first discussed and Andrew Richardson took over as the Kent FLO.
In 2003, WKDC hosted, on behalf of NCMD (Southern Region), ‘Our Treasured Past’ Exhibition. Nine metal detecting clubs, representatives from the PAS, coin experts, county and local archaeologists, hobby magazines, the Shoreham Aircraft Recovery Group, the Surrey Bottle Club all join us for a wonderful display day held in Croydon, Surrey.
David Williams was appointed as the Surrey FLO. Sadly, this was the year that Joan Allen, the founder of Joan Allen Electronics in Biggin Hill died. Her coffin was taken by horse-drawn hearse through the main road in Biggin Hill, and amongst the tributes was a flower representation of a metal detector.
Continuing the theme of exhibitions, in 2004 club members supported the ‘Buried Treasure : Finding Our Past’ exhibition
Pictures: ‘Buried Treasure : Finding Our Past’ Exhibition at the British Museum 2004.
and provided a display at Surrey Archaeological Society which received a commendation, put together a display in Bromley Museum, displayed at the ‘History & Archaeology Show’ at the Maidstone Museum organised by Kent Archaeological Society and supported an event at the Museum of Kent Rural Life together with other metal detecting clubs, Mid-Kent, Romney Marsh and White Cliffs, celebrating National Archaeology Day. The club’s Recording Officer was amongst the first to be allowed to record finds directly onto the Portable Antiquities database.
2005 the Government agreed to fund the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). The database started a major re-vamp and members attended a PAS conference entitled ‘Looking to the Future’ at the British Museum. Club members started to find a small hoard of Edward I-II pennies on a club site that continue to be found over a period of 3 years, these were eventually declared Treasure. 2006, the amended Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting appeared and was distributed to members, after drawn out negotiations between NCMD and other interested parties. The PAS Conference entitled ‘Advancing Archaeological Knowledge’ was held at the British Museum to which members attend. The club displayed at the Finds Roadshow at the British Museum,
Pictures : ‘Finds Road Show’ at the British Museum 2006
‘Our Treasured Past’ hosted by East Surrey Research & Recovery Group and changed the display at the Bromley Museum.
Pictures: The changing face of the WKDC exhibition at the Bromley Museum.
It was suggested that a new group be formed consisting of NCMD Southern Region and other bodies with an interest in the past and a new group called LEGISE (Landscape Explorer’s Group in South-East) was formed but at this stage still only had metal detecting clubs affiliated to it.
2007 saw club members on the television when ‘Time Team’ aired in March from a dig organised on one of our club member’s farm sites.
The same club member found a very rare Anglo-Saxon penny of Archbishop of Canterbury, Aethelheard 825-845AD with Offa as overlord, on a detecting survey with The West Kent Archaeological Society (WKAS) which finally, after a great deal of negotiation with the land-owner, the coin was purchased by the Museum of Canterbury and it is hoped that the coin will eventually go on display in the City where it was minted. The club members assisted Canterbury Archaeological Trust at Monkton and a club display at a Council for British Archaeology conference entitled ‘Under The Plough’ held at Chatham University.
In 2008, a funding crisis touched the PAS and members were encouraged to write to their MP’s. Eventually, the crisis was averted and the PAS received funding for the next three years. Andrew Richardson, the Kent FLO, departed the PAS for pastures new at Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Jennifer Jackson was soon appointed as his replacement. Club members found a second small hoard consisting of hammered silver coins of Elizabeth I and Mary. The Curator of the Bromley Museum visited the club and told us about nighthawking taking place at a local scheduled site.
2009, members join WKAS (West Kent Archaeological Society) for the first time on one of their digs and WKAS joined WKDC and the Kent FLO, Jennifer Jackson for a dig associated with the 16th Century hammered coin hoard. The ‘Coin of the Year’ trophy was renamed the ‘Ray Allen’ trophy after a long term club member who sadly passed away. Three members were featured on the front cover of Treasure Hunting magazine and members were involved, for the first time, with the Culver Archaeological Project in Barcombe, Sussex. Members attended the PAS conference at the British Museum entitled ‘Recording the Past’ and WKDC entered into negotiations with English Heritage regarding a controlled metal detecting survey on the local scheduled site being troubled by nighthawking – these negotiations prove fruitless. WKAS joined LEGISE, the first non-detecting group to do so.
2010, some club members attended the ‘Twilight of the Empire – a view from Kent & Sussex’ conference hosted by WKAS. The updated PAS database came online and individual finders could now register to put finds onto the database. The club made its 1000th entry on the PAS database and Surrey FLO David Williams became the FLO for East Berkshire. WKAS presented a lecture at the CBA conference in Newcastle extolling the virtues of archaeology and metal detecting collaboration with WKDC. The ‘Recovery’ trophy was renamed the ‘Ken Holyoake’ trophy after our long-term and very hard working site & evening meeting organiser, who very sadly passed away. ‘Eureka’, our club magazine, started regular production in full colour.
2011, The Chairman created the history of the Club in photographic form in the Club photograph albums. Some members attended the conference organised by the Kent FLO at Kent County Council offices in Maidstone on ‘Self-recording’. We had a busy year for visiting speakers, we learnt about Identifying Roman Coins, Site Reasearch and Dowsing, Medieval life and the work of the National Council for Metal Detecting. We attended several shows exhibiting our finds, the Blindley Heath Country Show, the Smallholder’s Show at Ardingly, the Kent County Show assisting the Kent FLO, the Sevenoaks Heavy Horse Show and the North Kent Ploughing Match. We changed the Club Token Hunt Competition into a Knock-out event and included a barbeque for members which took place on a beautiful summers day. Some members assisted the Shoreham Aircraft Museum firstly, at the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich where arrangements were made to dig up the road but no aeroplane was found, secondly recovering some parts of an ME109 in Leybourne and lastly, we looked for but didn’t find the crash site of a hurricane in Brasted despite several eye witness reports. Some members worked with WKAS on two projects in Surrey and three in Kent, assisting with geophysics and excavations. Lastly, the WKDC launched into cyberspace and created this website!
2012 was a miserable year for weather and much of our showing season had to be abandoned. We, however, were able to display at Hall Place in Bexley supporting Michael Wood’s ‘Great British Story’ and at very short notice a couple of members represented the club at the World Charolais Congress where they helped entertain farmers from all over the world. The weather held fair for one of our exhibitions, the Heavy Horse Show in Shoreham, in September. March saw the final issue of our bi-monthly newsletter ‘Eureka’, this being replaced in part by the website and also with an annual ‘Eureka’ review of the year. The club annual competition had to be abandoned in July due to the weather but was held in August, a great day out for the over thirty club members who attended. A couple of members supported ‘Operation Nightingale’ (archaeological rehabilitation for soldiers injured both mentally and physically primarily on operations in Afghanistan) on two digs, one in Caerwent, South Wales and one on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. The latter was also filmed as a Time Team episode which aired in January 2013. Members continue to support WKAS with their investigations and also assisted, together with members of the Eastbourne Club, with a metal detecting survey on a sensitive site near Hastings.
2013 was a difficult year for the club. It saw a great deal of change in the committee ranks with longstanding members retiring for various reasons and no-one volunteering from the membership to help out. This meant that the club had to vastly scale down its activities and it came close to closing completely. A very few of the existing committee members and a couple of new ones struggled on. We only attended one show, the North-Kent Ploughing Match in October and we didn’t hold our annual search competition. At the beginning of 2013 the weather was very dry and the ground on club sites was very hard and cracking up which limited club activities out and about and towards the end of the year the opposite was true with a large number of club sites under water! The club website still continued to publicise us and the metal detecting hobby and towards the end of the year we had welcomed 18 new members mostly by contact made with us through the website. We also introduced two new competitions for coin and artefact finds made on ‘Any Sites’, these trophies are called the 1978 Trophy for Coins and the Eureka Trophy for Artefacts and are made of glass.
At the end of 2013 and into 2014 things are now beginning to look up for the club as these new, keen and enthusiatic members are now coming forward to help run the club.
There are, in fact, still a number of the founding members in the club to this day, mostly still supporting the club with various roles on the committee. The first annual subscription was £2.50 which has now risen to £25 plus £8 for NCMD insurance in 2014, we also now have a subscription reduction for families, associate and junior members!
This information about the Club was taken from the Club magazine ‘Eureka’. I would like to thank the Editors for recording the club’s history so accurately because without their tireless efforts I would have had to plough through the Minutes of the Committee meetings to glean this information.
Editors’ Roll of Honour:
Stephen Johnston 1979-1980
Reg Nightingale 1980-1983
Geoff Burr 1983-1987
Reg Nightingale 1987-1995
Ron Payne 1995-1999
Mark Moncur 1999-2000
Carol Shoesmith 2000-2001
Mark Shoesmith 2001-2002
David Hunt 2002-2012
Club Secretary 2014