Surge in illegal metal detecting at Hadrian's Wall

  • More than 50 holes made by nighthawks found at Brunton Turret at Hadrian's Wall
  • If anyone has any information about this activity, they should call Northumbria Police on 101, and quote crime number 67068Q/18

Archaeologists from Historic England are calling on visitors to Hadrian’s Wall and Tyne Valley residents to report illegal metal detecting as criminals are targeting this spectacular 1,900 year old World Heritage Site. 
More than 50 holes made by nighthawks (the term for illegal metal detectors) have been discovered at the Brunton Turret section of Hadrian’s Wall. This turret and the well-preserved section of Hadrian’s Wall next to it were built by the men of the Twentieth Legion of the Roman Army.

The remains above ground are surrounded by further buried archaeological remains from the Roman frontier, and it is these remains that are very vulnerable to damage from nighthawks.

Mike Collins, Historic England’s Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Hadrian’s Wall, said: “We know that the majority of the metal-detecting community complies with the laws and regulations regarding discovery and recovery of objects from the land.

But the small number of people who steal artefacts and damage ancient sites are breaking the law and robbing us all of the knowledge and understanding that objects from the past can give us.

These nighthawks are committing a criminal offence and we’d like everyone’s help to ensure they are caught. Together we can protect the precious shared legacy that our archaeological sites hold."

There has been a spate of ‘nighthawking’ incidents at Roman Wall sites at Corbridge, Housesteads and Steel Rigg over the past three years. These three sites, along with the rest of the Hadrian's Wall frontier, are nationally important and are protected as Scheduled Monuments. It is a criminal offence to use a metal detector in such places without proper authorisation.  

Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime and Policing Advice for Historic England said: "Illegal metal detecting is not a victimless crime. We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context."
“Historic England will continue to work with Northumbria Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the metal detecting community to identify the small criminal minority who are intent on causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage and to bring them to justice."

The latest incident at Brunton Turrett is now being investigated by Historic England and Northumbria Police.

If anyone has any information about this activity, they should call Northumbria Police on 101, and quote crime number 67068Q/18

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