The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Surrey

The Surrey County Council Finds Liaison Officer works to identify and record archaeological objects found by members of the public in Surrey, on behalf of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The Finds Records generated by the Finds Liaison Officer are publicly available on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website and are used by groups such as local heritage organisations and academic researchers. The Finds Records also form part of the Historic Environment Record.

The Finds Liaison Officer is available by appointment at the Surrey History Centre for identification and recording of archaeological finds made by the general public. Appointment availability is limited to the Centre's opening hours. Weekend finds sessions are available by prior appointment at Guildford Museum, these are normally held on the second Saturday of each month.

All appointments need to be arranged in advance and there is no drop-in service. Advice on finds identification, recording and the Treasure Act is otherwise available by email and phone. In order to book an appointment, please contact the Surrey Finds Liaison Officer via email: simon.maslin@surreycc.gov.uk or phone: 07968 832740.

Surrey County Council policy on metal detecting on public land in Surrey

Local authorities have legal obligations to protect archaeology and heritage, as with any other public asset, on behalf of local communities. As a result, we seek to limit and avoid the risk of damage to buried remains and/or removal of artefacts, which would result from unsupervised digging. We recognise the value of the use of metal detectors for archaeological purposes under properly supervised circumstances and actively encourage their use as part of any archaeological works which are authorised or requested by Surrey County Council.

Metal detecting is only permitted on the Surrey County Council estate as an integrated part of sanctioned archaeological investigations and for very specific purposes such as searching for lost property, on a case by case basis. In all circumstances Surrey County Council retains the right to any items of archaeological interest which are uncovered with a view to depositing them in local museums in order that they remain publicly accessible and available to the community.

Surrey County Council policy on archaeological discoveries made by members of the public

Section 1: Advice for members of the public in the event of the discovery of potential treasure.

If you believe you have made a find which potentially constitutes treasure (under the definition of the 1996 Treasure Act and related orders), please follow the advice below.

  • Stop all excavation immediately
  • Make the discovery site secure. Do not advertise your discovery on social media. You are advised not to disclose the find unnecessarily to friends or colleagues.
  • Ensure you understand your legal requirements under the Treasure Act 1996. Not adhering to the terms of the Treasure Act may lead to a reduction or total forfeit of any future reward for the discovery.
  • Contact the county Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) using the details on the Surrey Finds Liaison Officer page.

Section 2: Advice for members of the public in the event of the discovery of potential human remains and burials

There is a complex legal situation surrounding the treatment of Human Remains and it is illegal to deliberately disturb or excavate burials without the appropriate licence from the Ministry of Justice. Formal burials are also a form of structured archaeological deposit and as such can also contain significant information that is easily lost if they are not excavated carefully. If you believe you discovered Human Remains or burials by metal detecting or any other activity, please follow the advice below.

  • Stop all excavation work immediately
  • Make the discovery site secure. Do not advertise your discovery on social media.
  • Contact the county FLO immediately using the details on the Surrey Finds Liaison Officer page. If the FLO is unavailable, contact the County Archaeologist.
  • The discovery of any unexpected human remains must be reported to the police. The FLO or the County Archaeologist for Surrey can arrange this.
  • If you discover human remains which you have reason to believe may not be archaeological in origin, please contact your local police station immediately.
  • The FLO or County Archaeologist will be pleased to assist in the identification of any material about which you are unsure.

Section 3: Further archaeological investigation of chance finds.

Surrey County Council has put in place a contingency programme to facilitate the professional recovery of archaeological discoveries made by members of the public within the county area, should finds of an exceptional or significant nature be made. This service is managed by the Surrey County Archaeologist in conjunction with the FLO, and it is anticipated that it would be initiated under the following circumstances:

  • Discovery of in situ hoards or exceptional structured deposits subject to reporting under the 1996 Treasure Act. The reporting of the find to the county Coroner following the discovery will be undertaken by the county FLO.
  • Discovery of in situ archaeological human remains. In the event that these do not involve any finds subject to the 1996 Treasure Act, archaeological intervention will only be undertaken in the event that the remains are threatened with damage or loss. Please also note the advice given in section two relating to the discovery of human remains.
  • Discovery of significant archaeological features or deposits which are threatened by imminent loss or damage (such as from agricultural activity or development work); this potentially includes a response for above-ground structures such as historic buildings which have been damaged or are threatened with damage or loss.

If you believe your discovery falls into one or more of the categories above and warrants professional investigation, you should contact the FLO in the first instance to discuss, and follow the steps outlined in sections one and/or two previously. Each incident will be assessed on a case-by case basis with the scale and nature of any professional response dependent on the scale of the likely response required, nature of the discovery and deemed necessity. Resources may not be immediately available which may necessitate making the site secure in the first instance.

Final determination on the nature of the response will be provided by the Surrey County Archaeologist and the FLO.