Metal detecting on our land

George III coins

If you'd like to use a metal detector on Trust land, you'll first need to apply for a Licence Agreement. Read our metal detecting policies, the reasons behind them and the conditions in which we grant Licence Agreements.

Metal detecting is a popular and growing hobby which can help increase our understanding of the past. As such, we work with metal detecting clubs and societies to support their interest through activities that could help us unearth finds on our properties for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. To do this effectively, we currently allow metal detecting on our land under the control of a Licence Agreement.

We don't allow unlicensed metal detecting, even where it’s under the plough. We recognise that most metal detectorists are highly responsible and report their finds, but there's always a risk that finds will be removed without proper recording or archaeological supervision.

Our metal detecting policies help protect our heritage for everyone
Sunset over the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, Sussex
Our metal detecting policies help protect our heritage for everyone

All our land has archaeological potential and has been entrusted to our care for the benefit of everyone. When finds are taken out of context we lose a piece of the jigsaw, making it harder for us to care for our archaeology and tell the stories of our places.

These conditions apply to anyone wanting to use a metal detector, whether they are members of metal detecting clubs, universities, students, local amenity societies or private individuals. We take this approach as we believe it's currently the best way to continue to look after the special places in our care.

Licence Agreements

These are written agreements between the National Trust and the metal detectorist that give permission to metal detect on our land under special conditions. Applications for a licence have to include a full project design which has been agreed with the Trust Archaeologist.

Examples of activities that we may grant a Licence for include:

  • archaeological research projects where metal detectorists work under the supervision of a Trust Archaeologist
  • rescuing finds from areas that are at risk from processes such as arable farming or coastal erosion; engineering works where use of a metal detector is necessary to locate underground services by contractors
  • or – exceptionally – for the recovery of lost personal items by a member of the public

The Trust will not issue a Licence Agreement for metal detecting within its parks, gardens or farmland under pasture, or for detecting on Scheduled Monuments. Metal detecting on any Scheduled Monument is a criminal offence unless authorised by Historic England (NIEA in Northern Ireland or Cadw in Wales). 

Only a National Trust Archaeologist can issue a Licence Agreement. Our property staff, tenants and farmers are not authorised to give permission to metal detect on Trust land.

What happens if I metal detect without a Licence Agreement?

If you metal detect without a licence you'll be asked to leave the property. We may take action to reclaim items taken from our land without permission. We'll report unauthorised metal detecting on Scheduled Monuments to the police.

Finds and treasure

All finds, with the exception of ‘treasure’, remain the property of the National Trust. Under the Treasure Act 1996 anything that might be considered ‘treasure’ must be reported to the local Coroner or Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) within 14 days.