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Archaeological & Local History Society

PUBLISHED: 13:40 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:19 06 July 2010

Landowner John Browning spoke on April 23 about the problems of owning land on the Norfolk-Suffolk border containing a 50-acre Roman historical site. Presently there are a large number of people who are keen to invade such sites and they have a range of good and bad intentions.

Landowner John Browning spoke on April 23 about the problems of owning land on the Norfolk-Suffolk border containing a 50-acre Roman historical site. Presently there are a large number of people who are keen to invade such sites and they have a range of good and bad intentions. Those with genuine historic interest may be given a cautious welcome, but sadly the majority are driven by greed and self-interest and are a pest. The mystery of what relics may be underground generates two kinds of reaction from the latter group - either they wish to own them or they see the chance of selling them on at a profit. The UK law states that discovered items belong to the landowner but over the years these laws have proved woefully inadequate and important artefacts (and more importantly their history) have been lost to treasure seekers. Mr Browning gave a fascinating account of his struggle to protect the integrity of the Roman settlement, now a designated archaeological site. From the late 1970s metal detecting equipment came into the public domain and has since become very sophisticated. A few years after he began farming he was told a major hoard had been removed from his land and was being quietly hawked around for sale to enthusiast collectors. By chance he obtained photographs and eventually the treasure (a collection of 1st century temple bronzes) was put up for auction in the USA. Although the items were acknowledged to be from his farm, the weak laws failed to secure the return of the treasure to the UK. The aggrieved Mr Browning decided to take on the system that allowed such flagrant abuse, and with like-minded friends continues to prompt major improvements that help ensure priceless items remain in the National Archives for all to enjoy. The next meeting will be at South Lowestoft Methodist Church Hall at 7.30pm on Thursday, May 14.

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