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Detectorist Andy hits rich seam of discoveries after finding medieval pope's seal

By Deborah Hardiman | Bridgnorth | News | Published:

A childhood hobby is turning out to be pure delight for a metal detectorist who unearthed a medieval pope’s seal on farm land.

Metal detectorist Andy Bassett, 54, who found the pope’s seal

Andy Bassett found the object along with other treasures in a ploughed field near Bridgnorth after spending many months researching the site’s history.

Pope Innocent IV, whose papacy began in 1243, used the lead coin-like object to confer political and religious favours on supporters.

Mr Bassett, 54, said: “My neighbour invited me to do some detecting on a field in the village where I live. So I did that and took some aerial photos to get a better idea of the lie of the land and I looked at the history of the area.

“I then spoke to the land owner and he gave permission to search it.

The pope's seal found by Andy

“Then I found the seal. We’ve found all sorts of amazing things, such as Roman brooches, Tudor and Stuart coins. It all seems to point to some sort of settlement.

“Apart from that we found about 50 amazing coins and a couple of items which I can’t talk about on at this stage as they are subject to treasure trove proceedings at the Shropshire Coroner’s Court.

“It all started before lockdown and at the time I was logging the items.

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“During lockdown I prepared a report and got in touch with the finds officer. It’s very exciting. It’s a whole new chapter in our knowledge about the history of the village.

"These items will teach us so much more and that’s what I love about this. I’m more interested in the history uncovered that any financial benefits.”

A high status Roman brooch

The precise location of the finds is being kept secret.

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Mr Bassett, previously worked in the gas industry, before relocating to the county. Born, in Dartford, he has been a detectorist since the age of 10, and is a member of the National Council for Metal Detecting.

Peter Reavill, the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme finds liaison officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, said the seal may have ended up in Shropshire because the Pope was trying to obtain Henry III’s support in his claim for Sicily.

"Or it may have been given as an 'indulgence' to a rich, powerful individual who gave money to the church in exchange for 'so many years out of purgatory'.

The medieval pope’s seal represents the 1.5 millionth archaeological object to have been officially unearthed in Britain.

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman
@Deborahh_Star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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