Shropshire Star

IN PICTURES: History enthusiast's love for heavy metal hobby

They may not look like much to the untrained eye.


But these are some of the hundreds of finds made by metal detector Howard Murphy.

It started when he saw a metal detector in a shop in Leeds during his college days.

And he became the first person to find a civil war hoard since the 1930s.

The 69-year-old said: "It is a hobby that once you've started it is really absorbing, you can't give it up."

Some of Howard's finds

Mr Murphy has been detecting for decades in his home county of Yorkshire but continued his hobby when he moved to Shropshire nine years ago.

And in his time he has made hundreds of finds.

His most famous find was the Bitterley Hoard in 2013.

Howard with some of his finds
Howard with his metal detector

The retired engineer, of Ludlow, found a silver coin in a farmer's field in Bitterley.

He found a ceramic pot containing a leather purse, both stuffed with silver and gold coins.

When opened by experts, the find consisted of 138 coins, all of high denomination and many were very well preserved.

The hoard was declared Treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act which obliges the owner to offer it for sale to a museum at a price set by an independent board of antiquities experts. It is now kept at the resource centre at Ludlow Museum and is set to go on display at the new Buttercross museum when it opens next year.

Mr Murphy said: "It was a really unexpected find.

"It was the middle of winter, I never anticipated it at all."

Recently, Mr Murphy found a Richard III groat, circa 1485, close to a footpath in Ludlow.

The rare coin had been hidden in the ground for 530 years and would have been worth four pence when it was in circulation.

But for him, every find is exciting.

Mr Murphy said: "The beauty of metal detecting is that you never know what you're going to find, it could be something absolutely fantastic.

"That's the good thing about it, it is unexpected.

"It is an amazing feeling when you do find something good.

"You've got to have an interest in history, you can't just want to look for treasure because that isn't how it works."

Mr Murphy's hobby first started in the 1980s when he was still living in Leeds.

He said: "I used to walk down a street and there was a sports shop and in the window there were two metal detectors and I kept looking at it because I've always had an interest in history.

"Then I saw the first edition of a magazine called the Searcher and it had a farmer on the cover who'd found a hoard and that started me off.

He first used to detect over the site of a Norman Villa in Yorkshire, where his first find was a silver coin, which he said were quite rare at the time.

Among his favourite pieces are a selection of gold finds that he has, which although they are not of high value, are some that he treasures.

A 1858 Victorian Gold Sovereign was the first gold coin that he found.

He also found a gold nugget in a spot overlooking Ludlow Castle which he said he liked because it was so unusual.

He also has a gold ring which he also found on Bitterley which dates back to 1750 which is engraved with the words Tru Love (CORR).

Mr Murphy said: "They're not worth a great deal, gold is only worth its weight and you would need a lot of gold bars for it to be worth anything significant."

Other favourite finds include coins from the time of Oliver Cromwell, after Charles I had been beheaded, coins from the time of Elizabeth I.

He said: "It doesn't really matter what kind of detector you've got, when I found the hoard I was only using a detector that cost a couple of hundred pounds but it was because I was on top of it.

"People spend thousands of pounds but if they're not on top of something, they won't find it."

Mr Murphy is not a member of any detecting clubs and says he prefers to work on his own.

He said: "I don't have to talk to anyone about my finds.

"Where I detect now, overlooking the Clee Hills is fabulous.

"It is nice and relaxing to go out and do a bit of detecting.

"At the moment it is too wet and I can't get motivated to go out but when it is spring or summer and you can put your shorts and tshirt on, with the sun on your back it is great."

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.