Yorkshire nostalgia: Bronze age axehead turns up in middle of field

RIK JONES, our resident metal detectorist '˜treasure hunter', is head chef at Devonshire Hall, University of Leeds and took up the hobby about a decade ago. Here, he tells the story of how he found a bronze age axe.

Friday, 20th May 2016, 11:58 pm

In my last article I told you the story of the gold sovereign. After I gave the farmer half the value, she put me in touch with a friend who owns a few pasture fields near Hebden Bridge. I called in at the farm and straight away got on with the farmer and we chatted for ages about British history and what could possibly be on his land.

It was a really nice crisp fresh winters morning and luckily the sun was shining. The views where stunning, an added bonus. He showed me six fields where I could detect and after a quick survey I noticed an old footpath.

So I got the machine ready and off I went. Straight away I got a good signal, dug a hole and when I lifted out the clod, a vintage 1930s penny appeared. It was a great start to the day.

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Well this was one of the most productive fields I had done in ages, there where coins everywhere, mostly copper but a couple of nice silver ones of Queen Victoria

I then noticed that the path went down to a smaller field which was on a real slope and had a stye in the corner, edging onto some woods so thought I would have a go in here.

Straight away again I got a good signal on the machine and in the same hole where two silver sixpences in mint condition. Great stuff.

I made my way up the slope trying to keep my balance and I got a signal but very different to the ones of the coins I found previously. I dug a hole and there was nothing there but now the signal was getting louder. I dug again and now was about 12 inches deep but still nothing there. Ok, I thought keep going but by this time i thought it must be a piece of iron or old plough as most fields got ploughed during the war.


Suddenly I saw the edge of a piece of metal and carefully got my trowel out and dug around it as not to damage the piece.

Then the piece came loose and I lifted it out of the hole. I could not believe my eyes. I had found an bronze age axehead dating from around 1,500BC in the middle of nowhere really. It turned out to be 3,500 years old.

I was almost shaking as this was the most unexpected find I have ever had. After I had calmed down, I then stuck to the same area to see if there where anymore as sometimes they used to bury these as rituals to the gods or stash them to sell as part of trade. Alas I could not find anymore. At the end of the day I knocked of the land owners door and gave him the coins I found and he was made up.

Then I said, oh just one more thing and showed him the axe. He could not believe such a fantastic artefact could come off his land.

I went back a few times to the site but no more where found, so it must have been a casual loss. The next thing was to get something so important recorded. So I got in touch with the West Yorkshire finds liason officer in Wakefield and took the axehead to show her. It is getting recorded on a national database now so it shows the heritage we have in the UK.

I put it on a metal detecting forum where experts give you an identification. It’s a mid Bronze Age palstave axe. The finds liaison officer who is a qualified archaeologist also confirmed this. They did lots of different styles but one feature was the later ones used to have a loop on them to tie vine on to hold the handle in place. The early ones like this have no loop on them.

If you have any land you would like searching, please email Rik on [email protected]

Next month: the story of the lost horse plaque from the saddle of the Baron of Bingley.