Leeds nostalgia: Rusty dog tag turns out to have top pedigree

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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. In the past he has found lost war medals, an Edwardian brooch, a Bronze Age axe head which has been added to the national archive and could soon be on display in a museum in Calderdale and much more.

This week, he takes us through the story of a ‘dog tag’ dating to 1697 and belonging to a man from Bramham Park.

11 february 2016 .......          Rik Jones from Rodley out with his metal detector. Picture Tony Johnson

11 february 2016 ....... Rik Jones from Rodley out with his metal detector. Picture Tony Johnson

Earlier this year on a cold winter morning, I had a day off from work so decided to venture out to a field in east Leeds that already had the crops off and was in stubble.

I drove down a very bumpy farm track and set up my machine and other equipment. It was a freezing day, so I was fully kitted out with thermals and winter gloves.

It was a great start, too, as my second signal of the day turned out to be a hammered silver coin of Edward I, about 800 years old but also very common to find. So with my spirits up, I carried on walking up and down in a line to see if there were anymore in the area. In the trade, if a few coins or artefacts come up in the same area, we call it a ‘hot spot’, but sadly no more did.

I then decided to go to a new area. I started finding scraps of lead and a few buttons. Then I got a sweet signal and dug my hole to see a small rectangle shaped plaque with pins on the back. To be totally honest, I did not think much about it as it looked very worn and I presumed it was off some farm machinery.

We take all the scraps of metal with us when we metal detect as firstly you don’t want to find the same piece again and secondly its good for the environment. I tried another hour in the field and found a couple of old pennies.

The weather was turning cooler so I called it a day. At home I emptied my finds pouch and my eye was drawn the rectangular piece of metal with the pins. I could now make out some writing. I gave it a light clean and it read: ‘GEO.FOX ESQ EAST HORSLEY SURREY’. After more careful cleaning I did a bit a research online.

Research is much easier nowadays - you used to have to rely on books for reference or visit local museums.

The person on the plaque was a George Fox, born in East Horsley, in 1697. He married into the family that owns Bramham Park in Yorkshire.

Then I found out he married Harriet Benson in 1731 and was twice Tory MP for York and Twice a Yorkshire MP. He was also the UK ambassador in Vienna. He also founded the Bramham hunt in 1750.

He changed his surname later in his life in compliance with a will of his Irish half uncle to inherit his estates and became George Lane Fox. He was created the second Baron of Bingley in 1762. The family Lane Fox still reside at Bramham Park after all these years.

This is why I love my hobby, as all this information can be gleaned from a small piece of metal that would have been on the saddle of one of his horses or possibly on a dog collar and which has been buried in the ground for (in this case) hundreds of years.

If you have any land you would like searching email Rik

Next month Rik will reveal the story some of his Roman finds.