Rock star leads treasure hunt

HE is best known for his own legendary past.But former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman is about to shed some light on a rather more ancient period.For the metal detecting enthusiast is lending a helping hand to an archaeological project to discover more about a Roman site in Suffolk.

By Danielle Nuttall

HE is best known for his own legendary past.

But former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman is about to shed some light on a rather more ancient period.

For the metal detecting enthusiast is lending a helping hand to an archaeological project to discover more about a Roman site in Suffolk.


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Farmer Andrew Squirrell and his sister Ann Turner have discovered numerous items of Roman tiles, pottery and coins on part of their land in Hitcham, near Stowmarket.

The site is believed to conceal an ancient Roman villa and now, thanks to a heritage lottery grant, the whole village is being given the opportunity of investigating the find further.

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The parish council is working with Suffolk County Council's archaeology team to carry out geographical surveys, metal detecting, field walking and trial excavation.

Early work has already been carried out and project leaders are now beginning the second phase, which involves running metal detectors over the site to see what is lying on the surface.

This will help them work out the areas that need to be excavated and help them plan for future digs.

Wyman, who has pursued his favourite hobby, metal detecting, for 12 years, was invited to spend two days exploring the site and by yesterday afternoon, had already found up to 20 Roman coins and other artefacts.

"It's like writing a song. First you do the drums. Then you later you add the guitar, later the tambourine in the chorus and you build it up. It's the same with a site like this," he said.

"You build it in various parts like a song and finally you get the whole picture.

"We look for anything that might be important. Some times it's on the surface because it's been brought up by a plough.

"They just invited me to come and detect. I go on tour in just over a week but I could do two days."

Wyman first started metal detecting over 12 years ago in the grounds of his magnificent 15th Century moated mansion, near Bury St Edmunds.

"The gardener kept coming to me with bits and pieces he'd had found so I did bits of excavating and found some stuff myself," he said.

"You can do archaeology in your own garden. Over the 12 years, I've found a Roman site in my village and another one about three or four miles away.

"I've found things from the Bronze Age, Saxon and medieval.

"I've just built it up. The more you do the more you find."

The rock star has discovered gold coins from the 1360s, ancient Portuguese coins and - his favourite find, a boned heart from the 1300s.

All of his important discoveries are sent to the archaeology department at the county council so they can run their expert eye over the find, and log it into a national database.

The investigation work at Hitcham will take place over a two-year period.

A geophysical survey has already been carried out and next weekend, villagers are being given the chance to take part in a field walking exercise, which will involve collecting any artefacts on the surface of the field under the supervision of the county council's archaeologists.

Mrs Turner said she had often investigated the site with her mother 30 years ago where they had discovered a large amount of pottery scattered around.

"A few years later, my mother bought a metal detector and for the last 10 years, I've been doing it myself," she said.

Mrs Turner said the family wanted to make it a village project as it was the heritage of the whole area.

Wyman is on tour for the next few months in Eastern Europe, but has pledged to return to the site to help once he gets back.

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