Treasure hunter Bruce Hearn thought he had found a bomb when his metal detector pinpointed an unusual object in the middle of a field.
And as he dug deeper, and carefully unearthed more of his ‘find’, Bruce believed he had discovered a Victorian sewing kit. But his discovery proved to be much more exciting - pieces of Anglo Saxon jewellery almost 1,400 years old.
“I didn’t know what I had,” said Bruce, 43, from Fittleworth, who was out that day with his son Ethan having only taken up metal detecting four months previously.
“I dug a round hole eight inches in diameter … 21 inches down … I uncovered one brooch … upside down… I removed it very carefully as initially I thought it might be the bottom of a shell or grenade.”
He wiped away the soil to find three lumps in the ‘dish’, which turned out to be beads, although he didn’t realise it at the time.
Once back home he sent a picture of his discoveries to fellow detectorist Debbie Lee. “Within six seconds my phone was ringing and Debbie was screaming saying ‘don’t touch them.’ Within five minutes her car screamed onto the drive. She said they were all Saxon and were brooches. She was standing in my kitchen and she was physically shaking.”
Along with the stunning large gilt saucer brooches, - “the only ones ever to be discovered of that design” - Bruce had uncovered a number of multi-coloured hand-made beads from a Saxon necklace.
He contacted the Sussex Finds Liaison Officer, who arranged for an archaeological excavation of the site. Conservation was funded by Horsham District Council - and Bruce’s discoveries are now on permanent display at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery.
Through microscopic examination, archaeologists have revealed that the brooches held a tubular dress, with a decorative edge and a fine veil over the head. They say that the jewellery was worn by an Anglo Saxon lady, sometime between 580 - 650AD.
As for Bruce, who runs his own construction company, both he and son Ethan, now 12, are even more passionate about their hobby. “I really wasn’t over-interested in history at school,” said Bruce, “but now, since this, being able to hold history in your hands, it changes things.”