Some of the coins brought to the surface
Some of the coins brought to the surface

A COLLECTION of around 5,000 historical artefacts and coins found in the River Tees near Piercebridge has been officially declared as treasure.

For the past 30 years, divers Rolfe Mitchinson and Bob Middlemass have been exploring the depths of the river in the hope of finding out more about the history of the area.

The pair have collected about 1,500 coins and 3,500 objects including medical instruments, writing styluses and decorative pins. The artefacts are mainly from the Roman era but the oldest silver coin dates back to 50BC.

A treasure inquest was held at Durham Coroner’s Court, in Crook, last Thursday (August 30). Senior coroner Jeremy Chipperfield concluded that the artefacts and coins were treasure. Mr Mitchinson, 78, from Bournmoor near Chester-le-Street, said: “The finds have been declared as treasure and we are very happy with that.

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“We are hoping that the collection will be put on display. It was the full aspect of Roman life in Piercebridge. We want it to stay at this end of the country because it belongs in the Darlington, Piercebridge and Barnard Castle areas.”

The pair, who are both members of the Northern Archaeology Group, met in the seventies when they both took part in sea diving.

It wasn’t until June 1987 when they entered the waters of the River Tees at Piercebridge. However, in September last year they were asked to stop diving at the site to allow a study of the river to be carried out by the University of Reading. They are keen to return to the waters once the project is complete.

Mr Mitchinson said: “It has been 30 wonderful years. Even after 30 years, when you pick up a coin you think, ‘who was the last person to hold this coin’? You get the same thrill you got all those years ago.” Metal finds and items at least 300 years old when found, with a gold or silver content of at least 10 per cent, must be reported to the local coroner.