The founder of a leading metal detecting body has warned a surge in interest in the hobby must also be met with awareness of its requirements and responsibilities.

Earlier this month a detectorist from Rossendale was convicted of conspiring to sell 44 ninth-century coins, believed to have been buried by a Viking, which were never declared as treasure or handed to the Crown.

Roger Pilling was arrested at his home in Loveclough where 41 of the coins were seized, with the coins having originated from the Herefordshire Hoard, worth millions of pounds, which was discovered in 2015.

It comes as new figures reveal the number of declared treasure finds in Blackburn with Darwen increased last year as metal detecting saw a surge in interest during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However it's believed the true amount of treasure found is much higher, but people new to the hobby may not be aware of what they are required to do when they unearth items.

Lancashire Telegraph: Roger Pilling (right)Roger Pilling (right) (Image: PA)

Keith Westcott, founder of the Institute of Detectorists, said there must be an understanding of the context around items that are found and suggested more finds need to be reported to help the hobby grow.

He said: “Probably as little as 10 per cent of what’s found is recorded, so a dramatic improvement in that is needed if interest continues to grow.

“People see these finds as objects of interest, but in reality it is part of an archeologic record of the area it was found in. So there has to be an understanding of the context around whatever is found.”

Pilling, 75, along with Craig Best, was jailed for five years and two months for his role in the plot to sell the coins.

Mr Westcott was speaking after new figures from the Ministry of Justice showed an increase in the number of treasure finds in Blackburn with Darwen last year.

Six treasure finds were reported to Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen Coroner’s Court in 2022, which is responsible for holding treasure inquests.

This is up from no treasure finds in 2021, while 15 have been reported in the area in the last decade.

The Treasure Act 1997 defines treasure as discoveries of items more than 300 years old and includes coins, prehistoric metallic objects, and artefacts that are at least 10 per cent precious metal such as gold or silver.

Lancashire Telegraph: Treasure finds have increased in Blackburn with Darwen this yearTreasure finds have increased in Blackburn with Darwen this year (Image: PA)

Mr Westcott said: “It was definitely the lockdown periods that brought the idea and interest of metal detecting to a lot of people who were sat at home all day indoors thinking of what would give them a reason to get outdoors.”

Across England and Wales, 2022 saw a 20 per cent increase in treasure finds on the year before with 1,087 reported to coroners. It is the highest number of discoveries since records began in 1997.

READ MORE: Ribble Valley: Drone and metal detector enthusiasts face ban

In the North West, 33 treasure finds were reported to coroners’ courts last year.

The Ministry of Justice said the number of treasure finds reported steadily increase from 1997 when the Treasure Act was introduced, up to 2017.

But since 2018 the number has been “more volatile” and was impacted by Covid-19 restrictions in recent years.

It added: “There has been a big surge in metal detecting activity during (and also since) the pandemic.”

The increase in treasure finds comes as the Government has introduced a new definition of treasure which is due to be implemented later this year.

It will update the definition of objects of historical importance to those more than 200 years old rather than 300 years.

Additionally, objects can be of importance regardless of the type of metal they are made from as long as they provide an important insight into the country’s heritage.