The number of treasure discoveries made in Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen increased by 50 per cent last year, new figures show.

It comes as the number of treasure finds in England and Wales hit a record high, as more people take up metal detecting.

Annual coroners statistics from the Ministry of Justice show nine treasure discoveries were reported in Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen in 2023 – up from six the previous year.

Across England and Wales, there were 1,219 reports to coroners of discovered treasure last year, an increase of 12 per cent from 2022 and the highest number on record.

READ MORE: Record number of treasure finds in Lancashire last year

The Ministry of Justice said the number of finds has been steadily increasing since the commencement of the Treasure Act in 1997 when just 54 finds were reported.

They added the number has been more “volatile” in recent years, with a significant surge in metal-detecting activity during and since the pandemic.

With growing interest in detecting, the Detectorist Institute and Foundation warned valuations of treasure finds by the Treasure Valuation Committee can be reduced if the item is not responsibly retrieved or excavated, resulting in damage to the archaeological record.

Its founder, Keith Westcott, said: "So much can be learned from treasure finds if handled correctly, in some instances, organic material such as leather can remain in place which gives archaeologists an invaluable insight into how we lived in the past."

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The Ministry of Justice noted the number of finds varied across the country, most likely due to geographical and historical differences.

Across the North West, 45 finds were recorded last year, an increase from 33 the year before.

The definition of treasure was updated in July last year. Previously, newly discovered artefacts were classified as treasure if they are more than 300 years old and made of precious metal or part of a collection of valuable objects or artefacts.

Under the new criteria, most exceptional finds over 200 years old will be classed as treasure, so long as they provide an important insight into the country’s heritage.