TWO metal detecting enthusiasts have appeared in court accused of plundering ancient artefacts from an Iron Age and Roman archeological site.
Darren West, aged 60, and Peter Cox, aged 68, were allegedly caught stealing artefacts from Chester Farm, a scheduled ancient monument, north of Irchester.
It is alleged they were arrested while illegally metal detecting for artefacts on land owned and protected by Northamptonshire County Council on July 26.
Chester Farm, which is east of Wellingborough, contains the remains of an Iron Age settlement, a walled Roman town and its suburbs, ancient fields and parkland, a deserted medieval village and areas of more recent ironstone extraction.
As a scheduled ancient monument, it is a nationally-important archaeological site, protected to preserve its integrity and heritage under the rarely-used Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
At Northampton Crown Court yesterday, both men pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal, between January and July last year, conspiracy to destroy or damage protected ancient artefacts, damaging Irchester Roman station, and thefts of artefacts from three separate landowners, including the county council.
They are also charged with going equipped for theft, allegedly found in possession of four metal detectors, maps, aerial photos, lock knife, trowel, shovels and a compass.
Cox, of Lancaster Street, Higham Ferrers, also denies perverting the course of justice by claiming he had spoken with the landowner and been granted permission to search Southview Farm in Irthlingborough as well as theft of artefacts owned by the county council.
Judge David Tomlinson adjourned the case for trial and granted Cox and West, of Duck Street, Rushden, bail on condition they do not enter Chester Farm.
The trial, which is expected to last up to six days, will include evidence from landowners and the county council’s finds liaison officer.