The Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch
of the
 Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
Find Registration
Looking after your finds
Trust Website
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Find registration:

An online survey has been set up for finders to register a find with the finds officer. When an object has been found this form should be used to inform the finds officer and that the details provided will be used to enter a record of the object into a central database.

Survey link:

Below are some term clarification notes for filling in the survey.

Accession number:

Each find will be given a unique reference number called an accession number when it is entered into the database in the following format:

4 digit year . incremental number

Eg: the first find registered this year will be: 2014.001

Where the exact year of find is not known the year of registration will be used.

Find location details:

These details are required to build up a rough picture of the distribution of finds across the canal for future study.

Object description:

The simple object name is for keyword search of the database so should be kept to one or two words maximum. E.g coin, nail, pipe, lock gate.

Object Description is for a long description of the object including any decoration or lettering. If the object is made from more than one material the secondary materials can be listed here.

Object material is for the primary material the object is made from. Again this is for keyword searching so keep the term short.

Approximate measurements are to determine the storage (or possibly display) requirements for the object .

Object Condition:

Stability has been restricted to three terms:

 Poor Actively deteriorating - lifespan <1 year
Fair Corroded but stable life span >1<20
Good stable, suitable for handling lifespan > 20, little or no corrosion

Completeness is to describe if there are any missing parts to the object, for example a ceramic fragment would be classed as incomplete whereas a whole nail would be complete.

Further details of the objects condition can be added to the object description box if desired.

Contact details of finder/ person registering the find

Once the completed survey has been submitted the finds officer will contact the finder to discuss storage of the object.

Object stored by finder:

The branch currently does not have enough space in the storage lock up to store all of the finds centrally so if the finder wishes they can store the object themselves. In this case the contact details of where the object is stored is required so that the object can be accessed in the future. A photograph of the object with a scale (ruler or similar) needs to be taken either by the finder or the finds officer and added to the database.

Object stored ‘centrally’

If the finder would prefer the object to be stored centrally then these contact details will be used to organise collection of the object.

If you have any questions or would like to feedback on the survey please contact me here:



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Looking after your finds:

The first 24 hours for any find often determine the object’s future stability and the way they are treated can be instrumental in ensuring their long term survival. Please remember to log your find at ( as it is really important for us to know what we have and where it is – it is much more reliable to have this information straight away than ask for it later.

Below are a few tips on handling finds from the canal.

Organic materials (e.g. wood or leather)

Being a naturally wet environment many of the finds will be waterlogged. For organic material it is important that they are allowed to dry out slowly. This prevents any shock from a rapid change in environment.

  • Wrap organics in cling film or a plastic bag and pierce with a few holes.
  • Keep the object in a cool, dark place (the display equipment lock up in winter is ideal)
  • After a week or two (or several months/years if we’re dealing with a lock gate!) the object should have dried out slowly and can be unwrapped.
  • If any mould has grown this should be treated with some methylated spirits (preferably the colourless type)



Iron does very poorly in wet conditions and so we often find ourselves fighting a losing battle. Iron has the best chance of survival if dried out very quickly and then kept very dry.

  • Avoid any fibrous packaging materials – cotton wool, etc.
  • Pack in a box if possible – food storage containers are ideal, if not possible a piece of cardboard in a small plastic bag will provide some rigidity to prevent accidental breakages.
  • The display equipment lock-up will have some silica gel boxes for iron work in due course. Once this is enabled iron objects should be stored in these air-tight boxes as soon as possible.


The copper alloy finds coming up from the canal so far seem to be in good condition. They can often withstand a little cleaning if you’re feeling brave and are likely to survive nicely.

  • Allow the object to dry out quickly
  • If muddy clean with cotton wool buds and if the surface is very solid a soft toothbrush (avoid wire wool and scourers at all times!) ideally with some methylated spirits or acetone (not nail varnish remover) but water will work well as long as it is dried out quickly afterwards.
  • Bag and store. As with iron, storing with some rigidity will help.

Ceramics and glass

Large amounts of ceramic are turning up on the canal and although fragmentary the style of hard fired porcelain means the condition is very robust.

  • Allow the object to dry out quickly
  • If muddy clean with cotton wool buds and if the surface is very solid a soft toothbrush (avoid wire wool and scourers at all times!) water will work well although please no soap.
  • Bag and store.


The treasure act states that finds must be declared if they meet certain criteria (listed below). Luckily finds younger than 300 years old must be made substantially of gold or silver and have been deliberately buried to class as treasure. Therefore we have little to worry about but it’s worth knowing the rules…just in case…

The following finds are Treasure under the Act, if found after 24 September 1997 (or, in the case of category 2, if found after 1 January 2003):

  • Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal (that is, gold or silver) and that it is at least 300 years old when found. If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.
  • Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date that come from the same find (see below)
  • Two or more coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found and contain 10 per cent gold or silver (if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them). Only the following groups of coins will normally be regarded as coming from the same find: Hoards that have been deliberately hidden; Smaller groups of coins, such as the contents of purses, that may been dropped or lost; Votive or ritual deposits.
  • Any object, whatever it is made of, that is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, another object that is Treasure.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in finding out some more details here are some references and further reading…

Canadian conservation institute: CCI Notes

This web page has a list of resources for various materials, a very handy go to guide.

Portable Antiquities Scheme: Conservation Advice Notes

V&A: Caring for your possessions

I am available for help or advice…, 07921911663

Or there is your friendly local conservation department:

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre

Cocklebury Road

01249 705545


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