Gold extraction in Britain may have started as early as the Bronze Age in Wales. Mining continued to be one of the most prosperous activities in Roman Britain. Britain was rich in resources such as copper, gold, iron, lead, salt, silver, and tin, materials in high demand in the Roman Empire. The Romans successfully learned how to ‘puddle’ and pan for gold. In fact, Sextus Julius Frontinus was sent to Roman Britain in AD 74, succeeding in establishing a Roman fort at Pumsaint located in West Wales, with the prime purpose to exploit the gold deposits around Dolaucothi.
Mining for tin, copper, iron, lead, salt, silver and gold was essential in Roman Britain for the proficient running of the Roman Empire, also gold was used as a sign of wealth and status. Indeed, solid gold snake bracelets were the greatest in popularity in different types of Roman jewellery. These snake bracelets were quite often worn around the wrists and upper arms in pairs.
Gold panning in the United Kingdom has been popular throughout millenia, and the stories that evoke memories are retold to this day.
During these adventures of days gone by, some fabulous yarns were told from panner to panner, like this tale from back in 1997 that was published globally in print and enjoyed by gold and treasure hunters worldwide.
All through history, the highland men have fought to protect what has always been theirs by right of birth – the beautiful mountains and glens of Scotland.
Then, along came the British and turned the lot into a bloody great big sheep pen. Then they had the cheek to write books about it.
Here and there, scattered throughout these highland glens, there remains the odd kilted warrior, forever standing guard. Now you might ask yourself – what do these highland laddies guard against? Not sheep, that’s for certain. There are too many to count. Neither is it the foreign tourists who can be seen tramping the highlands, searching for their roots.
Nay! They guard against a foe far more deadly and dedicated. No, it’s not the S.A.S. It’s that dreaded band of men – feared by the Scottish landowner – known as The British Gold Panner.
The British Gold Panner
This hardy, self-contained band of diggers infiltrate the highland regions in one’s and two’s posing as tourists, then melt unseen into the mountains armed only with the MKII Henderson Pump and a round, sinister looking weapon known as a gold pan.
These two items, plus a few days’ supply of grub, and they are ready to take on landowner and Scottish panners alike. And, once again, the contest for the glens of Scotland.
This is where my friend Bob comes into the yarn. I think Bob would be quite happy to see a fifty-mile wide strip of No Man’s Land dividing England and Scotland. He is very patriotic, and when dressed in full highland regalia (with moustache bristling), will put the fear of God into any panners who are foolhardy enough to seek out his hidden burn.
Now Bob is a dedicated panner, and what I call a real prospector. When he first started panning, he was like everyone else and panned proven locations until he had the experience to start prospecting in earnest.
Then he found his burn. And what a burn! There were nuggets galore. He soon had the best collection of gold I’ve ever had the pleasure of looking at.
And then word got out….
Bob’s burn was no longer a secret and the chase was on – and the burn, being a small one, was quickly cleaned out.
By the time Eddy Bell and son got wind of it, gold was thin on the ground and it was obvious quite quickly that we were last, as usual.
The following conversation was recounted by Mr. Edward (Eddy) Bell, the founder of Jacqueline & Edward – a family business based in Yorkshire who create stunning handmade wedding rings using a fusion of recycled gold and natural alluvial gold from Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish rivers.
“Now the next time I saw Bob I was enjoying a pint or three of very passable Scottish ale while waiting to take part in the British and Scottish Gold Panning Championships of 1994. About 10.00pm, into the barroom walks my friend Bob, fresh from Montrose. He walked straight over to me, holding out his hand, palm down, saying with that broad Scottish accent of his “What dae think o’ this, then, Laddie?”
I held my hand out to take whatever he might be holding and closed my hand over it without looking. It could have been the Scottish beer that made my stomach lurch and my brain malfunction, because my immediate thought was “He’s kidding, it can’t be gold!”
Cautiously I opened my hand – under the table, of course, then closed it faster than a steel trap.
I glanced furtively around, then slowly opened my hand again (still under the table). Heavy yellow nuggets gazed back at me impassively. Then they winked. Or was it the light glinting off them?
I stared with disbelief, shock, envy and downright greed, all mixed up with my emotions, then blurted out the most stupid question ever heard in a barroom full of half-drunk diggers. “WHERE DID YOU GET THESE FROM?”
As if he would tell. My voice must have been louder than I intended. Heads started to swivel round like periscopes on a pack of Hunter class submarines. I had alerted the whole damn barroom!
Bob let the bottle of nuggets make the rounds amid calls of congratulations and a lot more bottles, while i set to, plying him with booze in the vain hope his tongue would start flapping (fools never learn). I swear blind that he has wooden legs – hollow ones.”
1994 British Open Gold Panning Championship came and went, Eddie’s son Mark won the British Juniors and he came a respectable 3rd in the British Open. But the location of Bob’s new secret burn became a closely guarded secret.
This is not the end of my tale. Since this yarn started, Bob has found the largest nugget in Scotland this century, a respectable 27 grams.
And now he owns the most magnificent gold collection in the British Isles.
I shall end my tale by saying to Bob, “Guard your glen well, my Scottish friend – the Brits are coming”
Here we are in 2019 and Jacqueline & Edward continue to work with alluvial river gold from across the United Kingdom and beyond collected from nature using sustainable methods. Their niche speciality is handmade gold wedding rings.