Police are investigating criminal damage in medieval Winchelsea, thought to have been caused by a rogue metal detectorist.
The illegal activity on what is a protected site within the Ancient Town was reported to Sussex Police on Tuesday (February 11).
Heritage crime officer and police community support officer Daryl Holter said: “Illicit metal detecting is a shady and unscrupulous act, and deliberate damage caused to this site is irreversible.
“It is unlikely we will know if items were removed, but any such interference constitutes stealing our past and robbing us of the opportunity to interpret and understand it.”
The site is protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and disturbing it is illegal.
PCSO Holter said: “The majority of detectorists adhere to the law and the code of practice for responsible metal detecting, reporting their finds to both the landowner and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). They have a love of and respect for both the outdoors and history.”
The use of metal detectors on scheduled monuments requires a licence issued by the Secretary of State for the Environment, and detecting on National Trust land also requires a special licence. See: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/metal-detecting-on-our-land.
Winchelsea was created by Edward I in 1288 to replace an older town washed away during heavy storms.
Together with neighbouring Rye, it was designated an Ancient Town allied to the Cinque Ports of Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich.
PCSO Holter said the damage was now being investigated with assistance from the PAS and The National Trust.
Anyone who saw anything suspicious or who may have other information about the illegal digging or stolen artefacts is asked to contact Sussex Police online or to phone 101, quoting serial 849 of 11/02. Dial 999 and ask for police if a crime is thought to be in progress.
Alternatively, it is possible to contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously, telephone 0800 555 111.