More than a dozen treasure finds were reported in Exeter and Greater Devon last year, new figures show.

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

Annual coroners statistics from the Ministry of Justice show 19 treasure discoveries were reported in Exeter and Greater Devon in 2023 – up from 18 the year before.

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

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."

The Ministry of Justice noted the number of finds varied across the country, most likely due to geographical and historical differences. Norfolk had the highest number of treasure finds at 95.

Across the South West, 176 finds were recorded last year, an increase from 156 the year before.

Every region apart from the South East saw an increase in finds. The East of England recorded the most discoveries with 284 last year.

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.

Mr Westcott said: "In bringing in the condition, it is hoped that future finds like the Crosby Garret Helmet, a Roman Calvary helmet dated from the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD, can be saved from being sold off at auctions".

The helmet was found by an unnamed metal detectorist near in May 2010, which led to the discovery that a Romano-British farming settlement had occupied the site. Under the old definition, it was not considered treasure.