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Plumber finds pile of bones under bathroom floor during refit

Jonathan Betts found a collection of bones underneath a property in Plymouth, Devon. (Jonathan Betts)
Jonathan Betts found a collection of bones underneath a property in Plymouth, Devon. (Jonathan Betts)

A plumber has spoken of his shock of finding a pile of bones under the bathroom floor of a home he was working in.

It may not be unusual to discover things under the floorboards inside any home, but Jonathan Betts found skeletal remains inside the property in Plymouth, Devon. The alarming discovery was made while digging to fix a leak inside the home.

Betts, 36, said: “I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Whilst I have unearthed old packets of cigarettes and bottles, nothing has come close to this – this was beyond me.”

Jonathan Betts was concerned about who the remains the belonged to. (Jonathan Betts)
Jonathan Betts was concerned about who the remains the belonged to. (Jonathan Betts)

The plumber initially found a pile of small bones and wasn’t too concerned – but when he found a jawbone, he grew worried that the bones may have belonged to a person buried at the property under a concrete slab. He also found other facial features.

Betts continued: “Finding smaller bones when renovating can be common, however when I saw larger bones, alarm bells started to ring. At first, I was unsure whether they were human or animal, which stressed me out.

“When I came across teeth, I was really concerned. Initially, I thought someone had been buried and they’d put a concrete slab over it.”

More South West stories - click above
More South West stories - click above

‘Initially alarmed’

After finding a second part of the jawbone, Betts Googled what he found and was relieved to find out that the bones belonged to a pig. He then contacted the alarmed owners to tell them about his bizarre discovery.

He explained to Magnet Trade: “Whilst the customer was initially alarmed when they were told about the remains, they have asked for the bones to be placed back under the floor as people used to bury animals under their homes to ward off bad spirits…They informed me that the house opposite used to be a pig farm and they think the barn attached to their property was in fact a slaughterhouse.”

Betts posted a video of his discovery on TikTok, where it has been viewers over 1.3 million times. He said: “Let’s just say it's not every day you’re at work and find a pile of bones under a bathroom floor.”

Part of a jawbone was among the discovery found under the bathroom floor. (Jonathan Betts)
Part of a jawbone was among the discovery found under the bathroom floor. (Jonathan Betts)

Can I keep artifacts I find in my house?

Treasure hunters and metal detectorists can spend years attempting to find ancient artefacts but sometimes homeowners get lucky by pure chance. Some, like Betts, can find things underneath floorboards, while others may discover items buried in their garden.

It may be tempting to keep or sell something if it appears valuable but their are laws surrounding these discoveries. Under the Treasure Act 1996, you are not permitted to simply keep an artefact that you suspect is of value.

The Act states that artefacts that could be over 300 years old, made of precious metal or found in association with them, are classified as treasure. They should be reported to the local coroner within 14 days of discovery. If you are unsure of what you have found, you should contact local heritage authorities or archaeological experts for guidance. If the items are not treasure but still of cultural or historical interest you can report them to the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.

If the objects are officially declared as treasure and a museum wants it, you could be entitled to a finder’s fee or compensation based on the value of what you have found. It is important to stick to the law as there is an unlimited fine or up to three months in prison for not reporting treasure.

If the find does not count as treasure or no museum wants it, the items will usually be returned to you.

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