EXPERTS say a Viking hoard unearthed by a metal detectorist from north Lancashire is of national significance.

Father-of-three Darren Webster dug up a casket containing hundreds of silver Viking artefacts while on an expedition at an undisclosed location on the border of Cumbria with north Lancashire.

“It's a find of a lifetime,” he said. “It is exciting.”

Bracelets elaborately engraved with serpents, which could have been worn by a wealthy Viking leader, make up part of the discovery along with rings and an impressive stash of coins.

The haul is now being studied by experts at the British Museum who will reveal their findings in December.

“It's a long process having the find assessed,” said Mr Webster, who jointly runs Continental Stone, near Carnforth with his brother Mark.

“Neither me or the landowner know what will happen with it. There has been a lot of interest. I want everybody to know about the find.

“I got a good signal on my Mine Lab E-tract detector so I dug about 18 inches and then I saw a lead pot. It was slightly open. I could see all the coins and jewellery inside. It was a great feeling.”

Brian Randall, chairman of the Lune Valley Metal Detecting Club, said: “We are all thrilled for Darren and wish it was us.

“No one goes out looking for hoards but it’s very nice if you do find one.”

The curator of Barrow’s Dock Museum, Sabine Skae said the new hoard will help put Cumbria and South Lakeland on the map as having an important Viking heritage.

“Over the past ten years there has been an increase in small finds and now some larger finds which is really forcing people to look at Cumbria in a new way,” said Mrs Skae.

Oxford University anthropology lecturer, Stephen Oppenheimer, said big hoards such as this paint a new picture of what Vikings were doing in England.

The discovery of big hoards break down the stereotype of Vikings just coming over here to raid our churches and take valuables back to their own country.

“Burying large amounts like this indicates they were settling here,” said Mr Oppenheimer.

Local archaeologist Steve Dickinson, of Ulverston, said the hoard was 'extremely important nationally'.

He said: “Any hoard is always rare and therefore of national importance but because of its size and detail this is particularly exciting.”

A spokesman for the British Museum confirmed that Darren’s discovery was ‘a significant Viking hoard’.

He said: “Research on the hoard is ongoing and more information and images will be revealed at the time of the coroner’s inquest in mid-December.”

A spokesperson for Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum, where the hoard was originally taken, compared Mr Webster's find to that of the Cuerdale Hoard found on the southern bank of a bend of the River Ribble in 1840, the largest Viking silver hoard in north-western Europe