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I found old ring in a field – now it’s set to make me £40k at auction

A medieval ring and secret seal found by metal detectorists is expected to sell for tens of thousands of pounds at auction.

The gold and diamond ring, valued at £30,000 to £40,000, is thought to be a gift from 14th Century aristocrat Sir Thomas Brook to his wife Lady Joan.

Andrew Phillips with the 14th century ring
Metal detector David Board and land owner Patrick Tolley

Inside is an inscription in medieval French which when translated reads: “As I hold your faith, hold mine.”

It was found on land in Dorset which he used to own and which now belongs to a dairy farmer who allowed one of his old milk drivers to search the field with his metal detector.

The secret silver seal, found by a detectorist in Hertfordshire and valued at £3,000 to £4,000, is thought to belong to Alice de Turbeville, whose family came to England with William the Conqueror.

Both items are to go under the hammer at the Mayfair auctioneers Noonans later this month.

David Board, 69, had only been detecting for three months when he came across the golden ring near Thorncombe, Dorset, in February 2020.

He said he was disappointed when he caught his first glimpse as he thought it was a sweet wrapper.

He added: “I was detecting on a field, it was called Bowling Green, I thought it was quite odd because it was flat, there must have been quite a lot of activity there.

“I was searching there and found a few old coins, a lot of silver paper, the kind from sweet wrappers.



“And I was walking back to the car when I got a signal, dug the hole, saw a bit of gold and I thought oh, not another bit of wrapping paper, and then found the ring.

“It was a really wet day so I washed the mud off and put it in my pocket. I had only been detecting for three months.”

Asked if he has ever found anything like it since he said: “No, it’s a once in a lifetime find. You won’t find anything like that again.”

Patrick Tolley, 64, the dairy farmer who owns the land where David found the ring, said: “He came over all excited. I couldn’t believe how shiny it was.

“The fields have been ploughed and cultivated dozens of times over the years, it’s a surprise it has not been damaged at all.”

David said he hasn’t thought about what he will do with his share of the money after the ring sells and is waiting to see how much it will go for.

Noonans consultant Nigel Mills said: “This ring is in almost perfect condition and has an inverted diamond set into the raised bezel so that it comes to a point.

“The hoop is composed of two neatly entwined bands symbolising the union of the couple.”

Andrew Phillips, 70, found his treasure 22 years ago while searching along the Icknield Way, near Offley, Herts.

Asked why the seal was secret, he said: “I would guess she was doing things off her own back that she didn’t want her family to know about.

“Someone receiving something from her would know it’s from her.
“When it was originally found it was worth £2,100. Letchworth Museum wanted to buy it, but did not have enough money, so I held on to it and thought I will find out what it’s worth again. I got it revalued with Nigel and it was £3,000.”

When asked why he has decided to sell it now, he said: “I’m 70 now and my children wouldn’t have a clue with what to do with that, so I thought it was a good idea to move it on.”

He also said he will split his share of the proceeds with a selection of local charities for which a detectorist group that he founded fundraises.

He added: “The group I was with changed the way the money was distributed.

“I did not agree with that so I started another one on the principles of honesty and trust.

“It’s also something I do because it is hard getting access to land so I will write to the landowners and say, this is what’s going on.”

The gold and diamond ring will go under the hammer on November 29 while the secret silver seal will be offered on November 16.

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