Mysterious bell thought to be 1,500 years old was used as an ornament by gran

Posted on 22/11/2018 in Press Coverage

An ancient bell dug up on Gloucestershire farmland in the 1920s and used as an ornament ‘on gran’s dresser’ could sell for thousands of pounds at auction.

The bell, which is believed to be monastic, resembles the bell of St Patrick which has been exhibited at museums in Ireland and dates back to the 8th-9th century AD.

The ancient item, made of iron plate mixed with a copper alloy, used to be displayed ‘on gran’s dresser’ and polished with Brasso, according to the owner of the relic.

But gran’s ornament, which is thought to date back to the 5th or 6th century AD, is now due to be sold at Hansons Auctioneers’ Antiquities sale on Monday, November 26 with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000.

The owner of the bell, from Stratford on Avon, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “My father, who was born in 1904, dug up the bell in the early 1920s while working on his parents’ farm, which was in north Gloucestershire and not far from Stratford.

“Apparently, he was not too far from the old farmhouse, digging a hole to find drain pipes, when he found it. He gave it his mother who washed all the mud off and said, ‘Oh, it’s a bell’. She displayed it on the dresser as an ornament and my grandparents did wonder if it was a cow bell.”

That theory was dismissed by a Scottish antiquarian expert who studied a photo of the bell in 1924. In a note being sold with the bell, dated October 29, 1924, it’s described as being of Celtic origin, about 1,500 years old with a handle ‘not at all like a cow bell’.

“My parents inherited it and, from when I was a small child, I always remember it being on the dresser. Every now and then my mother would give it a polish with some Brasso.

“I inherited the bell and, to be honest, it’s been kept in a box in the loft and in a cupboard in the garage.

“Recently, I took it along to a free valuation event run by Hansons at Stratford and discovered it could be quite valuable. No one in my family wanted it so I thought it would be nice to give a keen collector the opportunity to buy it. Perhaps a museum would like it.”

James Brenchley, Head of Ancient Art, Antiquities and Classical Coins at Hansons, said: “It’s thought the bell was in a large building, possibly a monastery of the time. It’s wonderfully detailed work for the period.

“At a time when metal detectors didn’t exist, this is an amazing find. It has been treasured for many years within the family."

The bell, Lot 203A, will be sold in an Antiquities Auction at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on November 26. To find out more, email [email protected]. To bid live or view the catalogue, register with