Ancient bell unearthed in 1920s and kept in box set to fetch thousands

An ancient bell dug up at a farm in the 1920s is set to fetch around £3,000 at auction after it was estimated to be 1,500 years old.

The monastic ornament, which is believed to date back to the 5th or 6th century, had been kept in a box in the owners’ garage until they discovered its value.

It is made of iron plate mixed with a copper alloy and resembles the bell of St Patrick, which has been exhibited at museums in Ireland.

The bell was discovered at a Gloucestershire farm and had been used as an ornament.

A Scottish antiquarian expert dismissed the theory it was a cowbell in 1924 and said he believed it to be of Celtic origin dating back 1,500 years.


The owner of the bell, from Stratford on Avon, who wishes 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 is 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 to 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.”

The owner continued: “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 Derbyshire-based auctioneers 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 will be sold at Hansons sale room in Etwall on November 26 with a guide price of £2,000-£3,000.