Wealthy landowner’s gold mourning ring found in south Norfolk by metal sleuth

John Reed with his metal detector, who found a ring in a field in South Norfolk. Picture: Denise Bradley John Reed with his metal detector, who found a ring in a field in South Norfolk. Picture: Denise Bradley

Thursday, April 17, 2014
12:20 PM

A ring belonging to a wealthy 16th- century Londoner and former Sheriff of Norfolk, who owned the land where Buckingham Palace now stands, has been found in a south Norfolk field.

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John Reed  found a mourning ring while metal detecting near Carlton Rode. Photo: SuppliedJohn Reed found a mourning ring while metal detecting near Carlton Rode. Photo: Supplied

The discovery of the 7g, 24 carat gold mourning ring, belonging to Hugh Audley, was made by John Reed, of Tibenham, while out with his metal detector in December.

It was recorded as treasure trove by coroner Jacqueline Lake at an inquest in Norwich yesterday.

Mr Reed, who only started metal detecting last summer, said the clear inscriptions on the ring made it easy to research its history.

“I am so excited about it,” said Mr Reed.

“I have found some lovely 13th-century thimbles but not something you can associate with a specific person like this.

“If I keep metal detecting for the next 20 years, I don’t think I will ever find anything as good as this.”

Baptised in 1577, Hugh Audley started his career with £100 and died, age 86, with a fortune of more than £400,000.

He worked as a philosopher, a lawyer and a money lender – the latter making his wealth – and owned land across Mayfair.

Mr Audley also bought property in south Norfolk, including Old Buckenham Castle, New Buckenham Castle and Tibenham Hall.

Known as The Great Audley, he had roads in central London named after him and became the Sheriff of Norfolk.

Mr Reed explained that a mourning ring is given as a memory of the person who made it.

“According to Mr Audley’s will, he had 11 rings made in two different sizes – one to fit men and the other for women,” he said.

“I haven’t heard that any of the others are in existence.”

As Mr Audley had no children of his own, the rings were passed down to his great nephews – with one selling his share to the other.

The great nephew died, aged 29, and left his entire fortune, including the rings to his six-month-old daughter Mary Davis.

Aged 12, Mary married Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet, a member of parliament and ancestor of the current Duke of Westminster.

The mourning ring is currently at the British Museum.

“No-one knows what is going to happen to it at the moment,” said Mr Reed.

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