The silver items found at Nether Stowey
Metal detector enthusiast Arthur Haig. Far right: Stowey Court and church
A NATIONWIDE hunt has begun to find the owners of a hoard of silver found by chance by a metal detector.
Arthur Haig stumbled upon the valuable 17th-century hoard of a goblet, four spoons and salt and pepper holder while searching for a piece of jewellery.
Rebecca Baker called in metal detector enthusiast Mr Haig when a pendant fell from her bracelet in the garden of her Somerset cottage.
But 18 inches beneath the soil was the treasure trove of silver, thought to have been buried during the English Civil War.
The find may be the ill-gotten gains of a thief who stole them from Stowey Court, a royal garrison during the bloody conflict.
It is not yet known how much the hoard is worth, but its value is expected to run into thousands.
It was found in a broken earthenware pot below the ground at the home in the village of Nether Stowey, near Bridgwater.
West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose, sitting at a treasure inquest at Taunton, heard all the finds date from the early 17th Century and bear the letters CGA, which may stand for the initials of Angel Grey, owner of Stowey Court, and his first wife, Catherine.
The house is just half a mile away from the discovery spot.
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Haig, 70, who has been metal-detecting for 40 years, said: "I really was surprised by it, and by where it was. I was looking for a pendant from Rebecca's bracelet and I had been looking for about three hours when I found it.
"When I saw the first piece, I thought it was a Coke can. I took all the pieces out and laid them on the ground and carried on looking for the pendant.
"I never did find it, though I would really like to have done so. Looking on old local maps, the cottages would not have been there in the 17th Century and the road, the old turnpike road, would have been a lane.
"Before it was a garden, I think the land was an old orchard."
It is possible that a member of the Grey family buried the precious items for safekeeping.
Or, given that the hoard is small and relatively far away from the house, that the items were stolen and buried by someone who either could not return for them or could not remember exactly where they were.
After hearing about the possible Grey connection, Mr Rose said that he would adjourn the inquest for six months so that any possible claimants could come forward.