29 November 2022

An exceptionally fine ring that had been discovered by a metal-detectorist in Dorset and is believed to have been the wedding ring given by Sir Thomas Brook to his wife Lady Joan Brook for their marriage in 1388 has been sold by Mayfair Auctioneers Noonans today (Tuesday, November 29, 2022) in their auction of Jewellery and Watches for a hammer price of £38,000. It was bought via a commission bid but saw interest on both the telephone and internet as well.

Discovered by
David Board, aged 69, who took up metal detecting again in 2019, he could not have envisaged what he was going to find. Having tried detecting on local beaches in the 1970s and not finding much, it was a family friend who motivated him to try his luck again. Now armed with the latest detector, an XP Deus, David got permission to search near Thorncombe in Dorset by a local farmer, for whom David had formerly been a milk tanker driver for many years.

On his second outing on a pasture field, nearing the end of the day, and having found just a few old copper half pennies, David got a signal near a footpath. At a depth of 5 inches he saw what he thought was a sweet wrapper, then looking more closely he realised it was a ring and put it in his top pocket.

David and the farmer watched the auction while in their local pub. He said: “I am so pleased that the ring sold, as I was worrying that it wouldn’t. Despite having media interest from all over the world, we hope that it will remain in this country.”

The Finds Liaison Officer Lucy Shipley took the ring to the British Museum and confirmed that it was Medieval in date and a very rare example. David plans to use his share of the money to help his partner’s daughter arrange a mortgage.

Nigel Mills, Consultant (Coins and Antiquities) at Noonans explains: “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. Inside the band is an inscription in French ‘ieo vos tien foi tenes le moy’ (translating as I hold your faith, hold mine)”.

Following the sale, he said: “This was a great result for this beautiful ring, which had a wonderful aura about it, which made you not want to give it back when you held it!”

The location of the find in Dorset was acquired by Henry de Broc (or de la Brook) from Reginald de Mohun (1206–1258), Feudal baron of Dunster in Somerset, who had inherited this land from his first wife Hawise Fleming, daughter and heiress of William Fleming. It then passed by descent through the
Brook family, coming into the possession of the wealthy landowner Sir Thomas Brook (c.1355-1418) see full biography of the family at the bottom of the release.

HISTORICAL NOTES TO EDITORS: By the late 14th century, the Manor was in the possession of 
Sir Thomas Brook (c.1355-1418), who also owned La Brooke in the parish of Ilchester, who was the largest landowner in Somerset, and served 13 times as a Member of Parliament for Somerset (between 1386 and 1413). Sir Thomas was the first prominent member of his family, largely due to the great wealth he acquired from his marriage in 1388 to the wealthy widow Joan Hanham (d. 1437). Joan was the second daughter and co-heiress of Simon Hanham of Gloucestershire, and the widow of the Bristol cloth merchant Robert Cheddar (d. 1384), MP and twice Mayor of Bristol, whose wealth comprised 17 manors, five advowsons and very extensive properties throughout Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Gloucestershire, together with 21 shops, four cellars and 160 tenements in Bristol. Her son Richard Cheddar, MP, signed over his large inheritance to his mother and stepfather, Sir Thomas Brook, for the duration of their lives, due to the latter having ‘many times endured great travail and cost’  in defending them during his minority.

The Brooks were granted a licence to crenelate the Manor in 1396 and create a park of 200 acres of pasture and wood. They resided there until they acquired the manor of Weycroft in the parish of Axminster, Devon, in around 1395, thereafter they split their time between the two residences. In May 1415, an ailing Sir Thomas Brook signed his will at the Manor, although he did not die until January 1418. His wife died 19 years later in 1437, and the couple were buried together in Thorncombe, the local parish church, under an elaborate ledger stone and monumental brass, considered to be one of the finest of its kind in the country. Unusually, although Sir Thomas was a knight, both he and his wife are depicted wearing fine civilian clothes and the Lancastrian Collar of Ss.

The current Church of St Mary the Virgin at Thorncombe was built in 1887, about 50 yards south of the site of the former church (built at the same time as nearby Forde Abbey, in the late 12th / early 13th centuries by Cistercian monks) but the Brook effigies were preserved and inserted in another ledger-stone and placed in a relative position therein on a low tomb.

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