Chinese treasure dug up in pub beer garden sells for thousands at Banbury auction house

An Oxfordshire family were stunned when an ornament dug up in a pub garden decades ago turned out to be an Oriental treasure worth thousands of pounds.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 1:41 pm
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 1:42 pm

Not only that, the bronze 19th century Chinese censer had been kept in their hall for years and used to pop car keys in.

But that didn’t deter keen bidders when the item went up for auction at Hanson Holloway’s Ross Auctioneers in Banbury. It was contested to £2,100 from a guide price of £300-£400 and was snapped up by a Chinese buyer.

Its route to auction came about thanks to TV antiques expert David Harper

The bronze 19th century Chinese censer sold at the auction house in Banbury (Credit Hansons Auctioneers)

He said: “I was doing a Facebook Live event about antiques when a message came through from Abigail Pine whose family own the object. I knew it could be worth a lot of money and asked them to send me some pictures and information.

“The story gets more remarkable because the censer, which is an incense burner, was dug up in the 1950s by Abigail’s ancestors in the garden of their pub in Northumberland when they were digging for potatoes.

“As well as the censer they dug up a huge church candlestick.

"Quite why those two items were buried together in the wilds of Northumberland we will never know. But what a find. It just goes to show that these things are still out there in people’s cupboards, living rooms, lofts – even in their gardens.

Sonya Marshall of Hansons with the Chinese censer (Credit Hansons Auctioneers)

“I contacted my old friend Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, to arrange for the item to go under the hammer and the censer was bought by a Chinese buyer and repatriated to its homeland.”

Abigail Pine, 39, a self-employed jewellery maker, said: “We were amazed. We still can’t believe it now. We watched the auction live and we never expected it to reach the amount it did.

“Our family inherited the censer. We weren’t sure if it was Chinese. It’s something that’s been in the hall for years. It’s had car keys in it and string.”

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “From the smell of hops in a pub beer garden to the aroma of Chinese incense, this find has to rank as one of our most remarkable to date.

"If you have an item at home, perhaps an inherited piece, you’re unsure about, it’s always worth getting it valued.”

The Chinese censer was sold on March 6 at Hanson, Holloway’s and Ross Auctioneers, Banbury. Items are invited for their next sale on May 1. To arrange a free home valuation or home visit, email [email protected]