George Grenville gold ring shines in sale

A gold seal ring, discovered by a metal-detectorist in a Buckinghamshire field, and identified as belonging to George Grenville, British Prime Minister between 1763-65 sold for a hammer price of £9,500 at Noonans Mayfair recently, in a sale of Jewellery, Watches, Silver and Objects of Vertu.

Grenville gold ring
Credit: Noonans

The ring was estimated to fetch up to £8,000, and attracted a lot of interest, ultimately selling to a buyer in the USA.

It was discovered in May of last year by Tom Clark, 85, in a pasture field for sheep near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. At a depth of 10 inches, he found what looked to be a Medieval gold seal ring. Reading the name around the edge he saw the name ‘Grenvil’ and immediately recognised it as one of the ancestral surnames of the nearby manor house.

George Grenville (1707-1770) by William Hoare
George Grenville (1707-1770) by William Hoare

After the sale he commented: “I didn’t watch the sale as I was out metal-detecting, I only stopped as it began to rain! I am very pleased with the result, which is fantastic. I would like to put the money in my bank account, but I am sure that my wife will have ideas of how to spend it!”

A man with metal detector
Detectorist Tom Clark. Credit: Noonans

Nigel Mills, Artefact and Coin expert at Noonans, commented: “Just as the country focusses on who will be the next Prime Minister, we are pleased to be looking back to who was in power 260 years ago. The ring dates from the 18th century and originally belonged to George Grenville who was Prime Minister from April 1763 for just over two years. He tried to reduce Britain’s growing debt by raising revenue in the American colonies with the introduction of the Sugar Act, the Currency Act, and the Stamp Act. These new laws, especially the Stamp Act, were strongly objected to by the colonists and stirred up protests, which resulted in George III dismissing Grenville. The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, but concerns over taxation ultimately led to the American Revolutionary War of 1775-83.”

This seal ring appears to have been handed down to his second son, also named George, as the find spot is close to the son’s residence near Aylesbury. The ring has also been resized with a larger band, with evidence of re-engraving to minor details of the seal. The son was born in 1753 and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a Member of Parliament for Buckingham. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was given the title of Marquess of Buckingham. He died in 1813. The ring presumably became a family heirloom passing from father to son and remained hidden in the ground until now.

Mr Clark used to manufacture leather crafts, including brass buckles and horse brasses. Half of the proceeds will be given to the landowner.