A metal detectorist has unearthed an ancient ‘posy’ gold ring believed to have been hidden by the Sheriff of Nottingham centuries ago.
Andy Taylor, 57, from Lincoln, dug up the 460-year-old ring in July 2020 on farmland in Rushcliff, roughly 27 miles from Sherwood Forest which is historically associated with the legend of Robin Hood.
The ring, dating back to circa 1560, was a popular 16th century love token. It weighs 15g and bears the mystery message ‘I Meane Ryght’.
Experts believe it may have been part of a hoard of treasure hidden by the Sheriff of Nottingham or a member of his family.
Mr Taylor, who has been metal detecting for eight years and works for a water company, discovered the jewellery five minutes before his friend Graham Harrison, 65, found a signet ring believed to belong to a former Sheriff of Nottingham.
The circa 1560 posy ring, a popular 16th century love token, bears a mystery message ‘I Meane Ryght’
Charles Hanson, who owns Hansons Auctioneers, pictured with the 16th century posy ring
Mr Harrison’s find, which sold for £8,500 at auction last March, bore the crest of the Jenison family who served as High Sheriffs of Nottingham hundreds of years ago.
Sir Matthew Jenison was tasked with looking after the trees of Sherwood Forest – where folklore has it that the legendary outlaw hid out with his band of merry men
Legend also has it that the Jenisons gleaned great wealth from valuables left in their safekeeping during the Civil War which were never reclaimed.
This theory was seemingly corroborated when a buried hoard of Civil War silver coins was unearthed from the same field where both rings were found.
Mr Taylor now believes his posy ring, found during a metal detecting club event, may have belonged to a Sheriff of Nottingham too or someone known to him.
‘I found it on a sunny July day in 2020. I was on a dig with around a dozen people from a metal detecting club,’ Mr Taylor said.
‘We were on farmer’s land at Radcliffe-on-Trent in Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire.
‘It was so hot, I decided to go back to my car to fetch my drink. I was lucky. Just as I turned back, I picked up a lovely strong signal.
‘I dug a divot in the sandy soil and there was the ring, just looking at me. It was an exciting find. When that signal goes off you never know whether it will be a ring-pull or ancient treasure.
‘Within five minutes of me finding it, Graham dug up the Sheriff of Nottingham ring nearby. Some coins were discovered in the area on the same day too.
‘I’m 95 per cent certain both the rings and coins originally belonged to the same person. They were all found within 10 square metres of each other.
‘The land had been disturbed by a pipe being laid at some point, otherwise they might have been closer together. In my opinion it was a stash of valuables buried at the same time. Legend has it that the Sheriff of Nottingham’s family hid valuables
‘I think the ring may have belonged to him or someone close to him. It appears to be a man’s posy ring, which is unusual.
‘It’s the second largest ring of its type ever seen according to a report I received from the British Museum.
Due to the circumstances surrounding its discovery, the finder thinks it may have belonged to a Sheriff of Nottingham or a member of his family
The ring, which weighs almost 15g and is around 460 years old, was unearthed during a metal detecting club event
‘I have never sold any of my metal detecting discoveries before but if I don’t part with the ring it will just be stuck in a pot forever with my best finds. I would like it to go to someone who will appreciate its historical value.’
The ring will now go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, in October with a guide price between £2,000 and £3,000.
Charles Hanson, who owns Hansons Auctioneers, said: ‘This posy ring is awash with intrigue thanks to its mystery message and possible connection to the Sheriff of Nottingham or the Jenison family.
‘The Nottinghamshire branch of the Jenison family first appeared as aldermen of Newark in 1580. Each generation served as aldermen and, after the 1626 charter, as mayors.
‘I suspect the posy ring was lost, or buried for safekeeping, in the mid-16th century, perhaps in the reign of the short-lived Edward IV or in the very early years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign (1558 to 1603).
‘The font reflects the Roman capitals used until around 1560. After that time italics started to make an appearance.
‘Posy rings were often used as betrothal or wedding rings centuries ago. The messages inscribed inside were a secret to all but the wearer and giver, so we can never be certain what ‘I Meane Ryght’ meant to the owner of the ring.
‘Its weight indicates its owner was wealthy. It was likely given as a token of love or esteem nearly 500 years ago.’
Mr Hanson added: ‘It’s remarkable to think this ring was probably given to its original wearer 120 years before the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was crafted out of gold before the Spanish Armada set sail in 1588.
‘For any lover of history it has to be the ultimate gift. Of course, mention of the Sheriff of Nottingham reminds us of Robin Hood but the signet ring sold in 2022 related to a later sheriff.
‘Tales of Robin Hood emerged in English folklore as early as the 13th and 14th centuries.
‘Nevertheless, these finds still evoke those memories and remind us of Nottinghamshire life during the turbulent times of the 16th and 17th centuries.’