Is car boot discovery a Knights Templar relic?

It sounds like Cash in the Attic meets the The Da Vinci Code. A pile of junk cleared from a country home finds its way to a car boot sale in a nearby market town. Among the detritus is a small piece of wood measuring just 10 inches by four inches and covered with painted figures.



Antiques dealer Martin Roberts suspected that the item being sold by a friend was worth a punt, and so he offered to swap it for a pine chest of drawers and six Victorian glass handles which he had bought for £13 and to hand back 10 per cent of the final sale price achieved.

The gamble now looks like it may pay off handsomely after the piece was identified as a possible tabernacle door belonging to the Knights Templar and dating back to the time of the Middle Ages.

Mr Roberts is hopeful that his latest find could match that of his most famous discovery – a 3,500-year-old Egyptian artefact he found in a box full of silverware during a house clearance near Harrogate.

Having paid £50 for that lot he eventually sold the four-inch royal shabti torso of Amenophis III, the grandfather of King Tutankhamun, at auction for £30,000 when a British-based private bidder paid 12 times the reserve price.

The former professional golf player astonished experts who insisted on wearing gloves to examine his latest find when he told them that he had driven around for two weeks with the tabernacle on the dashboard of his van.

"When I touched it, it sent shivers through me," he said yesterday. It was initially checked out by a dealer in Doncaster who suggested the polychrome cartoon images could be of St George and the Dragon. But he now believes it is more likely to be a Roman stabbing a Turk – a reference to the Crusades as well as a priest carrying a cross. A second expert suggested that its origins could be traced back to the Orthodox Church between 700 and 1200.

The door was found at Masham, North Yorkshire, close to Middleham Castle, the former home of Richard III which dates back to the time of the Norman Conquest. One theory is that it may have fallen into the possession of one of the influential residents that inhabited the castle, known as the Windsor of the North.

"At the end of the day I go around and find things. I buy from car boots and junk shops but I have never seen such a wonderful response as when people see this panel," said Mr Roberts, who would not be drawn on how much it was worth.

"We are trying to find any historians that might know about it. If it is significant I might want to put it on display in a museum. If it is part of our heritage it must not sit in some collector’s private display where no one can see it simply because he has got more carrots than anyone else," he said.

Mr Roberts, who took up antiques dealing on eBay six years ago following the death of his wife from cancer, said he developed

an interest in the business through his father. "My dad sat me down and said to me, ‘Your brother is a roofer and your other brother is a steel erector – you are going to be an antiques dealer,’ and he gave me a set of books," he recalled.

"I don’t always buy plums. Sometimes I buy lemons and I have certainly bought plenty of them. It is a real buzz. The money is great but if you relied on the plums you would be starving," he admitted.

Mr Roberts, who has also discovered a bronze Egyptian figure dating back to 600BC, admitted that his knowledge of the history of Templar period was sketchy. "When it comes to the history I am on a Monty Python level. The best description of the Knights Templar is in Spamalot – I’ve seen that," he said.

"You can drop on stuff but you have to know what you are looking for. I have a wish list from customers who want me to find things for them." Mr Roberts added: "Maybe now we could sell the movie rights to this."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain