Gold signet ring linked to Sheriff of Nottingham sells for £8,500

The 17th century trinket was discovered by a metal detectorist on a farm in England's midlands in 2020

The 350-year-old ring bears the coat of arms of the Jenison family and was once owned by the Sheriff of Nottingham Photo: Hansons Auctioneers
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A gold signet ring that once belonged to the Sheriff of Nottingham has sold for £8,500 ($11,000) at auction.

The 350-year-old ring bears the coat of arms of the Jenison family and was once owned by Sir Matthew Jenison during the 17th century.

Jenison was the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1680s – a little too late to have tangled with legendary outlaw Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest.

Auctioneers at Hansons offered the piece after it was found by a metal detectorist on farmland in Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire, in July 2020.

It was examined by experts from the British Museum and returned to the finder for sale.

“The ring has survived in near perfect condition and the front face bears a detailed engraving of the Jenison family arms, two swans separated by a diagonal bend," Hansons’ consultant valuer Adam Staples said.

“This would have been pressed into melted wax in order to seal the family crest on important letters and documents.”

Originally from County Durham, the Nottinghamshire branch of the Jenison family first appeared as aldermen of Newark in 1580.

Sir Matthew Jenison, born in 1654, after the end of the English Civil War, was “quite the character”, the auctioneers’ said.

Having been knighted in 1683 during Charles II’s reign, he served as High Sheriff of Nottingham until 1684, when one of his roles was inspecting decaying trees in Sherwood Forest.

The item, which was discovered by a metal detectorist, is valued at £8,000 ($10,000). Hansons Auctioneers.

Jenison’s advance through the corridors of power continued when he was elected MP for Newark in 1701, but he became saddled with costly debt linked to his estate.

He fell foul of the law after falling to clear his debts and died in Fleet Prison in 1734.

Mr Staples said the family were “apothecaries” but according to legend the Jenisons “gleaned great wealth from valuables left in their safekeeping during the Civil War which were never reclaimed”.

The valuer said a buried hoard of silver coins known as 'siege money' – dating from the English Civil War era of 1642-1651 – found in the same field in which the ring was discovered seemed to add weight to the legend.

“The ring we are selling is related to a later sheriff as tales of Robin Hood emerged in English folklore as early as the 13th and 14th centuries," he said.

“Nevertheless, this find still evokes those memories and gives us a glimpse back into Nottinghamshire life during the turbulent times of the 17th century.”

Updated: March 24, 2022, 2:14 PM
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