Treasure hunter John Wood could possibly be described as the county's Keeper of the Crown Jewels after making a significant find in Cheshire's Delamere Forest. Richard Ault reports.
A TREASURE hunter believes he could have unearthed one of the most significant archaeological finds ever to come out of Cheshire.
Metal detector John Wood was thrilled when he dug up a ring - which has been dated back to between 1250 and 1350AD - in a field near to Delamere Forest.
Although there is some dispute between experts over the historical signif icance of the ring, John, who belongs to the North West Metal Detecting Club, believes it was given by Edward III as a reward to one of his knights.
John, who lives in Hyde, said: 'I found the ring in the Vale Royal area next to Delamere Forest, which were hunting grounds back in medieval times.
'It is 88% gold with a black pyramidal diamond. The hoop is flat and keyed on both sides to take enamel, of which a trace still remains.
'On the left side of the ring is the letter 'V' and on the right side the letter 'A', both in a rare lombardic script.
'On one side of the hoop is the legend Loiaute and on the other side Sans Fin, which translated means 'loyalty without end', or 'unceasing loyalty', which is also in Lombardic script.
'Underneath, the ring is channelled out to form the letters 'E' followed by five-pointed stars - then another letter 'E' followed by a further three pointed stars, then another letter 'E'.
'The ring has an an ecclesiastical design to it. Below the bezel, which houses the diamond, is a sacred heart.
'It is tempting to associate the letter 'Es' with Edward III, or the three Edwards. The 'V' and the 'A' could be the initials of the owner or they could relate to the Virgin Mary.'
The origin of the ring will be the subject of an inquest held before Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinburg in the New Year.
But John's theory is backed up by experts from York Museum, while historians from the British Museum believe it is a gift from a lover. It has also been suggested that the ring could be a religious artefact.
He said: 'I believe the ring was given by Edward III to one of his knights as a reward for loyalty. The British Museum believes the ring was a gift to a lover, but I think the language 'loyalty without end' or 'unceasing loyalty' is more in common with the loyalty given to a sovereign.'
After the inquest, when the ring has been formally identified, it will probably be declared 'treasure' and given to either a Cheshire museum or the British Museum.
He said: 'This is not for financial gain - I would like Cheshire to have it.
'It was found in Mid Cheshire and I would like it to remain in Mid Cheshire.'
If the ring is found to have come from Edward III's reign, it will be an important historical find and may have been a gift to a knight for his loyalty and heroics, possibly during the Hundred Years War with France.
Edward III was only 14 years old when he was crowned king in 1327 after the murder of Edward II, assuming government in his own right in 1330.
He grew into an able soldier and an inspirational leader who founded the Order of the Garter in 1348.
Edward was on the throne when the Hundred Years War started with France in 1337, although actual campaigning didn't begin until 1339 when he invaded France and laid claim to the throne.
Following a sea victory at Sluys in 1340, Edward overran Brittany in 1342.
He landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1346 - nearly 600 years before the Allies launched the D-Day offensive against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany - and defeated the French king Phillip IV at the Battle of Crécy.
Edward's son, also called Edward but known as the Black Prince, followed up this success at Poitiers in 1356.
By 1360, Edward III controlled more than a quarter of France and his success had consolidated the support of the nobles at home and reduced criticism of taxes, while improving relations with Parliament.
But under the 1375 Treaty of Bruges the new French king, Charles V, reversed most of the English conquests and Edward's only lasting gains were Calais and a coastal strip near Bordeaux. Failure abroad provoked criticism at home.
Meanwhile the Black Death Plague outbreaks of 1348-49, 1361-62 and 1369 killed thousands and even the king lost a daughter.
The plague caused deflation and severe laws were introduced in an attempt to fix wages and prices. In 1376, Parliament attacked the high taxes and criticised the king's advisors. The ageing Edward withdrew to Windsor where he remained for the rest of his reign, eventually dying in 1376.