A discovery unearthed in a Chigwell field has proven that the district’s reputation for bling stretches back further than previously imagined.
Amateur treasure hunter Richard Joynson has spent more than 2,000 hours over the past four years in a single unnamed field near the town, which once contained a medieval farmhouse.
In that time he has found coins, gold buttons, and even a Roman era bronze figure, but his latest discovery - a 17th century gold ring - has caused a flurry of excitement among historians, and has just gone on display at the district museum in Sun Street, Waltham Abbey.
Mr Joynson, of Auckland Road in Ilford, said: “I was with my friend in the field and I told him to take one side.
“He refused so I did it instead, and I found the ring.
“It was buried three inches under the ground. As soon as I picked it up I just started wondering who it belonged to and how it got there. It’s fascinating.”
The ring was enscribed with the words ‘You must follow G: M Aug 29 – 57’.
Jill Holman, the collection manager at the museum, identified it as a ‘mourning ring’, which was traditionally given to the relatives and friends of people who had died.
She said: “In times of death such as war or the plague the rings became very popular, people became very morbid.
“It tells the recipient that they, too, will die.”
And the ‘57’ was identified as 1657 when, under Oliver Cromwell and his puritan supporters, showy jewellery was distinctly out of fashion.
Ms Holman said: “In earlier and later periods rings tend to be much more elaborate, this ring was coated in black enamel as, at the time of Oliver Cromwell, people were not supposed to show wealth.”
Mr Joynson, 53, said that finding such an uncommon piece of history makes the hours of searching worthwhile.
He added: “The farmer contacted me and showed me that a house had been there before.
“They must have been stinking rich because I found coins from around 1200 to the late 1600’s, when the house was destroyed.
“I think it may have been a robbery, or it could have fallen off of someone’s finger as there is a bridal passage and a ditch nearby.”
Mr Joynson received £450 for the ring which he split with the landowner, while his discovery will be on display at the museum until August 31.
He said: “Treasure hunting takes a lot of time, but it is worth it when you can hand over pieces to museums for future generations to see.”
Anyone who believes that they have secret treasure on their land or would like to see my Joynson’s finds can visit www.metaldetectingagency.co.uk.