Quirky News

  • 16 January 2013, 12:03

Garden step was ancient treasure

Step /Rex

An ancient carved step dismissed by art experts is set to fetch more than 30,000 at auction later this year.

The 1,000-year-old Buddhist moonstone has for years formed part of the garden path at Bronwen Hickmott's bungalow near Exeter, Devon.

She originally grew up with it in her family home at Crowborough, Sussex - a house previously owned by a tea importer based in Sri Lanka.

Two years ago, the 66-year-old former secretary approached the BBC's Antiques Roadshow to see if its experts could explain its history and value.

However, a producer told her they were not interested and attempts to persuade auctioneers Sotheby's to investigate were also rejected.

It wasn't until Mrs Hickmott mentioned the stone in passing to a valuer at Bonhams in Exeter that its history became clear.

It is now believed the six-inch thick, three quarters of a ton granite sandakada pahana or moonstone is among only seven of its type in the world.

Carved by craftsmen of the Buddhist Sinhalese civilisation, centred on the UNESCO world heritage city of Anuradhapura, it depicts a half-lotus flower and a procession of horses, lions, elephants and oxen.

"I loved that stone so much as a child," said Mrs Hickmott. "I used to trace the figures of the animals with my fingers and recite them in order; horse, lion, elephant, hump. I think the hump is actually an ox."

"We called it The Pebble in our family and we've taken it with us around the country over five different house moves.

"But we are thinking of moving again and I don't think it's right to keep on shifting it - especially as we now know it's historical value."