It was offered for sale at Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire, on February 25 on behalf of a metal detectorist of 30 years who made his best-ever find in his home county of Buckinghamshire in October 2020.
The brooch dated to c.50AD, around the time of the Roman conquest, was guided at £6000- 8000 but an intense bidding battle from four phones took the final hammer price to £55,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) – seven times its estimate.
The detectorist, Ray Pusey, a 64-year-old van-driver from Haddenham, said: “I watched the auction online. It was an exceptional result and so exciting to watch. The money will be split 50-50 split with the landowner. When I went round to tell him, he nearly fell over. Me and my wife had a Chinese takeaway to celebrate.”
A T-shaped brooch such as this, measuring around 7in (17cm) long, would have been used to secure a blanket or caparison around a chariot horse. One of only a handful known in Britain, it was exceptional both for its size and its state of preservation.
The design, in the Celtic ‘South Western’ style, conceals the face of a man with a curving moustache amid a flowing pattern of opposed scrolls with tips that curl like breaking waves.
Similar pieces formed part of the Polden Hill hoard, discovered in 1800 near Bridgwater, Somerset.
Buckinghamshire, where it was found, was once the territory of the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni, two of the most powerful and richest tribes in the years before the Roman conquest.
Adam Staples, historica consultant at Hansons, said: “Horse brooches like this were the fashion statements of the elite. Horse and chariot trappings were highly prized possessions.
It’s unclear whether these hoards were buried for safekeeping or given as votive offerings to the Gods.
“The size of this brooch and quality make it unlikely to be a casual loss. It’s more probable that it was carefully placed in the ground.”