A METAL detector enthusiast has spoken of his joy at unearthing an unusually-shaped 700-year-old key in a field in the Yorkshire Dales.

The ‘incredibly rare’ find, discovered by John Brassey at Austwick, has been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), a voluntary group set up to catalogue archaeological objects found by members of the public.

The Westmorland Gazette: Key find

The key, made of a copper alloy, probably dates from the medieval period, between AD1270 and 1350. It is 87mms (3.4ins) long and weighs just more than 18 grammes.

And the avid metal detectorist, who lives in Southport, has also discovered a gold bracelet in Eden, which is currently being assessed by the British Museum.

Mr Brassey, who has been been collecting historic finds since taking up the hobby 20 years ago, says he has no plans to sell the key.

“It’s always exciting to find things when I go out,” said Mr Brassey.

“I really enjoy the history side of it. After I find an object, I often carry out research about that time. It’s a very rewarding hobby.”

A report by Dot Boughton, Dr Helen Geake, and Geoff Egan, who are based at Carlisle’s Tullie House museum, gives a detailed description of the find.

It says: “The key is complete and in overall good condition, with a bright brown patina, and only minimal patches of bronze disease.

“The upper part of the shank is rectangular in cross-section, with bevelled edges and a grooved criss-cross and zig-zag decoration on the surface. The shank terminates in a small suspension loop at the top.

“At the other side, it expands towards the middle, then bifurcates and ends in a complex and almost symmetrical ‘bit’.

“The bit is set at a right angle to the shank. It is almost square/ rectangular in plan, with small semicircular ‘chunks’ missing from each side. There is a cent-ral oval perforation.”

The key has been designated as a “find of note”. A very similar key, found at Icklingham, Suffolk, is part of the British Museum collection, although it is believed to date from late Anglo-Saxon times. The PAS report says: “It is a very similar object, but with two circular holes, instead of just the one in the ‘bit’ end.”

The Austwick find has also been compared to another key, from medieval London, found in 1928. More details about the key, and other local metal detector finds, are available at finds.org.uk