Is car boot discovery a Knights Templar relic?

Author: By Jonathan Brown

Antiques dealer Martin Roberts suspected that the item being sold by a friend
was worth a punt, and so he offered to swap it for a pine chest of drawers
and six Victorian glass handles which he had bought for £13 and to hand back
10 per cent of the final sale price achieved.

The gamble now looks like it may pay off handsomely after the piece was
identified as a possible tabernacle door belonging to the Knights Templar
and dating back to the time of the Middle Ages.

Mr Roberts is hopeful that his latest find could match that of his most famous
discovery ? a 3,500-year-old Egyptian artefact he found in a box full of
silverware during a house clearance near Harrogate.

Having paid £50 for that lot he eventually sold the four-inch royal shabti
torso of Amenophis III, the grandfather of King Tutankhamun, at auction for
£30,000 when a British-based private bidder paid 12 times the reserve price.

The former professional golf player astonished experts who insisted on wearing
gloves to examine his latest find when he told them that he had driven
around for two weeks with the tabernacle on the dashboard of his van.

“When I touched it, it sent shivers through me,” he said yesterday. It was
initially checked out by a dealer in Doncaster who suggested the polychrome
cartoon images could be of St George and the Dragon. But he now believes it
is more likely to be a Roman stabbing a Turk ? a reference to the Crusades
as well as a priest carrying a cross. A second expert suggested that its
origins could be traced back to the Orthodox Church between 700 and 1200.

The door was found at Masham, North Yorkshire, close to Middleham Castle, the
former home of Richard III which dates back to the time of the Norman
Conquest. One theory is that it may have fallen into the possession of one
of the influential residents that inhabited the castle, known as the Windsor
of the North.

“At the end of the day I go around and find things. I buy from car boots and
junk shops but I have never seen such a wonderful response as when people
see this panel,” said Mr Roberts, who would not be drawn on how much it was
worth.

“We are trying to find any historians that might know about it. If it is
significant I might want to put it on display in a museum. If it is part of
our heritage it must not sit in some collector?s private display where no
one can see it simply because he has got more carrots than anyone else,” he
said.

Mr Roberts, who took up antiques dealing on eBay six years ago following the
death of his wife from cancer, said he developed

an interest in the business through his father. “My dad sat me down and said
to me, ?Your brother is a roofer and your other brother is a steel erector ?
you are going to be an antiques dealer,? and he gave me a set of books,” he
recalled.

“I don?t always buy plums. Sometimes I buy lemons and I have certainly bought
plenty of them. It is a real buzz. The money is great but if you relied on
the plums you would be starving,” he admitted.

Mr Roberts, who has also discovered a bronze Egyptian figure dating back to
600BC, admitted that his knowledge of the history of Templar period was
sketchy. “When it comes to the history I am on a Monty Python level. The
best description of the Knights Templar is in Spamalot ? I?ve seen that,” he
said.

“You can drop on stuff but you have to know what you are looking for. I have a
wish list from customers who want me to find things for them.” Mr Roberts
added: “Maybe now we could sell the movie rights to this.”

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