Rare Tudor piece worth £5MILLION accidentally given away by stately home’s caretaker

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Brian Wilson let an antiques dealer walk away with an overmantel bearing Elizabeth I’s coat of arms. It had been displayed above a fireplace at Grade II-listed Seighford Hall in Staffordshire.

The story behind the item’s loss emerged after Mr Wilson claimed unfair dismissal.

Employment tribunal judge Kate Hindmarch ruled that although he was unfairly dismissed, Mr Wilson was not entitled to extra compensation because he acted without permission.

The tribunal was told Mr Wilson was living in a caravan on Seighford Hall’s grounds when the overmantel – a type of ornamental structure – was removed.

He claimed it was rotten and laid aside for burning, adding he had given it away to save himself the trouble of disposing of it.

Antiques dealer Andrew Potter bought the item in 2020 and planned to turn it into a headboard until a museum expert told him it could be of interest to international buyers.

Last year Stafford Borough Council went to court in a bid to stop Whitworth Auctions from selling the item which was expected to fetch between £1.9million and £5million.

But the legal action was dropped and, according to a local auction house cited in a report in The Times, Mr Potter is now attempting to find a buyer in the Middle East.

Seighford Hall had been derelict for years but it is now being turned into a five star hotel.


It emerged at the tribunal Mr Wilson had told building surveyor Richard Lever the overmantel had been stolen along with a tractor and fireplaces during a break in.

The hall’s managing director, Christopher Smith, made a report of theft to the police.

But Mr Smith discovered a historic fireplace at Windmill Antiques after a tip off.

The tribunal heard the shop had bought two fireplaces from Mr Wilson for £450.

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It was also told a local car dealer had paid Mr Wilson £1,000 for a tractor in May 2002.

Mr Wilson was invited by letter to attend a meeting about selling items without being authorised to, but he had moved home so did not receive the message.

He was sacked in November 2020.

Mr Wilson told the tribunal he had permission to scrap the tractor and denied receiving money for it.

He also denied that the fireplaces had been removed and the overmantel had been placed in a “fire pile” to be burned because it was infected with fungus.

Judge Hindmarch awarded Mr Wilson £4,066 in unlawful deduction from wages and untaken holiday pay.

She ruled he was not entitled to any extra compensation but that he had been unfairly dismissed because he was not made aware of the decision to fire him.

She said: “I have found [Mr Wilson’s] actions were without permission and that he was not credible in his explanations.

“His behaviour was blameworthy and I find the basic award should be nil.”

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