Meet the ancestor's ancient house

Amateur archaeologists in Northumberland have helped uncover what may be the UK's oldest home.

The find came after John Davies and Jim Hutchison discovered Mesolithic flints eroding from a cliff-edge at Howick, near Craster.

This prompted a detailed investigation by archaeologists at the University of Newcastle during 2000 and 2002.

Researchers uncovered the best preserved Stone Age home ever found in the UK, dating back to 7,800 BC.

The remains of a Mesolithic hut were found, revealing evidence of three distinct structural phases.

The Howick structure is the earliest dated evidence for human settlement in Northumberland, and one of only a few Stone Age dwellings known from the UK.

Burial sites

The Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, started in about 10,000BC, as the last Ice Age ended.

Over 18,000 pieces of flint were recovered during the excavations, as well as charred animal bone, charred hazelnut shells, red ochre and occasional shell fragments.

The work at Howick represents one of the most detailed Mesolithic excavations ever undertaken anywhere in Europe.

Five graves were also found at the site, four are thought to have been used for child burials, while only one was for an adult interment.

The Iron Age hill fort adjacent to the site was also surveyed as part of the project.

The excavations are featured in the BBC 2's Meet the Ancestors programme on Wednesday at 2100 GMT.


Female Anatomy Inspired Stonehenge?

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Feb. 28, 2003


The design of Stonehenge, the 4,800-year-old monument in southwestern England, was based on female sexual anatomy, according to a paper in the current Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.


The theory could explain why the ancients constructed Stonehenge and similar monuments throughout the United Kingdom.


Anthony Perks, a professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver, and a doctor at the university's Women's Hospital, first thought of Stonehenge's connection to women after noticing how some of the stones were smooth, while others were left rough.


"It must have taken enormous effort to smooth the stones," Perks, co-author of the journal paper, told Discovery News.

Thinking how estrogen causes a woman's skin to be smoother than a man's, the observation led Perks to further analyze the monument in anatomical terms.


He noticed how the inner stone trilithons were arranged in a more elliptical, or egg-shaped, pattern than a true circle. Comparing the layout with the shape of female sexual organs showed surprising parallels.


Perks believes the labia majora could be represented by the outer stone circle and possibly the outer mound, with the inner circle serving as the labia minora, the altar stone as the clitoris and the empty geometric center outlined by bluestones representing the birth canal.

In support of the theory, the body of a sacrificial child was found buried at the center of the circles at nearby Woodhenge, suggesting both monuments followed similar layouts. Perks even speculates a child's body might lie buried at the center of Stonehenge.

Unlike other mounds in the U.K., very few burials are located around Stonehenge.


"I believe it was meant to be a place of life, not death," said Perks, who thinks Stonehenge overall represents an Earth Mother goddess.

He explained that both western Neolithic cultures and the early Celts believed in such a goddess. Hundreds of figurines representing the idea of an Earth Mother, he said, have been found in Europe. They were created at a time when mortality at birth was high, suggesting Stonehenge could have been used for fertility ceremonies, which may have linked human birth to the birth of plants and animals upon which the people depended.


John David North, professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, outlines another theory in his book "Stonehenge: A New Interpretation of Prehistoric Man and the Cosmos." North believes the stones in the monument have precise alignments to stars in the cosmos and that Stonehenge served as an astronomical observatory and a celestial map.

While Perks acknowledges the celestial link, he views it in a different light.


"At Stonehenge you see an arc of sky together with Earth on that open Salisbury Plain," Perks said. "It is as though Father Sun is meeting Earth Mother in an equal way at a place looking towards the future."


Visitor centre plan 'will blight our lives'

WORRIED Countess Road residents packed out a meeting at Amesbury last week and spoke of their fears of increased traffic and tumbling house prices if the green light were given to current plans for the new multi-million-pound Stonehenge visitor centre.

They claimed that the proposal to build the complex on their doorsteps off the A303 roundabout at Countess East would blight their lives.

The concerns were made plain when between 80 and 100 of the residents attended a meeting hosted by English Heritage and the National Trust at the George Hotel in Amesbury to give residents an overall view of the latest plans for the visitor centre and access scheme for Stonehenge.

It was a private meeting, but afterwards, spokesman for the Countess Road residents Peter Goodhugh said: "If the English Heritage and National Trust Stonehenge project team had any preconceptions about a cosy relationship with local residents, they were swiftly dispelled."

The project team gave a presentation on the styling and layout of the proposed visitor centre and how the 800,000-or-so visitors per year would access the building and the wider world heritage site.

But Mr Goodhugh said there was considerable scepticism among residents and deep- rooted concerns about the impact of the project.

Principal among those was the extra traffic that would be imposed on Countess Road by siting the centre in what was viewed by residents as the wrong place - a traffic hotspot and a residential area.

A peak-period 5,000 visitors a day could result in 200 vehicles an hour coming on to Countess Road, claimed residents, and they said the situation would be further aggravated by the introduction of traffic lights at the roundabout, causing tailbacks northwards.

Residents felt they were already experiencing extreme difficulty entering and leaving their homes, without this additional congestion.

Another significant concern was the effect of the project on property values.

Mr Goodhugh said: "English Heritage said property values would be enhanced as a result of the visitor centre, but it was quickly pointed out to them that local estate agents, with considerable experience of the area, were already saying that property prices were falling as a result of the proposals."

English Heritage public and community affairs manager Jane Danser, who chaired the meeting, said: "We felt this was a really constructive meeting and we were pleased to have an opportunity to try to address some of the key concerns of all Countess Road residents.

"We had a team of experts from the project on hand, who were able to deal in detail with specific aspects of the scheme - and also listen to the major concerns of residents.

"We fully understand that many residents are worried that the proposed visitor centre and access plans will affect their quality of life.

"We want to reassure everyone that we are listening to their views and concerns and that we want to work with them to ensure our scheme has the minimum impact on their daily lives and enjoyment of the area.

"We are preparing to put on a mobile exhibition at the end of this month, to ensure as many people as possible in the Amesbury and Salisbury areas are able to discuss our latest plans with us.

"We look forward to talking to as many people in the area as possible."

Meanwhile, English Heritage said it believed a flyover planned for Countess Road would offer a much-needed solution to traffic problems, and claimed that comments attributed to it about house prices had been taken out of context.

It said the meeting was told that English Heritage would be commissioning experts to look into the effects on property prices in Countess Road, following concerns raised by residents, and the impact was therefore not yet known.


French find ancient 'elite' Gaul tombs

SOISSONS, France, Feb 27 (AFP) - A major ancient burial site containing some 40 tombs that date back to the fifth century BC has been unearthed during excavation work in France, archeologists said Thursday.

They said that the tombs, which mainly contained adults, were found in various groupings by a river in the village of Vasseny, in the northern Aisne region.

One or several Gaulish villages had buried their dead on the site for almost 100 years between 450-350 BC.

Archeologists said they had found one woman and two men who had been buried in three so-called chariot tombs, indicating that they were the highest ranking members in their community.

"The great interest in the Vasseny necropolis lies in the juxtaposition of simple tombs and chariot tombs within the same grouping," said Patrick Brun, head of research at France's scientific research centre CNRS.

The villagers buried in the tombs appear to have been members of an ancient elite, with the men still equipped with their armour and the women wearing necklaces, bracelets and earrings.


Plants tell Colosseum's story

350 years of botany holds history of Roman monument.

4 March 2003


The Roman Colosseum's history is stamped on its plants, say Italian researchers. In plant surveys spanning 350 years, they have charted the monument's progress from slum to tourist attraction, as well as Rome's growth into a metropolis and the city's changing climate.

Built in the first century AD, the Colosseum housed Gladiatorial combat until the sixth century. By 1643, when Italian doctor Domenico Panaroli compiled the first plant survey, the Romans had made themselves at home. "It was full of people living and working, and a hideout for thieves," says Giulia Caneva of the University of Rome.

Work on clearing the amphitheatre began in about 1810, under Napoleon's rule. There were three surveys of the Colosseum's flora in the nineteenth century, and one in 1951. Caneva and her colleagues did one more in 2001.

Such a wealth of data is almost certainly unique for a single site, says botanist Jim Dickson of the University of Glasgow, UK. "I find it hard to believe that anyone else has kept records for over four centuries," he says.

In total, the lists contain 684 species — peaking in 1855, with 420, and declining to 242 today. About 200 of these were ever-present.

As the use of the amphitheatre changed, agricultural weeds gave way to opportunists associated with disturbed ground, Caneva's team has found1. There has also been a steady influx of exotic aliens.

This is what you'd expect, says Dickson. "There's more transport of plants now, deliberately and accidentally, than there's ever been," he comments.


The plant record also reveals a shift towards species that prefer a warmer, drier climate. This is partly due to Rome's growth, says Caneva: "The Colosseum used to be on the edge of the city; now it's in the middle."

It also reflects the warming of the climate over several centuries, and more recent climate change caused by humans. "In the seventeenth century, Rome was much colder and wetter," says Caneva. "The difference with today is too much to be explained by local change."

Historical naturalists' records, such as the timings of bird migration or flower blooming, are often the only way for today's researchers to detect the effects of climate change on wildlife.



1.         Caneva, G. et al. The Colosseum's use and state of abandonment as analysed through its flora. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation, 51, 211 - 219, (2003). |Article|




By Staff Reporter

Published in The Hexham Courant on 28/02/2003

An inscribed Roman stone has been rediscovered in the walls of a house in Greenhead 27 years after it was last seen.

The owners of Holmhead Guesthouse, Pauline and Brian Staff, have always known that the walls of their home contained two inscribed stones.

One, located just next to their kitchen door, they have always known about, but the other has been lost since it was last surveyed by an archaeologist in 1976.

The second stone was revealed when an overgrown patch of land was cleared during landscaping, and the same archaeologist ¬ Paul Austen, co-ordinator of the English Heritage Hadrian's Wall office in Hexham ¬ was able to describe its location to the Staffs.


Pauline said: "We're turning a derelict byre into a bunk house, which will sleep up to eight people, in time for the opening of the Hadrian's Wall Trail. The stone is in the wall of the bunk house.

"I knew it was supposed to be in the house, but I didn't know where. You can see writing on it, but I couldn't read it."

Paul Austen deciphered the inscription: IVL.IANAL.

"IVL is short for Julius and IANAL is short for Ianalis, so the Roman centurion Julius Ianalis would have been responsible for overseeing the building of the stretch of the Roman Wall the stone came from. That would probably have been somewhere around AD124 or 125," he said,

"The body which did the building in an army were legionaries, Roman citizens. There were 10 cohorts in a legion and these were divided down into centuries. Centuries usually consisted of 80 men, with a centurion in charge.

"These types of stones recorded the name of the centurion who would have had a section of the wall and vallum to build. He was leaving his mark."

Paul discovered the stone in 1976 by accident, while he was looking for another stone which was already well-known.

The first stone, next to the Staff's kitchen door, carries the inscription 'civitas Dumnoni', indicating a tribe from the Devon and Dorset area had been working on the Roman Wall.

"There are records of only one or two other stones like this," said Paul. "At times the Romans have conscripted building teams on to the Wall.

"We don't know the circumstances of this at all. We just know that there were men from Devon and Dorset who served there and left their marker behind.

"You get the big, official inscription done by professional stone masons, which are nicely written and presented, and then you get these types of stones, which were chiselled in a very amateurish fashion, probably with six-inch nails."

Pauline believes her house was built at the turn of the 1800s. It was constructed predominantly out of stones from Hadrian's Wall, and possibly from Thirlwall Castle, which is nearby.


When in North … eat as Romans did

Mar 4 2003

By Tony Henderson Environment Editor, The Journal


NewcastleCookery expert Susan Cresswell reckons she has the vital ingredient to send visitors to Hadrian's Wall country home happy.

Susan and the Hadrian's Wall Tourism Partnership want hotels, bed and breakfast businesses, restaurants and pubs to consider including Roman dishes on their menus.

Susan will be holding Roman cookery and menu planning days for tourism businesses at New Mills Trout farm in Brampton, Cumbria, on Monday and on Wednesday next week at Langley Garden Station in Northumberland.

"The idea is for businesses to introduce a Roman angle to their food. It is something which few other parts of the country can do," said the tourism partnership's Jane Brantom.

"It is about adding value and giving people an experience they will remember. People don't have to be cordon bleu cooks or archaeologists to do it."

The idea is to combine the Roman menus with visits to forts and sites such as Chesters walled garden in Northumberland, which has a Roman herb and medicinal plants feature.

Susan, who lives in Langley, has been in catering for 25 years and now runs her own consultancy.

She worked as a catering manager for the P&O shipping line and travelled the world before moving to Northumberland and running the Hemmel coffee shop at Allenheads for six years. Susan will offer 13 Roman dishes and a 25-page information pack at demonstrations.

She said: " I have tried to do dishes which a small hotel or B&B could offer, using ingredients which people would have in their cupboards.

"You have to offer visitors something which is a bit special. The Romans ate well and people could then go away from Northumberland and Hadrian's Wall and say they have tried Roman food."

Susan's favourite dishes include globi - pastry balls made with spelt flour, cheese and honey, which are lightly fried in olive oil and dressed with poppy seeds. Stuffed vine leaves and garlic and herb paté also feature.


Chelmsford, Southend: British Museum wants to buy silver Thor hammer

A hammer which may date back to the ninth century has been found on farmland.

The 22.5mm long and 16mm wide Scandinavian Thor hammer was found on farmland in a village just outside Chelmsford.

Barry Cohen, of Southend, discovered the hammer on one of his many metal detecting trips.

Yesterday an inquest at Chelmsford recorded the hammer as treasure trove.

Mr Cohen was not in court yesterday.

In a report to the court, he said he found the rare object pre-2001 and put it in a box with a lot of his other finds.

He said he recently came across it again and the British Museum became interested in buying it from him.

When an object containing a substantial content of gold and silver is found, inquests are sometimes held to determine if the finder can keep it, or if it is of such importance that it should go a museum.

Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray, yesterday recorded the find, which is 98 per cent silver, is a treasure trove and the British Museum should be notified.

Published Thursday, March 6, 2003

Brought to you by the Evening Gazette


Cathedral find rewrites history

Historians may change their age-old approach to restoring ancient buildings after the surprising discovery of 13th Century Irish wood in the framework of Salisbury Cathedral.

Previously it was not thought possible cathedral timbers could have survived until recent dating technique developments proved otherwise.

Scientists have found Dublin oak dating back to 1222 underpinning the lead in the cathedral's eastern chapels, English Heritage said.

The oak was found in the North Nave Treforium, the famous cathedral's medieval lean-to roof, and its North Porch - one of the finest crown-post roofs in Britain.

Previously, historians assumed such timbers were replacements.

"They are among the few remaining original roofs in the cathedral and some of the oldest in Britain," a spokeswoman said.

Restoration work would now have to take a "more aware approach", he added.

Peter Marshall, of English Heritage's Scientific Dating Service, said: "They will greatly increase our understanding of major historic buildings and are likely to have a profound effect on how they are repaired in future."

Dan Miles, of the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory, said: "In the past boards like this would have been disregarded.

"They were generally thought to be replacements for the old ones thrown out when lead was stripped.

"Tree ring dating is beginning to show more and more detailed information about the importance of such material."

Tim Tatton-Brown, consultant archaeologist to Salisbury Cathedral, said: "This very important new series of dates has given us, for the first time, an independent sequence of dates for the whole of the cathedral."

This is barely intelligible - in fact it is a garbled version of the English

Heritage Press Release, which is actually well-written although not laid out

in the standard format for press releases!  There are two different concepts

involved, dendrochronology of the roof timbers, and the discovery of

original batten boards.  It was, of course, a mistake to use a technical

term (triforium - which is not technically correct anyway) and then

mis-spell it, rather than just say nave aisle roof.


Home News:

Supreme Court order halts road works at castle site

February 25, 2003 1:04pm

The Supreme Court has granted an interlocutory injunction against Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council preventing the authority from carrying out further work at the medieval Carrickmines Castle site in south Dublin.

In a unanimous ruling, the court granted an order halting any interference with the ditch at the castle without a valid consent under the National Monuments Act (NMA).

In its ruling, the court yesterday noted that Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council was aware last September of concerns that interference with the ditch required a written consent under Section 14 of the NMA, but had failed to address the matter then.

The court also noted the 'somewhat odd position' that a Minister with an interest in a road building programme is the same person required to consent to the removal or alteration of a national monument for road building purposes.

The Court upheld an appeal by Mr Dominic Dunne, Collins Square, Benburb Street, Dublin, and Mr Gordon Lucas, Willbrook Lawn, Rathfarnham, Dublin, against the High Court's refusal of the injunction.

They claimed the council was committing 'a criminal offence' in continuing certain works at the castle without having a Section 14 consent.

The interlocutory order applies pending the procuring of a Section 14 consent or the determination of legal proceedings between the men and the council. The Supreme Court made directions aimed at having an early hearing of that action.

Section 14 of the NMA states it is unlawful for any person to demolish, remove wholly or in part, deface, disfigure, alter or injure in any way a national monument without certain consents.

Where the monument is owned by a local authority, that body has to give the consent. Consent has also to be given by the Minister for the Environment.

The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994 provides that the council should not give consent 'unless it is in the interests of archaeology to do so'.

In opposing the injunction application in the Supreme Court, the council for the first time contended the relevant remains at Carrickmines Castle was not a 'national' monument and was instead a recorded monument and, therefore, Section 14 did not apply.

Giving the court's judgment, Mr Justice Hardiman, presiding, with Mr Justice Geoghegan and Mr Justice McCracken, said this 'rather odd' position of the council's was necessitated by the state of evidence in the case.

The judge noted the council's affidavits were 'silent' on the significant points as to whether the question of the monument's possible status as a national monument was ever considered by them. It was 'indisputable' the plaintiffs had established an arguable case to be made at the full hearing.

Mr Justice Hardiman noted that, soon after the Minister for Transport approved the present road scheme about September 2002, solicitors for the plaintiffs wrote to the council raising a number of concerns about the scheme, including the Section 14 consent issue.

Solicitors for the council replied stating they were seeking 'specific instructions' on the points raised and would 'communicate further'.

On January 23rd last, the plaintiffs solicitors again wrote to the council and NRA stating there had been no confirmation the works had a Section 14 consent and threatening legal action which was initiated on February 5th.

There was 'ample time' to do that, or decide positively they did not require a consent, without prejudice to the road works. The council did neither.

Publication: The Irish Times

Distributed by Financial Times Information Limited


Copyright © 2003


Tests show cathedral timbers are original

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent

Wednesday March 5, 2003

The Guardian


In 1222 they had a crisis in Salisbury. Masons were racing ahead raising the walls of the cathedral, but the carpenters were running out of timbers needed for the roof.

Their startling solution was revealed yesterday when the cathedral and English Heritage released details of tests on the age and origins of the timbers.

In the eastern chapels, which have some of the finest surviving medieval roofs in the country, and elsewhere, the wood is Irish, from ancient oak trees from a forest south of Dublin, felled from 1222 on.

"The quality was superb, far in excess of what was needed for the job," Dan Miles, of the Oxford dendrochronology laboratory, said yesterday.

The Irish timber came from an area between Dublin and Waterford. It would have been shipped to Southampton or Bristol and taken to Salisbury on ox carts. Much of the cathedral's timber was assumed to be 17th-century replacement. But the tests have proved that a remarkable percentage is original, from the last phase of building work between 1220 and 1258.

Archaeologist Tim Tatton-Brown has found evidence in cathedral records which may explain the imports. In 1220 the king had given the project dozens of oak trees from his forest at Clarendon - but they clearly never arrived. There was a row between the chief carpenter, Godardus, and the warden of the forest, not sorted out until 1224, by which time Irish timbers were in place.



Warwickshire Archaeology Research Team. [david@ADAMSZ.FSNET.CO.UK]


Population of hundreds of Hairy-Tailed Mole’s have moved into one of the Medieval village site!

Chesterton Warwickshire.


The Moles are very active tunneling into building platforms these

moles are unusually large and tunneling at a rate of 12 to 15 feet per

hour across these Scheduled Ancient Monument.


Last year we had rabbits` burrowing into the Moated site at Church End

Chesterton. Large amounts of medieval rare decorated window glass was

recovered from the burrows`upcast.


EH The Center for Archaeology carried out a short evaluation of the site

Last November.


(see teams website www.adamsz.fsnet.co.uk )



We are looking at ways of preventing Mole’s burrowing into

the building platforms.


We would appreciate any comments.


Dave Adams, Teams Director.

The following story - which sheds further light on the very worrying and parlous situation surrounding the Newport Ship, GGAT and Newport City Council -  has appeared in today's South Wales Argus (http://www.thisisgwent.co.uk/gwent/news/NEWS5.html):


"Ship Trust Fear Bankruptcy"

South Wales Argus, Wednesday, 05-Mar-2003


AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL body responsible for digging up Newport's medieval ship claims it is in danger of going bankrupt within weeks due to a dispute with the city council.


As exclusively reported by the Argus, Gwent and Glamorgan Archaeological Trust (GGAT) is involved in a row with the city council over payment for work on the ship. GGAT has now ordered its solicitors to issued a writ agai-nst the authority for £102,000 which it claims it is owed.


The council denies owing the money and says it has tried to meet GGAT about the issue. The trust alleges the council is also refusing to pay for four other jobs relating to the ship, amounting to £31,000, agreed under a separate contract, while the argument continues. The Argus understands the council has now threatened a counter claim for £50,000 per week costs that built up with Turners, the firm building the theatre and arts centre, after the project overran.


A spokeswoman for the authority said it was obliged to ensure "efficient and effective use of public money" and act in the best interests of Newport.


Trust chairman Bob Trett (pictured) said it had to extend its overdraft in order to pay salaries in March and could be facing insolvency within weeks.


"If the Trust doesn't receive £31,000, we could go bankrupt. The council has been informed of that fact, but is refusing to pay the money while we are in dispute over the larger sum.


"We have 20 dedicated staff that worked on the ship in all weathers and could now lose their jobs. That is why I'm speaking out as an individual."


Simon Rutherford, chairman of campaigners The Friends of Newport Ship, said: "We urge the council to resolve the issue as quickly as possible."


He said the trust going bankrupt could jeopardise archaeological policy and works throughout SE Wales.


He added: "We are concerned that both the short and long-term future of the ship is in question. There's no archaelogical plan in place to manage the ship."



If you felt inclined to write, you can send your letter/email to:


* Sir Harry Jones, Chairman, Newport City Council, Civic Centre, Newport NP20 4UR    Email: Harry.Jones@newport.gov.uk


* Chris Freegard, Managing Director, Newport City Council, Civic Centre, Newport NP20 4UR email: Chris.Freegard@newport.gov.uk


* Sue Essex, Minister for the Environment, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF99 1NA 

Email: sue.essex@wales.gov.uk


You could also copy your letter/email to


*  Richard Edwards A.M., Chairman of the Environment, Planning and Transport Committee (which has a scrutiny responsibility for historic environment issues and the duties covered by Cadw) at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA   richard.edwards@wales.gov.uk


* Richard Avent, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments,

National Assembly for Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ  email: c/o  cadw@wales.gsi.gov.uk


If you live in Wales then you can also help by making your concerns known to your AM and MP.


Many thanks




Alex Hunt

Research and Conservation Officer,

Council for British Archaeology,

Bowes Morrell House,

111 Walmgate,




Tel: 01904 671417

Fax: 01904 671384

Web: http://www.britarch.ac.uk


** Join CBA/YAC & buy CBA books through

our online shop at www.britarch.ac.uk/shop **




The FULL Story...


By Staff Reporter

Published in The News and Star on 06/03/2003

EVEN the students of Hogwarts School, where they are used to magical happenings, would be amazed by Cumbrian car collector Peter Nelson's latest trick.

Peter, who owns the Cars of the Stars Museum in Keswick, has bought the 1960s blue Ford Anglia car which starred in the most recent Harry Potter movie --The Chamber of Secrets.

The flying car, which rescued Harry and his chum from a fate worse than death, is the latest exhibit in the museum of famous film and TV vehicles at Standish Street, Keswick.

But Peter admitted that tracking down and buying the film star car provided him with one of his most daunting tasks.

In the past, he has travelled the world snapping up famous vehicles, such as the James Bond collection, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Trotters Traders yellow Robin Reliant van from Only Fools and Horses fame.

But he thought he had lost all chance of getting his hands on Harry Potter's magic companion when Warner Brothers told him the vehicle had been sold to The Sun newspaper as a competition prize.

Peter said: "It took me about 30 phone calls before I finally tracked it down. The Sun told me who had won the car and eventually I managed to get hold of them and make them an offer. It was a young couple with children, who probably needed the money more than the car. In fact, they never even saw it."

He added: "I was dead chuffed. The car was taxed and after checking it over mechanically, I was able to take it out for a drive."

The car is a Ford Anglia 1500, made around 1965, and is similar to the one author JK Rowling included in her Harry Potter books.

"Apparently, JK Rowling once had an aunt who owned an Anglia and that is why she put it in the stories," he said.

Potter fans will have to wait until the Easter holidays, when the museum re-opens, to get the chance to see their hero's car in real life.

"There was absolutely no chance of getting my hands on the car before the second Harry Potter film came out," said Peter. "This was a car I particularly wanted and it took a long time to track it down."