Page last updated at 20:21 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 21:21 UK

Armada silver shines at auction

Elizabethan silver plates
The Elizabethan silver plates were hidden during the English Civil War

Two rare Elizabethan plates made from silver captured from the Spanish Armada have sold for £135,00.

The 17th Century plates belonged to Sir Christopher Harris, from Devon, advisor and friend to seafarers Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.

Thirty plates were commissioned to celebrate the victory over the Spanish and were used at a dinner given by Sir Christopher at his estate in Radford.

The plates were bought by a private collector and will remain in the UK.

Each plate bears Sir Christopher's coat of arms.

It is absolutely remarkable they have survived
Alex Butcher, auctioneer

Twenty-six of the plates are owned by the British Museum, but the whereabouts of the remaining two is unknown.

After his death in 1625, the plates were passed down through the family and in 1645, during the English Civil War, they were hidden in a potato store at a farm in Brixton, near Plymouth, by St Christopher's Royalist great-nephew.

They remained hidden for almost 200 years, until they were found and returned to the Harris family.

Alex Butcher, from Lawrences Auctioneers of Crewkerne, Somerset, said it was rare for silver made before 1640 to have survived as most items were melted down during the Civil War.

"It is absolutely remarkable they have survived at all, and they only did because of the quick-thinking relative who hid them in the cave," he said.

'Good provenance'

The plates were bought by fine silver specialist Alastair Dickenson on behalf of a private buyer.

"He has an interest in early 17th Century silver and these plates are excellent, with as good a provenance as one could hope to find," Mr Dickenson told BBC News.

"He's very, very excited and very, very happy, I would add."

"These are extremely rare and will be a fantastic addition to his extensive collection.

"I've been in the business for about 38 years and I've not seen a single Elizabethan plate, let alone two."

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