Page last updated at 20:22 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 21:22 UK

Wine expert's reward over thefts

The late 17th Century astronomical sphere stolen from Mr Johnson's garden
The 17th Century sphere was stolen from the gardens of Saling Hall

A world renowned wine writer has put up a £1,000 reward after thieves stole a late 17th Century astronomical sphere and urns from his historic garden.

Hugh Johnson OBE, 70, of Great Saling, Essex, is seeking the public's help to recover the items.

Police said the theft from the garden - which is open to the public for part of the year - happened between midnight on 22 March and 0830 GMT on 24 March.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Essex Police.

Mr Johnson, who has written The World Atlas of Wine since 1971, said: "These urns and the sphere have been in my possession for an awfully long time.

"It has saddened me that someone can invade my property and take them away."

'Suspicious activity'

He added: "I am putting up a £1,000 reward for information which leads to their return in good condition and, if possible, the arrest and conviction of those responsible."

Pc Sarah Brunt said: "These items are extremely large and would take two, if not more people to move, transfer them to a van and drive off.

"This kind of suspicious activity must have been noticed by someone during these two days and so we would urge them to contact us."

The bronze armillary sphere is on a Portland stone urn base carved with acanthus leaves and pomegranate swags and dates from about 1690.

Mr Johnson, who was awarded an OBE in 2007 for services to winemaking and horticulture, has been president of the Sunday Times Wine Club since 1973.

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