National Museum of the Royal Navy pays £5,000 for German battleship’s bell

The German battleship's bell
The German battleship's bell

Winchester jail put in special measures

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IT once tolled on one of the German Empire’s most fearsome battleships.

Now the bell from the SMS Grosser Kurfurst is bound for Portsmouth, having been bought by the National Museum of the Royal Navy for £5,000.

The artifact was almost lost to history and had passed most of the last century in a Bristol back garden.

Auctioneer Stephen Booth, of Atlantic Crossing Auctions in Southampton, said there had been a lot of interest from potential buyers in the bell.

He said he was thrilled the Portsmouth museum had won the bidding.

‘It’s a beautiful piece.

‘She’s got a bit of history to her so we’re absolutely delighted it will go to a museum where people can enjoy it learn and the story that goes around it.’

The battleship took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the biggest naval battle of the First World War.

She was also involved in the bombardments of east coast towns including Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby.

Mr Booth and a colleague found the bell in a Bristol family’s garden when looking for other maritime artifacts to sell at auction.

‘A colleague wandered off and called out to me that he’d found something in a bush, and there it was.

‘It took us about 20 minutes to get it out.’

Mr Booth said the family had bought the bell in 1938 from a scrapyard in Rosyth, Scotland, where the ship had been broken up after being confiscated at the end of the war.

Mr Booth said: ‘A man from this family had gone to Rosyth to buy ships’ furniture for another vessel called the Leviathan which was being scrapped.

‘Then, I presume, he walked around and saw the bell and made an offer for it.

‘He took it home and it’s been in their garden ever since.’

Mr Booth said he believed the bell would have been positioned on the forecastle of the battleship.