A BRONZE cannon thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK has been stolen from a garden in Bournemouth.

The metre-long Lyle cannon - similar in appearance to those seen in such films as Pirates of the Caribbean - was dug out from its concrete base and taken from Granby Road on Christmas Eve.

Owner John Brooksbank, 70, inherited the cannon when he took over the St George Hotel in Westcliff a number of years ago.

"Our predecessor was into salvaging," he said. "It was concreted in front of the hotel. We moved it to our house when we left the hotel 13 years ago."

Mr Brooksbank is offering an unspecified reward for the cannon's safe return. It contains the inscription 'Hall & Co Philadelphia 1943' on its side and it would have been used as a life-saving device.

Lyle cannons threw lines out into the water - rather than shots - either from the shore or from naval vessels projecting the line some 250 yards.

It is believed to have been designed around the turn of the 20th century.

Several years ago Mr Brooksbank was in conversation with the Royal Armouries in Fort Nelson about the cannon's origins. He'd been told by staff that his was considered the only one of its type in the UK and he would like to see it there as part of their collection.

"It must be worth a lot of money," he said. "Particularly for scrap metal. But we'd rather it go back to a museum if it's that good."

Mr Brooksbank estimates that the cannon weighs a hundredweight and a half - the equivalent to nearly 170lbs.

He said he believes that the thieves who stole the cannon must have "weighed up" his home before deciding to take the cannon.

"I'd love to see whoever it was caught," he said. "I would hate to see the cannon go into the melting pot."

Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area at the time is urged to call Dorset Police on 101 quoting reference 55160192538.

Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

No arrests had been made at the time of going to press.