A Bournemouth man won a metal detector in a raffle and then unearthed a £23,000 hoard of silver coins with it three months later.

Novice Mickey Richardson found the find of a lifetime using the top-of-the-range device in a muddy field once used by a brewer to grow hops.

He spent a weekend digging up the 234 coins that were believed to have been buried for safekeeping by a farmer in 1644 as the English Civil War raged around him.

The owner never returned to retrieve his savings and is likely to have been killed in the conflict.

Over the next four centuries the coins had been repeatedly struck by a farmer's plow and scattered over a wide area in the field on Ansty, near Dorchester.

Mr Richardson, who had just taken up the hobby, unearthed one coin with the bust of King Charles I on before spending an exhaustive two days uncovering the rest.

Bournemouth Echo: Mickey RichardsonMickey Richardson (Image: BNPS)

The coins covered the reigns of King Edward VI in the 1550s, Queen Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I.

Some of the Elizabeth and James' coins had been defaced by being scratched, probably by a former Catholic owner in protest at their protestant views and the reformation of the Catholic Church.

Mr Richardson, 63, handed the coins over to his local Finds Liaison Officer as required by law under the Treasure Act (1996).

The British Museum spent some time examining them before they were disclaimed and returned to Mr Richardson as 'finders keepers'.

He watched live as the coins were sold at London auctioneers Spink & Son for £18,500. With fees added on the total price paid for them as £23,000.

Mr Richardson, a grandfather, must split the proceeds 50/50 with the landowner but he is planning a summer holiday for him and wife Rosalynd with his share.

He said: "I only took up the hobby a few months before and I had a very basic metal detector which I just used to take down to Bournemouth beach.

"But then I entered a raffle on a Facebook group for a metal detecting club and won the first prize which was a top of the range detector.

"A couple of months after that I got permission from the owner of land in Ansty where there used to be a small mudhouse village and where the fields were used to grow hops to brew beer in the Napoleonic Wars.

"I had been there a couple of times and found a copper coin but that was it.

"On the weekend I found the hoard I was just about to call it a day when I got a strong signal and found a Charles I shilling. Then I swept the area again and got another signal and then another signal and another.

"I just couldn't believe it. I dug up 74 silver coins on the first day and was shattered afterwards.

"I went back the next morning thinking it would be nice to round it up to 100 but found a total of 234 coins spread over a radius.

"They must have been struck by a plow and scattered across the field and I was the lucky one who found them almost 500 years later.

"It was a day I will never forget. I alerted the Finds Liaison Officer and the rest is history."

Mr Richardson said he was expecting the hoard to sell for £10,000 at auction so was delighted with the final result.

He watched the auction live online and was 'jumping up and down' as it played out.

He added: "It wasn't about the money but about the history and preserving the coins. The money is a bonus.

"I will probably now take a nice holiday in the summer with my wife."

Gregory Edmund, from Spink, said: "The vendor live-streamed the sale and he was jumping up and down at some of the prices achieved. He was very happy."

Spink coin specialist Ella Mackenzie added: "This ensemble encompasses the most unstable time in our nation’s history.

"These coins circulated in the pockets of a crucially formative period for England in so many ways: from constitutional, to religious, socio-economic and obviously political.

"Being able to handle this hoard has been a rare privilege."

Britain has a rich history of Civil War hoards, with almost 400 cases documented around the country.

However, the auctioneers said it is still rare for them to come up for public sale.