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Church of England blocks sale of Flemish helmet to American collector

The armet once hung above the tomb of Sir Thomas Hooke

The Church of England has stepped in to prevent a parish from selling a Flemish helmet (or armet), dating to around 1500, to an American collector. It had once hung above the tomb of Sir Thomas Hooke, who was buried in 1677 in the church of Wootton St Lawrence, in Hampshire. The church had received “faculty” permission to sell the helmet, which was then auctioned at Thomas Del Mar in 2010, going for £45,000 to a US buyer.

The Winchester diocese’s consistory court cleared the sale last August, but an appeal was then lodged in the highest Anglican court, the Court of the Arches, in Canterbury. On 15 April it ruled against the sale.

The helmet has been on loan to the Royal Armouries since 1974, after other items from the tomb had been stolen. This loan is expected to resume and the armouries will probably provide a fibreglass replica for the Wootton church.

The council’s chairwoman, Anne Sloman, says she is “delighted that the court has reaffirmed the principle that treasures from churches, including those on loan to museums, should only be sold in exceptional circumstances”.

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