A medieval limestone slab, which for years was used as a gravestone for a dead cat called Winkle, has fetched more than 200,000 pounds ($US383,200) at auction.

The stone has a carved image of St Peter on it and dates from the early 10th Century.

It had been found in a salvage yard by a British man who took it to his home in Somerset, south-west England, and put it at the bottom of his garden to mark the spot where Winkle had been buried.

It was only when the stone was spotted by local potter and historian Chris Brewchorne that its value became apparent.

"I was walking past the house one day and saw it in the front garden and knew immediately I was looking at something special," Brewchorne said.

"I knocked on the front door, spoke to the owners and told them, 'I think you've just won the lottery.'

"At first I thought it was Roman but I noticed the chap's head on the carving was tonsured, which suggested it was Saxon.

"I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe it as the finest mid-Saxon carving in the country."

The carving has since gone under the hammer at auctioneers Sothebys.

They had expected it to fetch between 40,000 and 60,000 pounds but a private collector bought it for 201,600 pounds ($US386,300).

The man who found it died last year before it could be sold.

However, the money will go to his widow, a former farmer, who has asked not to be named.


http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems...2/s1262800.htm