A RELIC from the Civil War has been unearthed in Middlewich purely by chance.
Photographer Cliff Astles thought he had found a cricket ball from his school days when he was taking pictures for a festival competition along the banks of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
But in fact the 70-year-old had found a cannonball which is believed to originate from 1643.
Cliff, of Falcon Close, believes he is the first person to touch the artefact in more than 350 years.
“I can’t believe it,” he said.
“The last time that was handled by someone was just before it was stuffed into a Royalist cannon.
“Cannonballs were unbelievably powerful. It changed the whole way that warfare was fought.
“One of them from 300 yards would take a leg or an arm off or go right through you. It would probably go through a dozen soldiers.”
The first Battle of Middlewich took place on March 13, 1643, when Parliamentarians led by Sir William Brereton fought the Royalist supporters of King Charles I, under Sir Thomas Aston.
A second battle took place on December 26, 1643, which claimed the lives of around 200 Parliamentarians.
Cliff thinks the cannon that fired the ball, which is almost 3in in diameter, would have been behind a barricade at the junction of Booth Lane and Sutton Lane.
The father-of-three added: “It was quite exciting to find such a historic item purely by luck and it was just sitting there waiting to be found.”
Cliff, who celebrates his 50th anniversary with his wife Barbara next year, actually found the cannonball in 2010.
But he was asked to keep the discovery under wraps while Middlewich Town Council’s heritage officer Kerry Fletcher had the item authenticated at Chester Museum.
Cliff told the Guardian that he has enjoyed showing the cannonball to his five grandchildren who live in the area and sending photos of it by email to granddaughters Ari, Sophia and Sam in America.
But he will soon have to hand it over as he has agreed it can be displayed for heritage exhibitions throughout Cheshire.
Cliff said: “It’s nice as there’s not much around from the Civil War in Middlewich anymore. Over the years it’s disappeared.”