MUSEUM visitors will be able to inspect a unique Anglo-Saxon sculpture that had been used as a tombstone on a cat’s grave.
A builder had the artefact in his garden at Dowlish Wake, near Ilminster, until it was realised how important it was.
It has now been bought for £150,000 by The Museum of Somerset, in Taunton , with the help of a £78,600 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and assistance from other groups.
The 45cm square limestone panel, which depicts St Peter, probably dates from about 1000AD.
The builder died over ten years ago, so no-one knows exactly where he found the item, although experts believe it was created for a religious building in South Somerset – possibly Muchelney Abbey, which is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul.
Steve Minnitt, head of museums for the South West Heritage Trust, said: “We were keen at the time to acquire it for the museum, but the price was beyond us.
“So when it recently came up for sale again we were determined to raise the money if we could.”
It will go on permanent display in the museum from Saturday.
Tom Mayberry, chief executive of the trust, said “We are delighted that this unique and beautiful sculpture has returned to the county.
“Working with Somerset County Council we want to make sure that objects as outstandingly important as this one can be preserved in Somerset for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.”
Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s head of South-West Nerys Watts said: “We were delighted to be able to help the Museum of Somerset acquire this unique object from the county’s past, ensuring that it can be understood and appreciated in the future by local people and visitors alike.”