Stoke & Staffordshire

Auctioned Ming dynasty £2m cup dismissed as 'dusty old pot'

15th Century Chinese artefacts Image copyright Auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull
Image caption The collection was donated to Staffordshire University during World War Two

A rare Chinese cup from the Ming dynasty valued at £2m was dismissed as one of many "dusty old pots" kept in an unlocked university cabinet.

The cup, thought to have been made for an emperor in 1425, was among a collection of antiques discovered by chance at Staffordshire University.

The collection of more than 270 pieces was donated to the university during World War Two and then forgotten.

The cup will be auctioned in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Little is known about the collector of the rare Chinese artefacts other than his name was Ernest Thornhill and he was a chemist in London.

He donated his collection to protect it from being bombed during the war.

Image copyright Auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull
Image caption This cup thought to be made in 1425 is being auctioned in Hong Kong

Prof Flavia Swann said the antiques had been discovered in the 1970s after a chance conversation with the head of the Ceramic Technology Department.

It was after they said: "I've got some dusty old pots cluttering up my corridor, would you like to have a look?"

She said: "They were just in unlocked cabinets - sliding doors that when you slide them back they literally fell out to the floor.

"Nothing broke fortunately," she added.

The pots, including the cup, were put into storage at the university. The cup only emerged again last year, when it was revalued.

It is billed to fetch at least £2m at auction. The proceeds will be used to fund a new national ceramics centre based in Staffordshire.

The remaining collection is stored at a secret location in Wolverhampton.

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