An historic stone fireplace, believed to date back 200 years, has been unearthed on an allotment in Reddish.
The intricately carved piece of masonry was discovered by Whitehill allotment holder Ruth McKenna, who was digging her plot when she came across the 4ft long, three inch thick mantel.
Ruth called to fellow gardener Mike Kiernan, a keen local historian, and the pair turned over the block to find a coat of arms and a thistle, rose and shamrock carved into the sandstone.
"I knew right away that it had come from the old mansion house, Whitehill, which gave its name to the allotment, the school, the fire station and also the industrial estate," said Mike, author of Reddish Newtown. "I knew about the old house because it's got quite a history stretching back to the early part of the 19th century when it was built."
Further research by Mike revealed the house was owned by the Sykes family, which was a supporter of the union between England, Ireland and Scotland, and may have wanted to show their colours by having symbols of the union carved into the stonework surrounding their fire.
"The stone carving is exquisitely done, but with some intriguing flaws," said Mike, who with Ruth loaded the masonry into a wheelbarrow and carried it to his shed. "I discovered the coat of arms was the Royal coat of arms, with the order of the garter on a scroll around a central shield, with the words Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
"On closer inspection, though, you can see that some of the letters have been rendered in reverse. There are actually three parts to it - a lintel and two side panels, which I originally thought came from a door. The thistle, rose and shamrock are, of course, symbols of the union between England, Ireland and Scotland."
The stonework, which Mike has painstakingly cleaned, has been handed over to Woodbank Hall curator Frank Galvin and collections assistant Weibke Weiye, who travelled to the allotments to collect the find.
It is being considered for display in the new local history museum to be opened next to Staircase House next year.