A three-thousand-year-old piece of Bronze Age gold discovered in north Cumbria has been declared as treasure.

The rare artefact was found by Graham Ingledow near the site of an ancient Roman fort in Wigton. He understands it to be one of only a few found in the north of England.

"I think it's the only one found in Cumbria," said the 39-year-old. "I didn't know what it was at first. I was pleasantly surprised.

Buried about six inches into the ground, the Penannular Ring was found to contain 80 to 82 per cent gold.

Dr Nicholas Shaw, assistant coroner for Cumbria, who held a treasure inquest at Cumbria House on Monday (Oct 1) , said the ring was in "good condition".

The British Museum said the ancient find, which weighs 14g, was deemed treasure under the Treasure Act 1996.

It dates back to between 1150BC and 800BC and also contains between 14-15 per cent silver and about four per cent copper.

"It does tie in with similar finds in England and Ireland confirming its age," said Dr Shaw. "It's treasure."

Graham, manager at Howden's Joinery, thinks the ring could have been worn in a woman's hair, while others believe Penannular rings were the first form of currency. The ornaments' exact function is unknown.

Fellow enthusiast Shaun Monico (corr) , of Kirkoswald, said: "You just want to hold it and look at it. The weight of it is incredible. It's so small but then you put it in your hand. It's so solid and heavy.

"Most are gold-plated but this one is solid."

The pair also uncovered a haul of 56 Roman bronze coins at Tebay, which date back to about 380AD. They are with the British Museum which will determine their value and deem whether or not they are classed as treasure.

The act defines found objects as treasure that are not a single coin, which contains at least 10 per cent gold or silver and are at least 300-years-old.

The friends, who have only been metal detecting for a couple of years, are pleased with their finds to date.

"Some people detect for 40 years and they will never find treasure or a haul," said Graham.

Farmer and landowner Robert Graham, who granted access, said the fort was one of the staging forts of Hadrian's Wall where legionaries would gather before they went off into battle.

His family have lived on the farm for about 80 years.

"It's just interesting to know that these sorts of things are under the soil. There will be an awful lot more still to find," he said.

Tullie House, which it is hoped will be able to exhibit the ring, is also in possession of a Roman alter found at the beck below the farm during World War One.