AN historic Scottish stone which dates back to the 18th Century and has links to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion has been uncovered in a Hartlepool garden.
The Glenfinnan Stone, an iconic Scottish relic that dates back to 1745, was discovered in a rockery in Marine Crescent, on the Headland, after disappearing 20 years ago.
Hartlepool grandmother Connie Lofthouse was given the rock as a present while living in Scotland and it took pride-of-place in her family's gardens.
The boulder, which measures more than 12-inches in diameter, was used by Bonnie Prince Charlie to mark the start of his uprising on August 19, 1745, that ended in the bloody battle of Culloden, near Inverness.
The legend of Bonnie Prince Charlie
A hole in the weather-worn rock's centre is said have been hewn out to support a staff around 16ft-high on which Prince Charlie unfurled his white standard at Glenfinnan.
The mum-of-five was amazed to discover the truth behind what she thought was a decorative stone when she saw the story of how it went missing while watching the BBC Countryfile TV programme.
The retired schoolteacher said: "We didn't know what it was or what it meant to Scotland. I honestly thought it was just a stone.
"I just couldn't believe it when I saw it on the TV. I knew straight away it was my stone, but none of my family believed me at first.
"It's incredible to think this big part of history has been sat in a garden all this time."
After 1745 the rock remained in a knoll near the famous Glenfinnan Monument on the shores of Loch Shiel until it strangely disappeared in 1989.
Mrs Lofthouse, 79, was given the stone as a gift not long after it vanished when she retired with her husband to Kentallen, near Apin, Scotland in 1990.
The couple put it in their garden and when they came back to England two years ago, they passed it on to their son in Hartlepool for safe keeping while they moved on to live in Thirsk.
Last Easter the Lofthouses were on holiday in Scotland when they saw the Countryfile programme.
Within days Mrs Lofthouse sent a letter to the BBC and the exchanges that followed resulted in her returning the stone home.
Iain Thornber, Scottish historian and fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and Scotland, appeared on the Countryfile episode presented by Ben Fogle.
He also collected the stone and put it in a Scottish museum last Tuesday. But he has since taken it back to its original place in Glenfinnan for a photo-shoot.
He said: "This stone is contextually as significant as the Stone of Destiny in Edinburgh Castle that the Scottish fought so hard to get back from England.
"Simply put, if the standard had not been unfurled there would have been no march south to Derby and everything that followed. This changed the course of British, European and world history."
The stone is now in the West Highland Museum, in Fort William, which houses Jacobite memorabilia including locks of Bonnie Prince Charlie's hair.
The site of the stone was uncovered in 1988 after a moorland fire.
Incised in the rock that the stone was taken from were the Latin words which translate as: "1745. In the name of the Lord the standards of Charles Edward Stuart, triumphaning at last, were set up."