A Darlington metal detectorist has found an example of one of the UK's earliest football whistles.

Mark McMullan, 50, went for another search to de-stress and get some fresh air when he stumbled across a very rare find - one of the oldest UK football whistles.

At first, he thought it was just a little copper tube with a mysterious inscription on it: 'The Metropolitan Patent, J Hudson & Co, 13 Barr Street Birmingham GPO'.W

When Mark got home he did a little bit of research before discovering that what he had found was in fact one of the UK's earliest football whistles - at least 120 years old.

He said: "This weekend's history hunt to de-stress and enjoy the fresh air took me to another nondescript field on the outskirts of Darlington, County Durham.

The Northern Echo: Mark's full haul

"Amongst the finds, was an intriguing 'little copper tube' marked 'The Metropolitan Patent, J Hudson & Co, 13 Barr Street Birmingham GPO'.

"After further research, it turns out that this is a historical item indeed (at least to those who like researching the History behind their metal detecting hobby finds).

"More specifically, this mystery item is one of the UKs earliest whistles (or at least three-quarters of one as its missing the bottom part).

The Northern Echo: J Hudson & Co whistle

"J Hudson & Co stamped various addresses and other marks on many of their early whistles and subtly changed the design over the years making the dating of this at least 120 years old.

"For more than 150 years the piercing sound of the whistle has singled both triumph and disaster to millions around the world.

"It was heard at the culmination of England's greatest football triumph in 1966. It also rang out across the shattered wasteland of no man's land as tens of thousands walked to their deaths.

"It also played its part in one of our worst maritime disasters, signalled the assembly of passengers to the lifeboats when the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912."

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The whistle originated from the 1860s when two brothers in Birmingham started their own business tinkering in their tool-shed to make gadgets.

Joseph and James Hudson are credited with introducing the first whistle ever used in a match by a football referee in 1868.

Mark added: "Could it again signal England's greatest football triumph since 1966? I hope so."