‘I GAVE it a kick, and then I realised’ – those were the words of man who sparked a bomb alert in Winchester city centre after discovering the device.

Mike Hamilton was wading through the water unsuspectingly looking for anything that might be interest when he stumbled across the unexploded “World War One shell”.

Mr Hamilton, a proof reader from Chandler’s Ford, said: “I was combing the river bed when I found something that looked like an oversized bottle about two-feet long.

“I gave it a kick, and then I saw the crimping on it and realised it was a World War One shell.

“We then ran and called the police.”

He added: “There’s not usually much in this stretch of river. We weren’t expecting it at all.”

The incident, which took place at around 1.30pm in the River Itchen in the Durngate area of the city, sparked a number of road closures lasting into the evening rush hour.

Police initially closed part of Water Lane, Blue Ball Hill and Wales Street, before extending the cordon further down Water Lane – which runs alongside the river – and evacuating residents from their homes.

Shortly before the evening rush hour, officers also closed the B3330 City Road, B3330 Eastgate Street at King Alfred statue, and Easton Lane at Winnall Manor Road.

As a result Winchester City Council issued a tweet urging drivers to avoid the city centre.

Despite the closures, traffic appeared to be flowing well through the city during the rush hour, and the Theatre Royal events would still be going ahead as normal.

South Central Ambulance crews and Hampshire firefighters also attended the scene as a precaution.

It is not thought anyone was hurt in the incident.

Reporting by Michael Seymour and Gareth Newnham.