A BANK with a vault said to have been used to store vital documents, banknotes and even the Crown Jewels during the Second World War has sold for more than £200,000 to a Hampshire buyer.

The former NatWest bank on Fore Street in Chard, Somerset, boasts a vault bigger than the three storeys of the building - measuring 4,000sq ft.

It is said to have stored vital documents, the Bank of England's reserve supply of banknotes and the Crown Jewels during the war.

According to local knowledge, the bomb-proof vault was built just before the outbreak of war and the valuables were spirited away to protect them from German bombers and any invasion force.

It had a freehold guide price of between £150,000 and £200,000, and sold for £211,000 on Thursday to a buyer from Hampshire.

The new owner said they have straightforward plans for the branch building but do not know what to do with the vault, according to auctioneer Graham Barton.

Mr Barton, from land and property auctioneers Clive Emson, said: "This property has attracted an incredible amount of interest with the huge and deep underground vaults showing how in the past we dealt with a threat from the Continent to our economy and things we hold dear. Somewhat ironic right now, when you think about it.

"There was a buzz of excitement on the sales floor as the bank came to auction, with a number of keen buyers around the room.

"As well as its fascinating history, the building itself drew strong interest by virtue of its prime town centre location and potential for residential redevelopment, subject to the necessary consents.

"It really was the jewel in the crown as the final lot to sell."