FOR years he looked down on Broad Street as one of Oxford’s most recognisable landmarks.

Now one of the emperors that stood outside the Sheldonian Theatre has been given a new home in the grounds of an historic home in Horspath.

The three-tonne stone bust was bought at auction by Mensun Bound, the celebrated Oxford marine archaeologist, best known for acquiring his treasures from sunken ships on the seabed.

But the man whose shipwreck discoveries have made headlines around the world, could not pass up the chance of grabbing a piece of Oxford history when it was being sold at auction at Mallam’s in Abingdon.

The emperor will be officially unveiled on Saturday in the courtyard of Horspath Manor, where Mr Bound has lived for 13 years.

It was lowered on to a pedestal on Tuesday, in rather less than imperial style, on a local farmer’s forklift truck.

Mr Bound bought the bust for £3,000.

He said: “They are known as the emperors, but I have seen them referred to as philosophers and even the apostles. I thought it would be good for the bust to remain near Oxford.

“I am, of course, interested in busts and archaeology and the courtyard here is an ideal place to put it. The Worcester College choir will be here singing at the unveiling, which will hopefully raise money for the village church.”

The unveiling will be carried out by the poet and dramatist Francis Warner, of St Peter’s College.

Mr Bound said he was hoping eventually to discover which of the emperors he had acquired.

At the Mallam’s sale it was described as “an English limestone sculptured herm bust of a philosopher circa 1860, 56” high 26” deep”.

But Mr Bound has been told it is more likely to be one of the original heads put in place in the late 1660s when Christopher Wren commissioned William Byrd, an Oxford stonemason, to carve the heads to stand in front of the Broad Street facade.

No one even today is sure what they are meant to represent but they became universally known as the emperors.

One was later removed to make way for the Clarendon Building.

The heads make appearances in major works of literature including John Betjeman’s poetry and Max Beerbohm’s novel Zuleika Dobson, where they are referred to as the “Faceless Caesars”.

The original heads lasted two centuries and were replaced in 1868 when they began crumbling.

But the Victorian replacements did not last very long. Undergraduates daubed them in paint and harsh cleaning caused them to wear badly.

The present heads are the third set of busts.

They were carved between 1970 and 1972 by the sculptor Michael Black, with two assistants, copying the originals by referring to a famous engraving.

Mr Bound’s discoveries have been featured in television documentaries.

He came to prominence with the discovery of a Greek trader dating from 600BC.

Since then he has brought up an eagle insignia and guns from the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, raised a cannon from Nelson’s first ship of the line and spent years on the wreck of an Elizabethan ship that went down in 1592 off the Channel Islands.