A mansion owner who removed and sold two 18th Century urns from the grounds of his listed home faces having to scour the globe to get them back.

The lead urns graced Marcus Dill's glorious seven-bedroom Cotswolds home, Idlicote House, in Shipston-on-Stour, before he sold them at auction in 2009.

The work of celebrated Flemish sculptor, John van Nost, he didn't realise until six years later that they and their limestone pedestals were also listed.

But Stratford-on-Avon District Council took a dim view and demanded that he get them back and restore them to the grounds of his home.

The council hit him with a planning enforcement notice last year and that has now been upheld by a High Court judge.

Mr Dill pointed out that the urns had been bought by an "anonymous buyer" and had probably been taken out of the UK.

Even if their owner could be tracked down, he could not be "compelled" to return them to Idlicote House.

But planners said that to grant retrospective consent for their removal would set "an extremely dangerous precedent".

It could "potentially endanger the preservation of innumerable other designated heritage assets," said a government planning inspector.

Mr Dill's QC, Richard Harwood, argued the urns and pedestals were not "buildings" and had been wrongly listed in 1986.

But his challenge was rejected by Mr Justice Singh, who upheld the council's tough decisions.

The enforcement notice - which could have penal sanctions if not complied with - requires Mr Dill to "restore" the urns and pedestals to Idlicote House.

Sketching in the history of the urns, the judge said they were made in about 1700 for the Duke of Kent's estate at Wrest Park, in Bedfordshire.

They later passed into Mr Dill's family - his great-great grandfather once owned Wrest Park - and his ancestors took them with them whenever they moved from one home to another.

His father brought them to Idlicote House in the early 1970s and they were placed in a prominent position on either side of a garden path.

Mr Dill did not know the urns and their pedestals were listed when he sold them for £55,000 and did not believe that his father was aware of that either.

English Heritage had been notified in advance of the sale, but "did not respond", said the judge.

After an anonymous purchaser acquired them, "it would seem that they were exported from the UK," he added.

It was not until 2014 that the council "became aware" that the urns and pedestals had been removed and "began correspondence with Mr Dill."

He made a retrospective bid for listed building consent to remove the urns and pedestals.

But the council refused and hit him with the enforcement notice in April last year.

It said the removal of the urns and pedestals "equated to demolition" and that "substantial harm had been caused".

A government planning inspector later rejected Mr Dill's appeals against both those decisions.

He pointed out that all sorts of structures - from telephone and post boxes to shipyard cranes - as well as "sculpture or statuary" are on the listed buildings register.

And the fact that most people would not view the urns and pedestals as "buildings" was "irrelevant."

Mr Dill pointed out that other "far more interesting" items at Idlicote House - including a statue of Diana and a Thomas Tompion sundial - had not been listed.

But the inspector noted that John van Nost had been responsible "for many other notable works in grand English country houses."

The urns and pedestals had "historic provenance" and there was no evidence that they were "not worthy of their listed status."

Dismissing Mr Dill's challenge to the inspector's ruling, Mr Justice Singh rejected arguments that the urns and pedestals were listed "by mistake".

The inspector had justifiably concluded that they were "buildings", or at least "erections or structures", that could be listed in their own right.