The rare weapon was

discovered on the site of the battle, in which William Wallace’s Scots army was defeated by the English king Edward I.

The steel “bearded” axe is thought to have belonged to a Scots foot soldier who may have used it the previous year to help win the Battle of Stirling Bridge before dying on the battlefield at Falkirk.

His axe was found centuries later and hung on the wall of a noble’s mansion until it found its way to Lanes Armoury in Brighton, East Sussex.

Mark Hawkins, of the Lanes Armoury, said yesterday: “This was a pretty gruesome thing, designed expressly for combat, to chunk in to people.

“And it was a very effective weapon – a man who knew how to wield a battle axe was a very dangerous opponent.

“An axe like this has an awful lot of metal, so it could be lost on the battlefield and lie buried for hundreds of years relatively intact – unlike a sword which will rot away.”

Medieval bearded axes – so called because of their beard-like appearance – like those used at the Battle of Falkirk, and later also at Bannockburn in 1314, were influenced by the Vikings.

They were a standard weapon for foot soldiers on both sides. Mr Hawkins, a leading expert in antique arms and armour, said: “This was the weapon of a foot soldier – its haft is too long to wield from a horse.

“It was his prized possession, and simply too valuable to discard so it is likely its owner was killed.

“The only alternative is that a small crack visible on the socket occurred on the battlefield and rendered it un-useable.

“When it was found many years later it would not have been of much use, but it was a fabulous looking thing.”

The battle axe is available from Lanes Armoury for £1195.

The Battle of Falkirk, on July 22, 1298, was a disaster for Scotland, with more than 2000 Scots killed.