An historic bell stolen from a church in the Waikato town of Otorohanga has been found in an Auckland scrap metal yard.

The 300-year-old bronze bell, fitted to the Royal Navy ship HMS Pembroke when it was built in 1694, was stolen from St Bride's Anglican church this week.

A Hamilton scrap metal yard bought it for $435 and sent it to Auckland for recycling but police said a bell enthusiast put it to one side and police were called.

Police were following a strong line of inquiry.

Sergeant Andy Connors said the bell would be returned to the church once police had finished their forensic examination of it.

- NZPA