16/03/2017 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Inquest into potential treasure discovered in a piano in Shropshire

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News from Shropshire’s finds liaison officer

An inquest was resumed today by HM Senior Coroner, Mr John Ellery at Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court, in relation to a substantial find of potential Treasure recently discovered within a piano in southwest Shropshire. The inquest was originally opened on 12 January 2017 and adjourned awaiting further investigation.

The find was swiftly reported by the current owners of the piano and was deposited at Ludlow Museum Resource Centre / Shropshire Museums before Christmas. The coroner commends all parties who have to date provided him with valuable information and co-operation in this case.

The hoard is less than 300 years old and to qualify as Treasure under the terms defined by the Treasure Act (1996) it must be:

  1. Substantially made of gold or silver;
  2. Deliberately concealed by the owner with a view to later recovery;
  3. The owner, or his or her present heirs or successors, must be unknown.

On 12 January Mr. Ellery asked the public for information regarding the hoard’s original owners and their heirs or successors. He is very grateful to the media for the publicity they gave the story and for all the members of the public who have come forward with  information or with potential claims.

Today, Mr Ellery heard about the nature of the find. The hoard is formed of gold sovereigns and half sovereigns dating from the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII and George V. The oldest coin within the group was made in 1847 and the youngest in 1915. This suggests that the coins were deliberately hidden after this date.

He also heard that the history of the piano had been securely traced after 1983. He is still seeking information about the ownership of the piano between 1906 and 1983. We know that the piano was originally sold to Messrs Beavan and Mothersole of Saffron Walden, Essex in 1906 and was acquired through private sale again in Saffron Walden in 1983.

The coroner has therefore deferred the conclusion of the inquest to allow for more time for anyone to come forward with information about the piano from the North Essex / Saffron Walden area.

The inquest will resume and conclude on 20 April 2017.

Anyone with information about the previous owners of the piano, their heirs or successors, or the extent of the hoard, should provide this in writing to Mr. Ellery at the Coroner’s Office for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin at the Shirehall, Abbey Foregate Shrewsbury SY2 6ND.

The coroner will require evidence about:

  • the extent of the find (i.e. what it comprises);
  • how, when, where and why the find was concealed;
  • evidence upon which they can be sure of the ownership by any potential claimant.

All other enquiries regarding the case should be made in the first instance to Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme. c/o Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, 7-9 Parkway, Ludlow Shropshire SY8 2PG Tel: 01743 25 4748 Email: peter.reavill@shrophire.gov.uk

There is no penalty for mistaken claims made in good faith but any false claims may be reported to the police for consideration of any offences disclosed

Notes for editors

Press enquiries in the first instance should be made to Hannah Boulton – Head of Press and Marketing, Communications. The British Museum  (UK +44) 020 7323 8522 hboulton@britishmuseum.org

The coins were deliberately hidden within an upright piano made by Broadwood & Sons of London and sold to a music establishment in Essex in 1906. The enterprise which purchased the piano has been traced to two gentleman music teachers / piano tuners Messrs. Beavan & Mothersole of 27, West Road, Saffron Walden Essex

The recent history of the piano has been traced to around 1983 where it was purchased by a local family in Saffron Walden area.

The cache of gold items were reported to Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme based with Shropshire Museums. The objects will qualify as ‘Treasure’ under the terms of the Treasure Act (1996) and thus be the property of the Crown, if the coroner finds that they have been hidden with the intent of future recovery. However, if the original owner, or his or her heirs, are able to establish their title to the find, this will override the Crown’s claim. The coroner has therefore suspended the inquest until mid-April 2017 in order to allow possible claimants to come forward.

Full information about the size, nature and historic value of the cache will be revealed at the subsequent inquest in April and has been deliberately withheld to allow the coroner to make all necessary enquiries.

Further general information

The Treasure Act 1996

Under the Treasure Act (finds. org.uk/treasure) finders have a legal obligation to report all finds of potential Treasure to the local coroner in the district in which the find was made. The success of the Act is only possible through the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, advising finders of their legal obligations, providing advice on the process and writing reports for coroners on Treasure finds.

The Act allows a national or local museum to acquire Treasure finds for public benefit. If this happens a reward is paid, which is (normally) shared equally between the finder and landowner. Interested parties may wish to waive their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire finds at reduced or no cost. Rewards are fixed at the full market value of the finds, determined by the Secretary of State upon the advice of an independent panel of experts, known as the Treasure Valuation Committee.

The administration of the Treasure process is undertaken at the British Museum. This work involves the preparation of Treasure cases for coroners’ inquests, providing the secretariat for the Treasure Valuation Committee, and handling disclaimed cases and the payment of rewards.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme

Thousands of archaeological objects are discovered every year, many by members of the public, particularly by people while metal-detecting. If recorded, these finds have great potential to transform archaeological knowledge, helping archaeologists understand when, where and how people lived in the past.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (www.finds.org.uk) offers the only proactive mechanism for recording such finds, which are made publicly available on its online database. This data is an important educational and research resource that can be used by anyone interested in learning more.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is managed by the British Museum, and funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through a grant, the British Museum and local partners. Its work is guided by the Portable Antiquities Advisory Group, whose membership includes leading archaeological, landowner and metal-detecting organisations.

Contacts

Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme / Birmingham Museums Trust.
01743 25 4748 peter.reavill@shrophire.gov.uk

Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar, British Museum,
tel.: 020 7323 8546, e-mail: irichardson@thebritishmuseum.org

Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, British Museum,
tel: 020 7323 8611; e-mail: mlewis@thebritishmuseum.org

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