Piano Hoard declared Treasure

Published: 3 years ago Author:

An inquest was resumed today by H.M. Senior Coroner, Mr. John Ellery at Shrewsbury Coroner's Court, in relation to a substantial find of potential Treasure discovered within a piano in South West Shropshire. The inquest was originally opened on 12/1/17 and was adjourned on 16/3/17 pending a final decision on 20th April 2017.

The coroner has decided that the coin hoard qualifies as Treasure as:

1.It is substantially made of gold or silver;

2.It was deliberately concealed by the owner with a view to later recovery;

3.The owner, or his or her present heirs or successors, remain unknown.

The coroner had adjourned the inquest twice in order to allow the public to come forward with information regarding the hoards 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 potential claims (around 50 in total)

However after thorough investigation of the claims the coroner is convinced there is sufficient evidence to declare the find Treasure.

The Hoard

The hoard is the largest gold sovereign hoard ever found, consisting of 913 gold sovereigns and half sovereigns dating from 1847 to 1915. The coins date from the reigns of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. The hoard totals in excess of 6kg of gold bullion. The coins were found under the keyboard of the piano carefully stitched into seven cloth bound packets and a single leather drawstring purse. 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.

The Piano

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 history of the piano after that time is uncertain. But in 1983 it was purchased by a local family in Saffron Walden area - the new owners, Mr and Mrs Hemming bought the piano for their children to learn to play and it has been in their family until very recently. The Hemmings moved to Shropshire in the late 90's and recently they responded to a request from Bishops Castle Community College for a donation of musical instruments. They donated the piano to the school to enable children to learn and enjoy making music.

The Find

The hoard was discovered beneath the keyboard of a piano whilst it was being overhauled and tuned by piano technician and tuner Martin Backhouse. A number of the packages were opened by the tuner who informed the College. On realising the significance of the find the college contacted the coroner's service and were instructed to call Peter Reavill the British Museum's Finds Liaison Officer for the region. The hoard was brought to Peter in its original packaging for analysis.

Peter and staff from the Portable Antiquities Scheme have identified and catalogued the extensive hoard. Within their investigation they found that one of the packages of coins had been packed using re cycled cardboard. The cardboard is from an advertising board for Shredded Wheat and helps date the packaging and hiding of the coins within the piano to a period post 1926 - most probably between 1926-1946.

What happens next?

The coroner has declared the find 'Treasure'. Ownership of the find now lies with the Crown. An independent Treasure Valuation Committee will be convened at the British Museum and a market value placed on the hoard. Museums then have an opportunity to acquire some or all of the find. Saffron Walden Museum have expressed an interest in acquiring some of the hoard given the local context.

The finder (Martin Backhouse) and the owner (Bishops Castle Community College) will share a reward if any of the coins are acquired by museums.

For images or B-roll footage please contact Hannah Boulton 020 7323 8522 or hboulton@britishmuseum.org.

To speak to those involved in the case please contact Nicola Elvin on 07756 436846 or nelvin@britishmuseum.org

The story of the piano hoard can be seen at:


Contact: Michael Lewis 02073238611

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