Having restored pianos for many years, I have come across a pretty diverse range of random objects when taking them apart, from a mummified mouse to old currency coins. For example, I recently found this charming complimentary ticket for a London Symphony Orchestra concert of February 5 th 1917 at Queen's Hall:
I find these things set off a train of questions: whose ticket was this? why did they have a 'comp'? were they a music critic? what was the music like? what was the audience like? It certainly stirs the imagination!
While it’s common to find paper clips, old buttons, scraps of paper and hair clips among thick layers of dust, one only ever dreams of finding stashed cash. So how incredible it must have been for some folk in Shropshire to take apart their old Broadwood upright recently and find an extraordinary hoard of gold coins hidden inside. It must have been completely mind-blowing!
The story has just broken in the press, but the actual find took place before Christmas. The owners of the piano were having it tuned and the tuner presumably took off the bottom panel to adjust the pedals and discovered the hidden hoard. They had recently been given the piano and so reported the find to Ludlow Museum Resource Centre who in turn got in touch with the British Museum.
Peter Reavill, from
the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme said he’d never seen anything
"The current owners did not know what to do but they came
to the museum and they laid it all out on the table…. I was like 'whoa', I'm an
archaeologist and I'm used to dealing with treasure but I'm more used to
medieval brooches.” He added: "It's a stunning assemblage of
The museum can’t say what type of coins they actually are because they are trying to track down the potential owners. All they are saying at this stage is that they are highly unusual, mostly made of gold, and ‘appear to have been deliberately hidden within the last 110 years’. An inquest has been opened at Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court to establish whether they can be classed as treasure and whether an heir to the cache can be tracked down. This suggests that they are over 300 years old. So far they’ve discovered that the piano was sold in 1906 to a music shop in Saffron Walden, Essex. I imagine this information was obtained from Alastair Laurence, the owner of the Broadwood archive. What happened to it between then and 1983, when it was bought by a family in the area who later moved to Shropshire, is anyone’s guess!
Were the coins stolen? Did the person who put them there die unexpectedly without telling anyone? The mystery continues….