Rare gold coins found hidden in piano set to go on display at town museum

PUBLISHED: 09:16 30 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:16 30 November 2018

The piano which had the coins hidden inside will be on display at Saffron Walden Museum from this weekend. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The piano which had the coins hidden inside will be on display at Saffron Walden Museum from this weekend. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Archant

A piano which had 913 gold sovereign and half-sovereign coins hidden inside has returned home to Saffron Walden.

The hoard was discovered in Shropshire last year and Saffron Walden Museum moved to acquire the piano and a representative sample of 12 of the gold coins, made possible as a result of a crowd-funding campaign and donations from individuals and organisations.

The crowd-funding campaign raised more than £750.

The piano was originally supplied by Beaven and Mothersole Piano Tuners, which was based in West Road, Saffron Walden.

In 1983, the piano was bought by the Hemmings family, residents of Saffron Walden. They owned the instrument for 33 years before moving to Shropshire and gifting it to their local college, The Community College, Bishop’s Castle, unaware of what was hidden inside.

It was only when the piano was professionally tuned that the coins were finally discovered, nestled between the keys and the keyboard.

Research has shown that the coins found date to between 1847 and 1915 –originating from the reigns of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.

It is likely they were concealed within the piano by a Saffron Walden resident. Some of the cardboard packaging in the pouches, which encased the coins, were taken from Shredded Wheat cereal boxes. The style of the packaging suggests that the coins were concealed around the time of the Great Depression, when there was great economic hardship across the world.

When the coins were discovered, they were declared treasure under the Treasure Act 1996 as they were gold coins which were deliberately hidden and no rightful heirs could be traced. At the time of its discovery, the hoard of gold coins was the largest of its type.

The display will be formally launched at the museum on Friday when Saffron Walden pianist Gail Ford will play the piano in which the coins were found for invited guests who assisted with the acquisition.

On Saturday and Sunday, competent pianists are invited to play a suitable short piece on the same piano in return for a small donation to Saffron Walden Museum, a registered charity.

All funds will go to the future conservation of the museum’s collections and enable the purchase of new treasure acquisitions to go on display.

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