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A cache of gold items has been discovered in an upright piano in Shropshire after its new owners tried to have the instrument tuned. According to a statement from the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, the finds – which were quickly reported by the piano’s new owners – are “highly unusual in nature being substantially made of gold and appear to have been deliberately hidden within the last 110 years.”
The artefacts are understood to be coins believed to date from before 1900. Peter Reavill, a Finds Liaison Officer with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, told reporters: “We can’t say what it is exactly because we are trying to track down the potential true owners. The current owners did not know what to do but they came to the museum and they laid it all out on the table.”
According to Reavill, the recent history of the piano – a Broadwood & Sons of London, sold to a music establishment in 1906 – has been traced to around 1983, when it was purchased by a family in the Saffron Walden area. The piano’s history between 1906 and 1983 is yet to be established, however it was sold as part of a house clearance following the death of its former owner.
The piano’s most recent owners contacted the British Museum upon discovering the hoard when they tried to have the instrument tuned. “The current owners laid this stuff out and I was like ‘whoa’, I’m an archaeologist and I’m used to dealing with treasure but I’m more used to medieval broaches,” said Reavill.
An inquest has been opened to establish the providence of the hoard and determine whether it qualifies as treasure under the Treasure Act (1996). If the hoard is deemed to be Treasure, it belongs to the Crown. According to the statement from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, for a hoard less than 300 years old to be classified as Treasure, it must be substantially made of gold or silver, deliberately concealed by the owner with a view to later recovery and the owner, or his or her present heirs.
Full information about the size, nature and value of the cache will be revealed at the subsequent inquest in March and has been deliberately withheld to allow the coroner to make all necessary enquiries. “I have never seen anything like that,” said Reavill. “It’s a stunning assemblage of material.”