About 3 years ago the men replacing my garden fence handed me a bundle of something wrapped very carefully in hessian which they found beneath a fence post they had just dug out. It contained 12 silver spoons and a pair of sugar tongs. The outside layer of the hessian was slightly rotted but the spoons were hardly tarnished. Thank goodness for sandy, free-draining soil
How did they get there? Were they a burglar’s haul? Well, I like a mystery and started asking around locally. This is an area where people hardly ever leave by choice (if you get my meaning) and there were a few people still alive who helped to piece the story together.
The house was once owned by a man who was “somebody” in the Port of London Authority and during World War 2 he pulled some strings with the Woolwich Garrison (near to his HQ) and obtained the help of a German prisoner of war to tend his garden. He and the PoW became good friends and the German gave him a cigarette box which he had beautifully and painstakingly hand-crafted with a penknife from bits and pieces of wood in the garden. Enter the nephew of the house owner. He had the box and was kind enough to give it to me. He remembered his uncle saying he was concerned about his friend as it was coming to the end of the war and he wanted to give him something that he could sell to make sure he had some money to get home. He gave him some silver spoons.
Next step - identify the spoons’ rightful owner. Fortunately, I was able to pull a few strings myself and, although it took some time and I annoyed quite a few officials and “job’s worths” along the way, about a month ago I was able to write to his grandson in Bavaria. We have emailed and spoken a few times and he remembers his grandpa often talking about his English friend. He was able to describe the house and garden which have hardly changed since then and, yes, grandpa did hide some spoons he was given in the garden as he did not want to take them into the camp, for obvious reasons. In the end his re-patriation happened so unexpectedly and quickly he did not have time to retrieve them.
Sadly his grandpa died about 10 years ago and his grandma died on the day the spoons were found - that gave me a few shivers!!! Anyhow, here are the spoons which are now on their way to their proper home in Bavaria safely (newly) hessian-wrapped inside the box.
Six matching spoons and a pair of sugar tongs from the Sheffield branch of William Hutton and Sons, five matching ones from William Willey and Co and a souvenir of Newton Abbot that sneaked in there, somehow, to make up numbers (?), same marks but from Deakin and Francis Ltd.
I love a happy ending.