Coroner declares gold sovereigns found in piano to be treasure

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A hoard of gold sovereigns found hidden in an old piano has been declared treasure by a West Midlands coroner.

The coins, discovered shortly before Christmas when the piano underwent repairs, are thought to be the largest hoard of their kind ever discovered in Britain.

At the conclusion of an inquest held at Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court, coroner John Ellery deemed the coins should be classed as treasure as the original owner of the coins could not be traced and the sovereigns appeared to have been deliberately hidden.

As such, ownership of the coins rests with the Crown. The hoard will now be sold, probably to a museum.

The value of the discovery is indeterminate but estimates are it could be around £350,000.

Mr Ellery has deemed that piano tuner Martin Backhouse, who discovered the coins when the piano was sent in for repair, and Bishops Castle Community College, which is the owner of the piano, will share in a reward.

The hoard comprises 913 gold sovereigns and half sovereigns dating from 1847 to 1915. The coins cover the reigns of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V.

Mr Backhouse discovered the coins in seven hand-stitched bags and a leather purse secreted under the instrument’s keyboard.

The hoard constitutes 13 lbs of gold bullion.

Its value market value will be decided by an independent Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum.

Fifty people tried to claim the hoard but none could supply enough proof to satisfy the coroner that their claims were genuine.

Inquiries revealed that the piano was made by Broadwood & Sons of London and sold to a music establishment in Essex in 1906. The business which purchased the piano was traced to a shop or wholesaler of music / musical instruments owned by Messrs. Beavan & Mothersole of 27, West Road, Saffron Walden.

The recent history of the piano has been traced to around 1983 where it was purchased by a local family in the Saffron Walden area until aquired by the college.

The display of honesty in declaring the find, earned Mr Backhouse and the college the coroner’s praise.