Open Sesame! or What was in the Old Iron Chest?
“The iron chest? Oh, that’s seized shut - has been for as long as I’ve been here”. I knew as soon as I spoke that it was a mistake. My husband is not the sort to ignore a challenge.
As he casually said, “I’ll just have a look, shall I?”, I knew we might be in the Museum for some time.
We were looking at the large iron chest in the local history gallery. Sometimes referred to as an ‘Armada’ chest, it is said to date back to the 17th century and to have been used for taking sailors’ pay down to Portsmouth from London. I knew from old photographs that it had been displayed with the lid open when the Museum was in the Pepperpot and that it had a beautiful intricate locking mechanism. It never occurred to me that it might have anything inside it.
The Thackeray Turner Bowl!
Three hours later the cunningly bent coat hanger that Giles had fashioned with disturbing acuity slid back the final recalcitrant bar and he lifted the lid. After a few minutes silence I found myself murmuring over and over again, “It’s the Thackeray Turner bowl! It’s the Thackeray Turner bowl!” There, carefully packed in old display panels and a cushion, was indeed the Thackeray Turner bowl, its colours glowing from the intricate designs painted by the Arts and Crafts artist and architect in 1910. He presented it to the Museum in the 1920s or 30s. It was listed as missing in Museum Newsletter No. 42 (Autumn/ Winter 2001). For more about Hugh Thackeray Turner click here.
Alison Pattison, Curator of Godalming Museum,
holds the Thackery Turner Bowl to the light
Victorian, Roman and Egyptian Finds
Also in the chest and listed as missing in the same Newsletter were seven other items, including the Victorian hand-made apron and the two rings. There were seven archaeological specimens which had been listed as missing in Newsletter No. 43 (Spring/Summer 2002), including the Roman nail and the pot sherds from Thorncombe Street and the earthenware bowl found in the River Wey.
There were another seven items which had been listed as missing in Newsletter No. 44 (Autumn/Winter 2003), comprising the Egyptian jug and lamp, the display of Roman nails and glass and four Romano-British pot sherds.
There was also a photograph and geological specimens which I had not yet covered in my appeals for lost items in Desiderata.
I can only suppose that these objects were packed in the chest in order to be moved across from the Pepperpot, and then forgotten about. It was tremendously exciting to find them again after 16 years and to be able to put them back in their proper places in the collections so that they can be once again drawn upon for exhibition in the galleries and used for research.