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Saffron Walden Museum is currently raising funds to acquire part of a hoard of coins that was hidden in a piano from Saffron Walden.

Piano Hoard

The hoard of 913 gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns was discovered last year inside a Broadwood upright piano. The piano had been donated to a college in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, for use by the students. When the college employed a piano tuner to tune the piano, he uncovered the hoard of coins hidden inside.

The coins date from between 1847 and 1915. They had been divided into nine small pouches, which had been hand-made using cardboard and fabric and then mostly sewn shut. One package was left with a drawstring opening, perhaps to make it easy to access the coins inside. Some of the cardboard used for the pouches was taken from cereal boxes and the branding on these cereal boxes reveals that the coins were hidden sometime between 1926 and 1946. This coincides with the Great Depression, a time of severe economic depression across the world.

The piano has a plaque on it, which reads 'Beavan & Mothersole, 27 West Road, Saffron Walden'. Investigations revealed that Beavan and Mothersole were piano tuners and music professors in Saffron Walden. They ordered this piano from Broadwood in 1906, paying cash, and it was delivered to them in Saffron Walden via Great Eastern Railways on 6 November 1906.

What happened to the piano between 1906 and 1983 is unknown. The owners of the piano and its hidden contents remain a mystery. In 1983, the piano was bought by a Saffron Walden family for their children to learn to play. It remained with them until they donated it to the college last year.

The hoard is the largest known example of its type. It has been declared as Treasure, under the Treasure Act 1996, and has been made available to the British Museum and Saffron Walden Museum for acquisition.

Saffron Walden Museum is raising funds to acquire a representative sample of the coins, as well as the packaging and the piano. This collection of items will be displayed in the museum and used for education sessions with local schoolchildren. The museum needs to raise around £3,000 to bring the coins and the piano home to Saffron Walden and they are asking for local support.

Leah Mellors, Collections Officer at the museum, said: "The story of the piano hoard is an intriguing one, with more questions than answers, and I think that's why it has captured the public's imagination so much.

"We are very keen to bring the piano hoard home to Saffron Walden and to preserve it for the benefit of our local community. But we can't do that without the support of local people."

So far, thanks to the generosity of local individuals and the Saffron Walden Round Table, the museum has raised £900 but there is still a way to go before they reach their target. If you would like to support their campaign, you can send a donation to the museum (cheques made payable to 'Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd') or donate via the museum's crowdfunding page at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/saffronwaldenmuseum.