Anything but black and white: coroner rules on ownership of treasure found in piano
The highly-contested ownership of a treasure hoard, valued at a quarter of a million pounds, has been decided by a Coroner in Shropshire.
The hoard of 913 gold coins dating back to the 19th century – the biggest ever found in Britain – was discovered by piano tuner, Martin Backhouse during a routine inspection of a piano belonging to Bishop’s Castle Community College in Shropshire.
Despite a four month inquest, national press coverage, an investigation by specialists from the British museum and 50 potential claimants coming forward, the origins of the hoard could not be confirmed and it was designated as treasure by coroner, John Ellery.
The designation means that the hoard is subject to the provisions of the Treasure Act 1996, meaning that it is divided between the owner of the property, the finder and the Crown, which receives the majority of the proceeds.
As a result, Graham and Meg Hemmings, the couple who owned the piano before donating it to the college will receive nothing from the haul, despite it having been in their home for 32 years until 2016.
However, Mr Hemmings told The Telegraph: “I don’t regret not finding the coins. I think that’s moved on. We’ve got to celebrate that it’s going to be used for a good cause, and that’s how we view it – positively.”
Mr Backhouse told the paper that he would use his share of the proceeds to retire early because he suffers from tinnitus and the remaining funds will go to his children.
The hoard will now be offered to the British Museum and other institutions.