Who stashed gold inside a British piano? It's a mystery

The tuner who found the hoard and Bishops Castle Community College, which owns the piano, will share a reward.

Peter Reavill, of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme, said: "The current owners did not know what to do but they came to the museum and they laid it all out on the table".

The gold hoard consists of 633 full sovereigns and 280 half sovereigns dating from the reigns of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. Weighing more than 6kg, it was discovered last September hidden beneath the keyboard a piano donated to a Shropshire school last summer.

The stash of sovereigns, some dating to Queen Victoria's reign, were discovered when the instrument's new owners chose to have it re-tuned.

It was tuning technician, 61-year-old Martin Backhouse, who found the "gob-smacking" stash, initially believing the carefully-wrapped cloth packets interfering with the play of the keys to be bags of "moth repellent".

This was the case with the gold coin hoard, with the result that museums will be able to bid for the items, and the people who found them will be paid their market rate.

"I lifted one and thought, that can't be moth repellent, it's too heavy".

Meg and Graham Hemmings owned the piano for three decades before donating it when they downsized to a smaller one.

Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Hemmings felt no bitterness, praising church-going Mr Backhouse's honesty in immediately reporting the find.

After slitting the stitching with his penknife, he realised there was "rather a lot of gold in this". "It's an incomplete story, but it's still an exciting one".

They told the MailOnline: "Not long after we moved to Saffron Walden in 1983, we asked a friend of ours if he could keep an eye out for a second hand piano which we purchase for the use of our four children Sam, Will, Ben and Jessica".

The gold coins have a face value of over 770 pounds - the equivalent of roughly 500,000 pounds today.

The inquest revealed the original owner and their heirs remain unknown. The proceeds and any unsold coins will then be returned to the school and Mr Backhouse. No claimants have come forward.

According to the Guardian, Backhouse said he will give a percentage of the money to his church and as he now has tinnitus, which makes his job hard, he was hoping for semi-retirement.

  • Carolyn Briggs