My childish imagination was very inspired by the idea of archaeology – the closest 'ology' there is to treasure-hunting. I was probably influenced by the fact that my great uncle, Sydney Ford, who was a farmer in West Row near the Suffolk town of Mildenhall, ‘discovered’ a hoard of Roman silver tableware, during WW2.
I put discovered in inverted commas because on more recent investigation, the story is a lot less straightforward than Uncle Syd ever admitted to. I admit to plundering Syd’s story when I began to write BURIED TREASURE, a book with an archaeological theme.
|Uncle Syd, with his treasure on the sideboard behind him.|
|The British Museum|
Partly because of this vagueness, there has even been doubt cast over the fact the hoard originated in the Mildenhall area at all. Roman villas have been found around that location, but nothing of sufficient grandeur to have owned such a service has ever been excavated in the environs. Other suggestions I’ve read, linked to the previous point, is that it was stolen (from whom or from where?) and had been hidden by twentieth century villains or by airman flying from Italy into the airfield at Mildenhall during the war.
The treasure wasn’t snatched from him unexpectedly, as Syd would have it later. He did know in advance he was going to be relieved of his fruit bowl and the rest apparently, and family rumour has it he was able sort away some choice artefact from the hoard before the arrival of the police
Declared treasure trove The Mildenhall Treasure can now be seen in the British Museum. Contrary to Uncle Syd’s claim, he was recompensed - £2,000 divided between Sydney and his ploughman, Mr Butcher – but he never did get any credit. You won’t see his name attached to the exhibit at the British Museum.
|My son Tom standing beside his great great uncle's Treasure.|
Little did he know,.when he was eight, that he would be working in the British Museum in fifteen years time as project curator of the Vikings Life & Legend exhibition.
Great Uncle Syd, was a favourite. We always loved seeing him. He was mischievous and rascally and had a definite twinkle in his eye which, looking back, I suspect was something to do with the fact he knew he was fibbing.
Even as an adult I retain some of my gullibility. I can still be surprised when I discover someone has been less than truthful. But these days I am far more likely to add a dose of salt to an unlikely tale. But when I was young, I completely accepted the story as he recounted it. (As did all the family - there was never a trace of suspicion.) Now, looking back, I can quite believe him capable of a degree of roguery, but I don’t suppose we will ever know the real story; Syd is long gone and unable to provide any answers.