Boy’s woodland find in Swanton Abbott, near North Walsham, revealed as stolen silver chalice worth up to £1,000
08:00 05 March 2014
A boy hoping to find treasure on a winter walk in rural north Norfolk struck gold - almost - when he stumbled upon a stolen silver-gilt chalice worth up to £1,000.
And, after a fair amount of sleuthing, the communion cup is now safely back at the church from which it was stolen three years ago.
Ivo Inglis spotted something glinting under leaf debris in woodland while out walking with family and friends in Swanton Abbott, near North Walsham.
Ivo, 11, of Hole Farm, Hempstead, near Holt, had been on the lookout for “treasures” having already discovered broken china and the top of an old gas light on the walk.
Charles Inglis, Ivo’s father, said that over lunch with friends the laptop and reference books had been on the table as they all excitedly tried to discover more about the mystery object.
They had also contacted a friend who was head of silver at auctioneer Christie’s and he had identified the chalice as mid 19th-century, the work of John James Keith, who specialised in church silver. The friend had valued it at between £800-£1,000, according to Mr Inglis.
The family handed over the find to North Walsham police and also contacted the Diocese of Norwich who put them in touch with Nigel Bumphrey, a silversmith with past experience of reuniting church plate with its rightful owners.
Mr Bumphrey checked ecclesiastical insurance records, the stolen arts register, contacted the Victoria and Albert Museum to see whether Keith had a sale record for the chalice to a named church, alerted the Roman Catholic Church in Norfolk and Suffolk, and arranged for an email with photos of the chalice to be sent by the diocese to all churchwardens.
It was that email which caught the eye of Skeyton churchwarden Susan Byrch, who immediately recognised the chalice as one stolen from their vestry in early 2011.
All Saints, Skeyton, is roughly half a mile from where Ivo discovered the chalice and the Inglis family believe the thief may have thrown it from a vehicle into the edge of the wood where it became covered with leaves.
Mr Bumphrey has now given Mrs Byrch details of grants which may be available to restore the chalice so that it can be used for communion again.
Ivo, a pupil at Beeston Hall School, near Sheringham, went to see the chalice back where it belonged and was presented with a book token by Mrs Byrch and her husband Colin, who is also a churchwarden.
“As time went on it seemed less and less likely that we would ever see it again so we were really thrilled to get it back,” she said.
Charles Inglis said: “We’ve had a lot of fun - it’s been a good news story. You don’t expect to find ‘gold’ in the bushes, and you certainly don’t expect to find its rightful owner.”
Mr Inglis, who co-ordinates the sponsored bike ride and walk for the Norfolk Churches Trust, added that if the chalice had not been claimed he had considered using it as a trophy for the largest fund-raiser in the annual September event.
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