Surprise as human bone discovered in attic at Sheringham Town Hall

Museum trustee Ron Wiebe and vet Michaela Bone study the find. Picture: Mo Museum

Museum trustee Ron Wiebe and vet Michaela Bone study the find. Picture: Mo Museum - Credit: Mo Museum

Volunteers made the discovery while moving their collection from the store there to its new archive at the nearby Mo Museum.

Lionel Ensor and Doris Hewitt are pictured in 1918. Picture: Mo Museum

Lionel Ensor and Doris Hewitt are pictured in 1918. Picture: Mo Museum - Credit: Mo Museum

A piece of human bone has been found in the attic at the town hall in Sheringham.

Volunteers made the discovery while moving their collection from the store there to its new archive at the nearby Mo Museum.

It was found in a sealed envelope in a forgotten First World War scrapbook kept by former town resident Doris Hewitt.

The bone fragment is believed to belong to Captain Lionel Ensor, of the Suffolk Regiment, who was awarded a Military Cross for bravery in the field after rescuing an injured comrade during the Battle of the Somme - despite being shot in the legs while doing so.

The scrapbooks were uncovered in an attic at the town hall in Sheringham. Picture: Mo Museum

The scrapbooks were uncovered in an attic at the town hall in Sheringham. Picture: Mo Museum - Credit: Mo Museum


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Doris's sister, Cecil, a disabled photographer whose glass plate negatives are held by the museum, photographed Lionel in the hospital with Doris in 1916.

Lionel went on to marry his nurse Mabel, although it is suspected he must have had a soft spot for Doris to present her with a piece of his leg bone and for her to the trouble of preserving it in her scrapbook to be discovered 100 years later.

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The scrapbooks will go on display when the museum reopens on March 1.

A spokesperson explained: 'The Sheringham Museum has uncovered a surprise in a forgotten piece of its collection re-discovered during an archive store move project. Simply listed in the museum collections database as 'newspaper scrapbooks', it was overlooked for 25 years.

Vet Michaela Bone shows the result of the X-ray. Picture: Mo Museum

Vet Michaela Bone shows the result of the X-ray. Picture: Mo Museum - Credit: Mo Museum

'The museum has since found that the scrapbooks were in fact five volumes of newspaper cuttings and mementos spanning the full 1914 – 1918 First World War, painstakingly collected by Doris Hewitt, sister to Cecil Hewitt a disabled photographer whose glass plate negatives came to light in January 2013 at the museum.

'This new discovery was donated to the museum long before the Hewitt Glass plate negatives and provides a new piece to the puzzle of this fascinating Edwardian Family who lived in the town during the early 1900s.

'The scrapbooks ended up being stored in Sheringham Town Hall attic, which was being used as an overflow of the museum store which was at capacity. Thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding, the museum has been able to build a new dedicated archive store at the Mo Museum site in the past year and has spent the winter moving its collections from the Town Hall and its existing store, into the new state-of-the-art archive space.'

Upon opening Volume Three, the museum discovered a small envelope with 'Piece of Bone from Lionel's Leg, 18.10.16' written on it with a hard object within.

An X-ray image of the bone. Picture: Mo Museum

An X-ray image of the bone. Picture: Mo Museum - Credit: Mo Museum

And researchers at the museum were keen to confirm the contents inside without disturbing them - so called the local vet.

The spokesperson continued: 'To open the envelope to verify its contents would be damaging to the integrity of the object and destroying history – like unwrapping an Egyptian mummy.

'When museums like the British Museum want to x-ray a Mummy to verify contents they get to use state-of-the-art CT scanners in hospitals. When you are a small independent charity-run museum in rural North Norfolk, you turn to your local vet for help.'

Vet Michaela Bone, at Miramar Vets on Weybourne Road, Sheringham, X-rayed the envelope at the surgery using their machine and the contents were verified to be bone fragments.

Townsfolk can view them for free during a special locals-only museum open day on Monday, February 27, from 11am to 7pm.

Museum Manager Philip Miles said: 'In 1993 the museum did not have access to a computerised database so all objects were listed in large books making it difficult to know what we actually had in the archive.

'Listing an object as 'Newspaper Scrapbook' didn't really make it a priority to be researched when we have 10,000 other objects in storage.

'Thanks to the funding received from the Heritage Lottery Fund we've been able to rediscover this important piece of First World War history and make sure that it is now stored in state of the art research facilities at the museum and never forgotten again.'

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