Mystery surrounds Victorian discovery in Melton park

Mystery surrounds the dumping in a Melton park of an entire year’s issues of a newspaper for a Lincolnshire market town dating back to Victorian times.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 5:04 pm
Melton Town Estate car park for the town centre parks EMN-210704-104710001

The bundle of copies of The Horncastle News, from 1893, were discovered in a hedge at the town’s New Park by a member of staff working on parklands for Melton Mowbray Town Estate.

It has mystified local people and historians since the towns are 60 miles apart with no obvious explanation for the papers being in Leicestershire.

The old copies are in remarkably good condition and now have been passed on to the Horncastle History and Heritage Society for their records.

Old copies of The Horncastle News, dating back to 1893, unearthed in a Melton Mowbray park PHOTO Archives: Horncastle History and Heritage Society EMN-210704-105457001

Melton town bailiff, Billy Boulding, told the Melton Times: “I have no idea how they came to be in the park or indeed, why they would be in Melton Mowbray.

“Perhaps they had been kept in an office which had some connection with the Horncastle area?

“It’s a complete mystery.

“I’m so pleased that we could return them to Horncastle and that they will fill a gap in the town’s archives.”

Billy Boulding, Melton's Town Bailiff PHOTO DEREK WHITEHOUSE EMN-210704-104942001

He added: “We would love to hear from anyone knows why the papers have turned up in Melton because there is no logical reason any of us can think of.”

The papers were found unbagged, but amazingly dry, by the park’s grounds’ supervisor, David Mellows.

Recognising their significance, he passed them on to bosses at the town estate, a charitable landowner which manages town centre parks in Melton, as well as the street market and other local recreational facilities.

Billy decided to contact the historical society in Horncastle, initially because the bundle was taking up too much desk space.

Old copies of The Horncastle News, dating back to 1893, unearthed in a Melton Mowbray park PHOTO Archives: Horncastle History and Heritage Society EMN-210704-105509001

Archivist, Mary Silverton, responded enthusiastically when told about the find.

She said: “We’re delighted to have these copies back in Horncastle, as checks with the hosts at our new Archive Centre in the Sir Joseph Banks Society’s headquarters, show there are no copies of the 1893 issues in the town.”

Old newspapers are notoriously brittle and can also harbour insects and other pests in bindings and their pages – and there were signs these issues of the Horncastle News had once been bound together.

To kill any unwanted pests or vectors, the 128-year-old papers were carefully wrapped and then placed in a freezer for a week at a temperature of minus 30 degrees centigrade.

Once they had been thawed and gently unwrapped, they were found to be in excellent order and the best means to conserve them and make them available to researchers is being explored.

Mary added: “This is a great find.

“It fills a significant gap in Horncastle’s history and we are very grateful to everyone at the Melton Mowbray Town Estate for their foresight and generosity in making them available to us for conservation.”

Ironically, the Melton Times and The Horncastle News are now part of the same newspaper group, JPI Media.

Among the events which took place in 1893, was the sinking of the SS Narconic, an underground mine explosion in west Yorkshire which killed 135 people, the first meeting of Keir Hardie’s Independent Labour Party and the establishment of the Brontë Society literary group.