Buried treasure of Long Entry

Long Entry
Long Entry in Lyme Regis – once reportedly the site of buried treasure

LYME Regis’ major historical events are well documented. However, there is a layer of local narrative that has been neglected and in many instances almost forgotten.

To classify such accounts as history may not be correct in the true academic sense. Some are based on little more than legends and have their origins in folklore. Nevertheless, there are historical snippets which have a sound factual basis; they make both interesting and entertaining reading.

One example which meets such a classification occurred in Lyme in the month of April 1786. George Kelaway, a labourer, was filling a hole in the ruins of a large house located in Long Entry, at the lower end of Church Street, when to his surprise he discovered a large quantity of buried coins.

George at once set about filling his pockets with the coinage. He then staggered away trying to support his overburdened pockets with his hands.

However, Kelaway had been observed by a maid in the house opposite; she being a ‘prattler’ informed the next door resident, a Mrs Langford. The lady decided to investigate, and finding a discarded pick-axe, she started digging and uncovered a decaying wooden chest filled with gold and silver coins.

Having filled her apron with what she thought was all of the treasure she returned home and told her neighbours of her good fortune.

George Roberts, in his ‘History of Lyme Regis 1823’, records that the news of buried treasure spread far and wide and started a mad scramble with large numbers (some from Uplyme!) digging for a share of the spoils.

Things got so out of hand that an adjoining house was in danger of being undermined. Soldiers who were quartered in the town were called upon to restore order and quell what was becoming a free for all.

Kelaway, who returned to the scene seeking more coins, became involved in a fight and was carried senseless to his house.

It would seem that there were several boxes containing coins, each lined with velvet. The coins were black with age.

Roberts was told (by old people who remembered the incident) that a man who joined the Monmouth Rebellion had lived in the house and that he had been killed during the battle of Sedgemoor in 1685.

Estimates of the value of the coins varied, some as high as £2,000, but in reality was probably not more than £500, which was however still a large sum at the time.

Who in the end benefited? Well, not poor Kelaway – his coins were stolen.

Many wisely concealed the amount of their treasure, fearing claims might be made by the Lord of the Manor. Mrs Langford used some her share (£200) to redeem her husband’s vessel that had been seized by the Revenue Service.

Kelaway became obsessed with finding treasure and even got permission to dig in Sherborne Lane. Despite digging to a depth of some three meters, he found nothing.

Francis Bacon wrote ‘that money is like muck, not good except it is spread around’. His statement would have found agreement with the townsfolk who profited from the find.

Peter Lacey
Local author and historian

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