Welcome home for the spoon with a tale to tell

Jennifer Smith with the spoon
Jennifer Smith with the spoon
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AT first glance it is a humble spoon but actually this little silver item is a piece of history.

It was found more than 50 years ago. As Ryedale Folk Museum’s volunteers set about the arduous job of moving the Manor House to the Museum’s grounds in 1971, a surprise awaited them. Buried deep in the roof thatching was a spoon. At first, the spoon was believed to be made of pewter but a later examination revealed that it was silver.

The spoon was dated to 1510 and at that time it was the oldest known spoon in the country.

After the realisation that the spoon was a significant find, the police were informed.

In 1976, a special court was held in Helmsley and a HM coroner declared that the spoon was Treasure Trove.

Until 1996, when the law was changed, this declaration was given to silver or gold objects which had been deliberately hidden and later found, and which no one could prove they owned. After the Coroner’s verdict the spoon was taken to the British Museum where it has remained ever since.

The Manor House, where the spoon was found, is the largest of the Museum’s historic buildings and was originally located in the nearby village of Harome.

Its origins probably date to the 16th century and its simple but large cruck-framed construction make it one of the Museum’s most popular spaces with visitors.

Robin Butler, 87, the individual who found the silver spoon, is still involved at Ryedale Folk Museum and 2017 will be his 50th anniversary of volunteering. Now in his 80s,

Mr Butler was involved in helping to move and re-build many of the Museum’s historic buildings. As a trained blacksmith, Robin was given the job of manufacturing iron pegs which would be used to help support the roof thatching. As the building was deconstructed, Robin set about saving as many of the original iron pegs as he could. He pulled what he thought was just another iron peg from the thatch but in fact it was the silver spoon.

Museum Chairman Philip Holt said “We are thrilled by the return of the silver spoon to the Museum.

“I am particularly pleased that Robin Butler will be able to see his special discovery again. It is very apt timing as he celebrates half a century of volunteering for the Museum. So many of our stories relate to the extraordinary dedication of our volunteers and this is another wonderful tale.”

The silver spoon will be on display in the Museum’s art gallery from Saturday July 22 to Sunday September 10. During the same period, the art gallery will also be home to Table – an exhibition of original twentieth century paintings on loan from Leeds Museums & Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery). They include works by Samuel Peploe (1871-1935), the well-known Scottish post-impressionist painter and Lubaina Himid (b.1954) who is nominated for this year’s Turner Prize. William Scott (1913-1989) is another of the artists whose work will feature. Scott exhibited with the likes of Patrick Heron, Ben Nicolson, Terry Frost and Victor Patmore during the 1950s as his own reputation as a pioneer of abstractionism grew. Renowned art critic Hilton Kramer believed Scott to be “the best painter of his generation in England.”

Director of the Museum, Jennifer Smith commented “I can’t wait to see our intimate gallery space full of these incredible fine art works from Leeds Art Gallery. Between these stunning original paintings and the silver spoon, this really is going to be an exhibition not to miss.

“Working with Leeds Museums & Galleries and The British Museum has been a pleasure. They have been so keen to support Ryedale Folk Museum by organising this exhibition that we are quite touched. I hope that by forging these links regionally and nationally we can bring other fantastic art works and objects to our tiny corner of the North York Moors in the future.”

Table will be open daily, from 10am – 5pm in Ryedale Folk Museum’s free to visit art gallery from Saturday July 22 to Sunday September 10. The silver spoon will be on show, also in the art gallery, during the same dates.