Missing £8k of church silver found at auction house after vanishing in post
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Lost church treasure, worth £8,000, has turned up at a Royal Mail auction – almost three months after it went missing in the post.
Members of St Peters Church Copdock and Washbrook said they had given up on ever seeing the silverware after it vanished from the Royal Mail tracking system somewhere between Belfast and Sunderland.
Church warden Ruth Lincoln said the surprise discovery at an auction house in Guildford was 'fantastic news'.
'We'd tried everything to find out what had happened but all we'd done was spend hours on the phone to Royal Mail going around in circles,' she added.
'I'd all but given up hope that it would ever turn up.'
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The missing delivery was part of a collection commissioned to replace £70,000 of silverware which was stolen from the church in October 2017, when burglars used a tombstone to smash their way in through the vestry window.
While two of the deliveries arrived just before Christmas, the final package failed to materialise at Mrs Lincoln's home.
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As no delivery note had been left, Mrs Lincoln did not check up on the delivery until in early January.
When she checked with the silversmith in Birmingham, Robert Pritchard-Gordon, she was concerned to learn it had been sent three weeks earlier.
Mr Pritchard-Gordon and members of the church spent hours phoning various Royal Mail departments to find where the silver had gone.
First they heard it had gone to the Returns Office in Belfast, where it would stay for 30 days. Then they were told it was being transferred to another office in Sunderland.
But at this point it vanished from the tracking system.
'I don't know how the Royal Mail did it,' said Mrs Lincoln. 'Everyone we spoke to told us something different. No one would take responsibility for it.'
Mr Pritchard-Gordon had been growing increasingly concerned as the church's insurance provider would not pay for the commission until it was delivered in full.
But on Thursday, March 12, he received a call to say it had been found about to go under the hammer at an auction house.
'I was very pleased and relieved,' he said.
Mrs Lincoln said she doubted the package would have been located without media attention.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: 'Every item of mail is important to Royal Mail. We're very pleased that these items of silverware have now been found and will be returned safely to St Peter's Church. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.'