A soldier's buried treasure? Chest found on Norfolk beach sparks speculation

Jennie Fitzgerald, from Sprowston, with some of the contents of a treasure chest that she found on a

Jennie Fitzgerald, from Sprowston, with some of the contents of a treasure chest that she found on a North Norfolk beach. - Credit: Lauren De Boise

Could it have been an unusual time capsule, a Second World War soldier's most prized belonging or even a medieval smuggler's precious loot?  

The treasure chest Sprowston's Jennie Fitzgerald found on the beach near Happisburgh last month has sparked massive interest and speculation about its origins

Mrs Fitzgerald, 38, said: "It's very exciting. Everyone I spoke to was surprised and shocked."

Jennie Fitzgerald, from Sprowston, with the treasure chest, and its contents, that she found on a No

Jennie Fitzgerald, from Sprowston, with the treasure chest, and its contents, that she found on a North Norfolk beach. Picture: Lauren De Boise - Credit: Lauren De Boise

After first being revealed by this newspaper, the discovery was reported in the national press, and Mrs Fitzgerald was even interviewed on the BBC's Jeremy Vine show about it. 

And the story behind the extraordinary find could soon be uncovered - Mrs Fitzgerald is handing the chest over to heritage authorities next week for evaluation. 

Some of the contents of a treasure chest that Jennie Fitzgerald found on a North Norfolk beach.

Some of the contents of a treasure chest that Jennie Fitzgerald found on a North Norfolk beach. - Credit: Lauren De Boise

She said: "I'm due to take it into the treasure office. The finds liaison officer has spoken to the experts and said it might well be a treasure trove."

As well as the coins, the chest also held a collection of gems, a rusted pocket watch, an old perfume bottle, a signet ring and a silver matchstick holder that had been engraved with the name 'Ernest'.

Some of the contents of a treasure chest that Jennie Fitzgerald found on a North Norfolk beach.

Some of the contents of a treasure chest that Jennie Fitzgerald found on a North Norfolk beach. - Credit: Lauren De Boise

According to the 1996 Treasure Act, objects are designated as treasure trove if found to be more than 300 years old and made of gold or silver, or found with artefacts made of precious metals.

It means that a museum would have an opportunity to acquire the item. 

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But Mrs Fitzgerald said she was more interested in the person behind the objects, and she has her own theories about how the chest may have ended up on the beach. 

She said: "Who was Ernest? Perhaps it was buried up on the cliffs, maybe 80-100 years ago, by someone who maybe went off to war, and perhaps never came back. 

"It was snug in the ground for all these years and then suddenly it has fallen out due to erosion, with the recent storms we've had. It doesn't look like it has spent years in the sea. 

"The only thing that was really damaged inside the box was the pocket watch." 

Aside from the engraving Mrs Fitzgerald said there wasn't any other traceable evidence inside.