Friday 24 January 2020

Iron Box of Jewels #1

Happy New Year to all our followers. We begin the year with a new mystery...

The Palaeography Group have recently transcribed a document which brings to light a mysterious iron box of jewels itemised in an inventory in 1654. This is the time of Oliver Cromwell's occupation of Scotland, and indeed his Governor in Orkney is one of the witnesses to the inventory.

But where have these jewels come from? Why are they in Orkney? Why are they to be handed over to the Earl of Morton? The information and people listed in this document bring up many questions which the Palaeography Group are investigating. If you can add any information to help, we would like to hear from you.

D38/2531/1 Document from the Earl of Morton papers, dated 1654

"Inventar of the Jewels wes found in ane iron box which wes left besyds William Cragie of Garsay by James Keith sometime Laird of Benholme. Which box wes broken up publically at the sight of Charles Earle of Dunfermling, Major Henry Ronnall Governor of Orkney, William Stewart elder of Maynes, Captane Edmund Leister, Patrick Blair Shirreff of Orkney, Captane John Hobblethorne, James Stewart younger of Maynes, Williame Cragie of Garsay and Capt Robert Irving writer (writer) hereof at Kirkwall the 25th day of August 1654 yeers.

Item ane Rose (or cross heart) of small diamonds whein ther wes 14 peece with a cross of small leser diamonds therin

Item fifteen roses of pearles contenning four pearles in every rose

Item ane carhat of small sparkes of diamonds contenning threttie three small diamonds therin upon a blak threed

Item ane string of seed pearls contenning three yards long or thereabouts

An example of some pearls

Item ane ring sett with diamonds lacking three peece diam[ond]s

Item eightene peece of peared (paired) amatists (amethyists) or granatts (garnets)

Item a [------?] cast of gold with two [------?] therin of gold

Item on two strings ane hundredth and nyne blood beads with fourtie and one small beads of amber with fourty and one of small corall beads

Item ane small dowe (dove) of mother of pearle with gold wings lacking the head

These above writtin particullars wes deposited in William Stewart elder of Maynes his hands by mutuall consent of Charles Earl of Dunfermling and Major Ronnall Governor of Orkney to be secured by him the best way he can upon the [-----?] of the owners, until such tyme as they be made appear to belong to my Lord Mortone. After which tyme the Laird of Maynes is to delyver them to any haveing pouer (power) from the Earle of Mortone and his curators. This is witnessed to be a true inventory and conclusion as their subscription under writtin witneseth day and place above writtin"

In the line above "Item a [------?] cast of gold with two [------?] therin of gold", we struggled with the word blanked out here. It could be pikwoth, or bikworth, or something else entirely. Can you help us with this word? Could it be a measurement of gold not now used?

There are some interesting names mentioned here.  Who was James Keith and why was he in Orkney? Benholm is a parish in Kincardineshire on the mainland of Scotland. In the book Who was Who in Orkney, James Keith is listed as Provost of Kirkwall from 1650, but we don't know if it is the same James Keith who is involved in the document. In the book Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen a James Keith of Benholm is described as being involved in a jewel robbery from Benholm Castle in 1622. Is this the same man 32 years later? Are these the same jewels?

If anyone knows about any of the people mentioned or have heard this story before, please do get in touch. It is an intriguing mystery. We will post updates of our research on future blogs, just click on the label "Iron Box of Jewels" below to see all blogs relating to this story.

Sources used: Who was Who in Orkney by W.S. Hewison pub.1998; Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen Volume 3, edited by Robert Chambers, pub. 1850; D38/2531/1 Document from the Earl of Morton papers