Sam Hammonds from Coalville brought in this particularly gruesome find - the noose used to hang the last man to be executed in Leicestershire. © Chris Breese/ 24 Hour Museum.
24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Journalist Chris Breese marched notepad in hand to see what treasures would be uncovered at Donington le Heath Manor House.
Treasures from every imaginable era surfaced at Leicestershire’s Fabulous Finds event – including a piece of the rope used to hang the last man executed in the county.
The grim, but remarkable, artefact complete with a lock of the unfortunate criminal’s hair and prison documentation, was brought along by Sam Hammonds, 20, from Coalville.
Sam’s father rescued the rope before a friend could throw it on a fire of unwanted belongings during a house clearance. The section has been kept safe in a tin box along with sections from ropes used to hang two other prisoners.
Five year old Rebeka Kirkwood brought in some Victorian glass and pottery. © Chris Breese/ 24 Hour Museum.
Sam, a stained glass window manufacturer, said: "My dad saw the box was about to be thrown on the bonfire and said ‘if you don’t want it let me have it! It’s a strange thing really to have been kept under a bed, we decided to bring them in to see if anyone could tell us more about them and if they might be worth anything to someone."
James Cook was the final prisoner of three to be hung on August 10 1832, on what was to become the last ever day of execution in Leicester.
Cook, just 21 at the time of his death, faced the rope after pleading guilty to murdering a man he owed money - a Mr Paas from London who travelled regularly to the area as a tradesman. Cook lured Paas to his workshop and killed him, before attempting to burn the body in his hearth.
The fire attracted attention and the crime was uncovered after Cook’s door was broken down by neighbours who feared the property was on fire. After the hanging the noose was cut into sections and sold off for a few shillings each.
Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer Wendy Scott examines a piece of a Bronze Age blade. © Chris Breese/ 24 Hour Museum.
Some less grisly artefacts also emerged on the day, held at Donington le Heath Manor House, including a strange sea shell with an intricate carving of the last supper.
The shell was brought along by Pearl White, 69, from Birstall. Pearl said: “My uncle gave it to me in the fifties and I’ve never quite been sure what it is. We think it might be a christening spoon.”
The intricate shell was later identified as possibly coming from Malta and may have been made to mark a pilgrimage. Pearl also brought along a Dalton Vase which was confirmed as the genuine article, circa 1905.
Over at the small finds table, archaeologists Tom Brindle and Rob Webley were presented with a wide range of items from Roman pottery to a medieval retainer for a knight’s horse.
One keen metal detection enthusiast brought along a small piece of metal that the team identified as a possible section of a Bronze Age blade.
David Richards shows off his collection of model World War II vehicles. © Chris Breese/ 24 Hour Museum.
"The oldest thing I’ve ever come across is a Neolithic axe head from about 4,500 BC," said Tom, "but we’ve not come across anything quite as old as that today!"
Alongside finds brought to the event were some exhibitions of collectables put together by local people.
David Richards, a retired draughtsman from Loughborough, exhibited his collection of model World War II vehicles. Undaunted by a 1996 accident while driving a van that saw him loose part of a leg, the 71-year-old said: “I’ll never stop collecting. I’ve been collecting since I was a school boy, I’ve just been interested in vehicles all my life.”
Chris Breese is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance student journalist for the East Midlands region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.