Rare pewter plate returned to Mount Grace Priory after 100 years

By Culture24 Staff | 13 August 2009
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a photograph of a man holding a large pewter dish

Arthur Dent (above left) with a pewter plate found by his grandfather at Mount Grace Priory with Kevin Booth, English Heritage's Senior Curator for the North of England. Pic courtesy English Heritage

A visitor to Mount Grace Priory served up a treat for the custodians of the Carthusian Monastery when he returned a historic pewter plate discovered at the site by his grandfather more than 100 years ago.

Retired farmer Arthur Dent generously donated the previously unknown dish, which could date to the 17th or 18th centuries, to English Heritage for safe keeping after it had been in his family for more than a century.

Mr Dent's grandfather was a tenant farmer at Mount Grace, near Northallerton, until 1914, when it was owned by the wealthy Bell family.

While grazing his cattle amidst the idyllic ruins, near the western brow of the North York Moors, he stumbled across the 44 centimetre diameter plate and since then it's been in the family, even being used to feed farm ducks.

an old photograph of a large family group in their best clothes

Arthur Dent's grandfather John George Smith, (far right) pictured at the turn of the century at Mount Grace Priory, where he was a tenant farmer. Courtesy English Heritage

"Whilst my grandmother fed ducks from the plate, she also knew it was pretty old, even guessing, wrongly as it seems, that it could have had been used by the monks," said Mr Dent. "She'd be pleased that it has gone back home. It will be fascinating to uncover more about its past."

Mount Grace Priory was shut by Henry VIII in 1539 and the monks pensioned off. The following century it fell into the hands of Thomas Lascelles who developed it into a desirable monastic manor house.

The plate is of more historic than financial value and will need to be conserved and researched but Kevin Booth, English Heritage Senior Curator for the North described it as "a very interesting object."

"It's surprising how few pewter objects from the past survive, despite being fairly high status items," he added. "Many were melted down for their value, while those that were buried often ended up rotting away."

Experts will now work to accurately date the plate and research the letters 'frp' which appear on the object. It is being kept at English Heritage's archaeology store in Helmsley, which houses nearly 800,000 historic items from sites across the north.

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