Mystery of 163–year–old letter revealed by experts

Cllr Caitlin Bisknell with letter found from 150 years ago under the flloor where sha stands during restoration work at Buxton pavilion gardens.

Cllr Caitlin Bisknell with letter found from 150 years ago under the flloor where sha stands during restoration work at Buxton pavilion gardens.

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The hunt of clues about the origin of a 163–year–old letter found at the Pavilion Gardens has gone international as experts claim it is written in an obscure Germanic script.

The letter found beneath the floor of the old kitchen in the Octagon, Buxton, is believed to be a replacement birth certificate for a theologian travelling in the area during the 19th Century.

The language it was written in eluded staff at the gardens, so it was handed to Derbyshire Record Office, in Matlock, for analysis.

Terry Crawford, manager at the gardens, said: “It could have been anything so we had to get it translated and it turns out it’s an old version of German. The plot thickens.”

Archivist Mark Smith, who works at the record office then appealed to a group of experts to find out what it was. Finally he found lady in Ireland who could translate the text.

“She said it’s a form of German, but it’s a different type of handwriting called Suetterlin,” he explained.

“There are massive variations in handwriting.

“This particular script was used at the time.”

Once it could be read, the letter was found to be a replacement birth certificate for a Jonas Theodor Meyer, who was born in Mecklenberg, Northern Germany, in 1819, and died in Jersey in 1896.

The Jewish–born theologian converted to Christianity in 1847 and ordained in 1857, before touring Europe teaching Hebrew and German.

The certificate was signed by Magistrate Roennberg, but the reason for it being in Buxton remains a mystery.

Mark said Rev Meyer was made a citizen of this country in 1855 and speculated that the application process for this may have been the reason for his applying for a replacement birth certificate and bringing it all the way to England.

“That’s one of the reasons I think most likely he would have needed the birth certificate – to apply for naturalisation,” he continued.

He added that Rev Meyer may have lost it on a trip to Buxton to ‘take the waters’, which was popular at the time.