For years, it had been believed that the deeds of several historic houses on St Helena had been destroyed by fire. But then someone pulled out a drawer from a desk in Jamestown, and made a most surprising discovery.
Behind the drawer, lost to sight for decades, were papers documenting the sale of properties once owned by the island entrepreneur, Saul Solomon.
The desk was in the basement of the building taken over by the St Helena National Trust, the very organisation set up to preserve and protect the island’s historic riches.
Island historian Nick Thorpe said: “There are quite a few deeds, mostly relating to the Metcalfe family, who owned Willowbank and Robinsons in Fisher’s Valley, together with a house in town.
“The gem of the find is a deed relating to the sale of several town properties for £16,000. The seller was Saul Solomon, who established Solomon’s in 1790. The buyers were his son Nathaniel Solomon, baptised 1800, and George Moss.
“Many years ago an old man called Billy Peters told me that Solomons had a fire in their office which destroyed all their deeds, but not, according to Billy, their money.
The discovery was made in early October 2014.
One of the documents, an indenture, has a plan of a property attached with string and sealed with wax.
Another, dated around the time of Saul Solomon’s death, is a “Conveyance of messuages and tenements in James Town, St Helena”.