It was the sort of find most of us dream about.
For over 60 years, a selection of nearly 200 chipped plates had been in regular use at the Compton and Shawford village hall without anybody appreciating their true value.
It was only after a casual enquiry and a little investigation that it was discovered that the range had belonged to the White Star Line, the shipping company which owned the ill-fated Titanic.
Parish councillor, Jean Millar, said everyone was astonished at the news. But as no-one had any idea how valuable the plates were, she was asked to find out.
At first, she was quoted £15 a piece by a Southampton dealer, but after taking the plates to Christie’s and selling them in lots over six years, the range has realised £8,400, with the last batch being sold in January.
“This meant we could put the money towards refurbishment of the century-old village hall,” said Mrs Millar, adding that it could not have come at a better time.
“Collectors across the globe, including a large consignment from the United States snapped tip the offer with plates of the worst condition fetching £15 each and the best ones making £200 a piece,” she enthused.
“Ironically, the villagers had been complaining about the condition of the plates and had asked for replacements! ”
Mrs Millar explained that the dishes had been donated to the village in 1929 by Frederick Blake, a parish councillor who was also chief engineer on Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship on the North Atlantic run.
It was only after former parish chairman, Robert Jordan, casually asked about their origin that experts including the Titanic Society, were consulted and the truth became known.
“It’s like a fairy story come true,” Mrs Millar chuckled. “And to think we had been using the plates for all those years without realising that they would one day make us thousands of pounds.
The crockery, which comes in two sizes, features the White Star Line’s red flag logo in the centre.
Two of the dishes are now kept in a display cabinet at the village hall, which is currently undergoing a £70,000 facelift.
Hampshire Chronicle, Friday 21 January, 1997
reproduced by permission of the Editor