Thieves Targeted a Regional History Museum in the U.K., Making Off With 12 Precious Historical Artifacts

The break-in was only the latest in a series of thefts in the area, according to local police.

Kelham Island Museum. Photo: © Ian M Spooner.

A museum in Sheffield, England is appealing to the public for help after thieves successfully broke in last Sunday and stole 12 items relating to metalworking from the collection, according to Yorkshire Live.

The offenders entered Kelham Island Museum, a history museum dedicated to Sheffield’s past as an industrial hub for metalwork and steel-making, in the early hours of May 14. Their forced entry was apparently “carefully planned” and in the process they damaged some display cases.

“The historical significance of these items goes far beyond any financial value they hold,” said Kim Streets, chief executive of Sheffield Museums Trust. “The span one of the first objects hallmarked by Sheffield Assay Office to knives made by one of our last Little Mesters, the much-missed Stan Shaw, and are irreplaceable touchstones of Sheffield’s rich heritage.”

Little mesters is a term for local practitioners who historically worked making small tools and cutlery, a skill that has now largely died out.

Folding knife with tortoiseshell scales and gold piue decoration made by Taylors Eye Witness in the 1800s. Stolen from Kelham Island Museum on May 14, 2023. Photo courtesy Hawley Tool Collection.

Other items that were taken include a sterling silver coffee pot from 1773 and a silver tea caddy from 1774. Four contemporary sculptures of a duckling, a heron, a dragonfly and a kingfisher by the local Huddersfield scrap metal artist Jason Heppenstall were also stolen.

“The articles stolen do not have any real sell on value,” said Ashley Carson of Sheffield Assay Office, an institution charged with testing the purity of metals that was also broken into earlier this year. “To Sheffield Museums and the stories they celebrate, these represent a far wider loss and are totally irreplaceable. This is the latest in a string of robberies in the city and these criminals need to be stopped.”

Sheffield Museums and the South Yorkshire Police have made a plea to the public to come forward if they have any information that might lead to the recovery of the stolen objects, including if they see them surface for sale online.

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