A key for an 11th-century tower has finally been returned almost five decades after it went missing.
The anonymous sender also sent a note, saying: “Dear English Heritage. Please find enclosed large key to St. Leonard’s Tower, West Malling, Kent. Borrowed 1973. Returned 2020.”
It added: “Sorry for the delay. Regards.”
The brass key to St. Leonard’s Tower still fits the original keyholes but it doesn’t rotate anymore.
English Heritage’s senior properties curator Roy Porter said: “It’s certainly one of the most puzzling packages we’ve ever received and just in time for Christmas!
“It’s a modern mystery to add to the historical questions posed by the tower.”
The charity English Heritage has launched an appeal for the anonymous sender to come forward as they want to “reward the honesty of whoever returned the key with a gift of membership.”
A spokesperson said: “We don’t know how it went missing. We have no idea who would have taken it. We are hoping this person comes forward and helps us connect the dots.
“It was sent to the customer services team. Everyone was incredibly surprised about receiving this key and excited about it being returned after so long.”
English Heritage properties curator Samantha Stone also told BBC: “There is no evidence of latrines or fireplaces, or anything that would suggest a domestic purpose, so its purpose has always been slightly mysterious.
“We assume it was for the administration of the bishop’s manor. So the mystery of the key is very fitting in the wider history of the tower.”
She said the anonymous sender had ‘kept it safe all this time, which shows some care and dedication.’
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