06 May 2004

Victorian time capsule arrives safely in the present day

There was more than the usual measure of enthusiasm at the General Church Meeting at Lichfield Methodist Church recently. The routine business was interrupted by the arrival of a time capsule from 1891 that had been unearthed during building work. The glass jar contained newspapers, church documents and coins.

The capsule was discovered by builders repairing stonework on the church and was opened for the first time in over 100 years at the General Church Meeting on 3 May. Rev. John Atkinson, superintendent of the Tamworth and Lichfield District, was amazed to find a collection of papers and coins that had remained hidden throughout the whole of the 20th century.

The glass jar contained two local newspapers - the Lichfield Mercury and the Lichfield Herald and City Times - dated Friday 7 August 1891. There was also a copy of the Methodist Recorder dated 6 August 1891. Three coins - a penny, halfpenny and farthing - also carried the 1891 date. The final items were a copy of the local preaching plan for the Circuit and a list of the Trustees.

Mr Atkinson says that the capsule was buried when work began on building the church. The Mayor of Lichfield laid the foundation stone for the church on 12 August 1891, and it has served the people of the town since.

When the capsule was buried, Queen Victoria was on the throne, the prime minister was Marquis of Salisbury and Blackburn Rovers had recently won the FA Cup. 1891 was also the year when the first telephone link between London and Paris was opened, and when primary education was made free and compulsory. 

The church plans to return the capsule to its hiding place after adding some modern documents. Says Mr Atkinson: "We hope that some future generation of Methodists will discover it again, and that they will share our delight and fascination about what the past can reveal."

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