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DUG UP: Unusual antique from Chalfont charity’s history discovered in the USA

 Published on: 7th May 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

Staff at the Epilepsy Society in Chalfont St Peter were recently contacted by a woman who discovered an item relating to the charity’s history.

A woman from Detroit, Michigan, had found an unusual trowel in an antiques shop. The trowel had been used on May 6, 1897, to lay the foundation stone of one of the charity’s first homes for people with epilepsy, Victoria House. The stone was laid by American ambassador Thomas F. Bayard. In his speech, Mr Bayard said that the society’s work had many followers in his own country.

Also in attendance was philanthropist Passmore Edwards, whose generous donation of £4,000 secured the purchase of Skippings Farm, where the society was founded.

The sterling silver trowel has an inscription which reads: “Presented by the National Society for Employment of Epileptics to his excellency the hon. Thomas F Baynard, retiring ambassador of the United States, on the occasion of his visiting the colony at Chalfont St Peter and laying the foundation stone of a new home for male epileptics now being erected by Mr Passmore Edwards.”

Nicola Swanborough, head of external affairs at the Epilepsy Society, said: “We were all very excited to hear about the trowel. It is quite something when a hand stretches out across history and across the world via social media.

“I think those in attendance would be amazed to see the world-leading research which is happening every day here on site now. A new form of laser beam brain surgery has just been made possible thanks to a sophisticated navigation system developed through our MRI unit. It feels a far cry from those early days, yet none of it would be possible without the events celebrated on that day and others like it.”

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