Happy discovery

Jo and Rhys Williams competing in a nighttime navigational competition in East Hampshire

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On this day in 1802 a boy made a discovery in the trunk of an old tree at Wish Farm on Southsea Common.

He pulled out an old stocking and found, tied up inside, a bundle of damp banknotes, wet from recent rain.

As the boy made his way along the road from Southsea to Portsmouth, happily clutching the money in his fist, a man approached him and asked to see what he was holding. The boy half-recognised the man who instantly snatched most of the notes and ran off.

The boy went to the magistrate, Sir John Carter, and identified the thief as a man he had seen at an address in St Thomas’s Street.

Constables caught Hurlock, a shoemaker, drying the notes over a fire and he was arrested and jailed. The banknotes were forgeries.

Five years earlier Carter was commended for his conduct during the Spithead mutiny.

The sailors, whose three comrades had been killed, wished to carry their bodies in procession through Portsmouth.

As the governor of the local garrison refused to allow this, further fighting seemed certain.

Carter allowed the men to march through the town and also negotiated the release of an admiral held by the mutineers – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.