Century old mystery solved at Bupa Edithvale Care Home

A 113-year-old piece of history has been found behind a bookcase at Bupa Edithvale Aged Care Home.

The discovery of a silver trowel inscribed in 1905 created a mystery that led to a prominent philanthropist family in bustling turn of the century Melbourne.

Sandra Bailey, a carer who has worked at Bupa Edithvale for 19 years, was cleaning behind one of the bookcases at the home when she came across a box.

“I was cleaning and wanting to move something from one corner to the other and it had lots of books on it. I got on a ladder and went up to the top shelf to started sorting and put my hand at the back and found a box.

“I opened it and one of the other ladies was there and I showed it to her. She picked it up and started reading it and said, you know you have just found something that is 113 years old,” Ms Bailey said.

Excited and intrigued by the discovery, Ms Bailey took it Mark Osborn, Bupa Edithvale’s General Manager to ask what to do with it.

The inscription on the trowel had the inscription ‘Mr and Mrs J. M. Griffiths’, so Mr Osborn went through the records of residents at Bupa Edithvale to see if any matched.

“It must have been sitting behind books in the bookcase for a pretty long time because we went through our resident’s history and we couldn’t find anyone with that name so it must have been before that,” Mr Osborn said.

Mr Osborn wanted to find its rightful owner, more about the history of the object and how it had come to be in the home. So he contacted the Kew Historical Society.

Through some back and forth emails with Robert Baker, the archivist from the Kew Historical Society, they were able to find out more about the history of the trowel and the husband and wife whose names were on it.

“The silver trowel was presented to a philanthropist in Kew on the opening of the Baptist School Hall in St John’s Parade.

The Griffiths family were wealthy merchants and prominent philanthropists contributing to the building of churches and schools in their home suburb, Kew.

English born, John Moore Griffiths was a partner with his brother James in a tea importation and distribution business, and a supporter of various Christian causes in Melbourne.

The trowel is inscribed, "Presented to Mrs. J.M. Griffiths on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of the Baptist School Hall, Kew, Oct 21st 1905".

“It’s remarkable that it’s ended up in a place like this so far from Kew,” Mr Baker said.

“We thought for generations to enjoy the silver trowel in the future, we’d donate it to the Kew Historic Society for prosperity,” Mr Osborn said.

Mr Baker was delighted to collect the silver trowel from Bupa Edithvale Aged Care on Tuesday on behalf of the Kew Historic Society.

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