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By Ruth Leach on

Railway station lost property: 3350 gloves, 2280 umbrellas, and live animals

What happened to lost property in Victorian railway stations? Ruth Leach delves into the archives to find out.

While doing some research for Station Hall, I stumbled across an article about lost property at railway stations, written by an HJ Prytherch in 1898.  He comes across as quite a stern chap, who didn’t take kindly to people leaving their things behind. In fact, he puts the problem of lost property down to the curse of ‘modern obliviousness’.

It’s always the more unusual items of lost property that catch your eye, and Prytherch was no different. In his list of what was collected on the Great Eastern Railway (GER) over the course of one year there are 3350 pairs of gloves, 2280 umbrellas, 1000 hats and 300 books. So far, so ordinary. However, in the same year the GER also found themselves in possession of a china figure, a glazier’s diamond and three lost revolvers.

Some unusual items of lost property at Paddington station, 1933

As well as giving us some insight into what was left behind by passengers, the article is also helpful in revealing some of how a lost property office operated. So thanks to our Mr Prytherch we know that hats were put on high shelves to avoid crushing, books were kept in tin boxes to save them from dust and damp, and coats were wrapped in brown paper to keep them safe from moths. And my personal favourite: live animals were rehoused with staff until claimed.

The details we can glean from articles like this will be used in the new interpretation in Station Hall. They’ll sit alongside the real voices from our Station Stories project, giving visitors a glimpse of life in a working station.

Note: The original article ‘Modern obliviousness, as exemplified in the railway lost property office’ is from Railway Magazine, volume 2, 1898. 

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