Family’s joy as long lost photographs found in Peterborough returned

Thanks to our eagle-eyed readers, treasured old photographs found in a loft by Peterborough woman Kat Coutts (48) have been reunited with their original family.

By Rosie Boon
Saturday, 31st October 2020, 6:32 am
Kat with Jane holding a photo of her brother Richard and her mum Dorothy.
Kat with Jane holding a photo of her brother Richard and her mum Dorothy.

Thanks to our eagle-eyed readers, treasured old photographs found in a loft by Peterborough woman Kat Coutts (48) have been reunited with their original family.

While moving out of her house in Hemingford Crescent, Stanground, Kat found a large box in the loft containing black and white photographs from the 1950s.

Not wanting to leave them behind, Kat set out on a missision to track down the original owners and their family.

A picture of Dorothy and Gerald following their engagement.

Having made an appeal through the Peterborough Telegraph’s website (peterboroughtoday.co.uk), Kat was hopeful someone would read the article and recognise a family member.

With only the name of the previous homeowner to go off: ‘Eunice Milward’ and a hand-written note on the back of a photo, readers rallied together to find the family.

Kat received messages from dozens of readers through Facebook who saw the article online, as they found links to the family in the photos through Ancestry.com

Kat said: “I want to thank everyone that read and shared the Peterborough Telegraph article and everyone who did research.

Jane and her brother Richard.

“One lady called Anna Taylor did a fantastic job and gave me all the information so myself and the family could get in contact with each other.”

Having gone through public records and Ancestry.com, Anna was able to trace Eunice’s family tree.

From a quick search of Eunice, Anna was able to find her sister Dorothy Webb and brother-in-law Gerald Prentice.

This was a vital clue in confirming the family was correct as there was the handwritten note on the back of one photo which read: “with love from Dorothy and Gerald.”

Aunt Eunice

Following the lead, Anna was able to trace Jane Clark, Eunice’s niece, and immediately gave her details to Kat for the pair to get in touch.

‘Overcome with happiness’ Kat was close to tears after finding out in the early hours of one morning the family had been traced.

Getting in touch straight away, Kat wanted to make sure Jane and her family received the photos safely and as soon as possible.

The pair joked over the phone about how awful it would be if Kat sent the photos through the post and they wound up lost again

Dorothy and Gerald and Richard and Jane Prentice at Jane’s christening.

So Kat surprised Jane by driving 116 milesto her home in Wokingham, Berkshire, where she lives with husband Robert (63) to reunite the treasures back to their rightful home.

Though sadly Jane’s parents and aunt have since passed away, the reunion was a joyful moment for the family.

Jane said: “What a story!

“It was quite strange seeing my family photos on someone else’s Facebook and in your newspaper article.

“I really can’t believe that someone would go to that much trouble to find me, when the only clue they had to go on was my aunt’s name and a message written in, I believe, my dad’s handwriting!

“So many people could have just put them in the bin. When Kat delivered the photos it was chaos as my daughters had also turned up to see!”

Auntie’s Sylvia’s 93rd birthday with family and friends. Sylvia is fourth from left.

Jane, who works as a charity administrator, now has ‘no connection’ to Peterborough since her aunt passed.

Amazed at the find, Jane had no idea there was a loft hatch in the property and would have never known these irreplaceable pictures existed if it wasn’t for Kat.

Jane spent endless hours caring for her aunt Eunice, fondly known as Sylvia to family and friends, who was ‘like a second mum to her’.

With her own mother Dorothy passing when she was in her thirties, Sylvie became a ‘substitute mum and grandma’ to her and her children.

Jane said: “They’re our family history and a real trip down memory lane.

“It’s so lovely to see them again, albeit a bit sad too, as I am the last surviving member of the Prentice family.

“Somebody else could have thrown them away.

“I cared for my aunt when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and I don’t remember her ever mentioning the hatch in that room.

“She lived in Hemingford Crescent for most of her married life, 15 years with her husband Frank and another 25 years after he passed.

“She had all her mental capability right until the end and I don’t remember that hatch ever existing.

“The photos were wrapped in newspaper from 1969, so I think they may have been placed up there then and forgotten about.

“I have some photos from her already and my regret is not asking Sylvie, when she was here, about the people in the photographs and who they are and their lives.”

The collection of black and white photographs from the 1950s captured precious moments of the family. These included: taking boat trips, Jane’s christening, Jane and her brother Richard Prentice running as children and various portraits.

With all the craziness of the moment, Jane hadn’t had a chance to go through the box of photos until the next day.

Filled with photos she hadn’t set eyes on before, Jane said they then set on another investigation as they set out to work out who’s who in the pictures she didn’t recognise.

The portraits show Jane’s dad Gerald, who was a Superintendent for Cambridgeshire Constabulary and a special photo of her parents just following their engagement.

Other precious moments include Jane and her brother Richard Prentice, who has sadly passed away, playing as children.

Embracing the moment, Jane’s husband Robert, who is a keen photographer, has already scanned the photos and eldest daughter Vicky hopes to create a collage of them all together.

Inspired, Jane has since reminisced over her own family’s younger photos and cherishes the idea of memories and photographs yet to come.