Workers Discovered A Hidden Room In An 1882 Dorm, Then They Looked Inside
Marilyn Caylor 12/14/2016
When you have a structure that's hundreds of years old, it's not unusual for maintenance crews to fix it up once in a while. Such is the case with Selwyn College, which is part of the Cambridge University system. One of the dorm rooms was in dire need of renovation, so demolition crews came in and went to work knocking down walls.
They thought it was just going to be another day on the job until they made a shocking discovery.
The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, and is about as old as you can get when it comes to educational institutions. Selwyn College is a baby in comparison, and it wasn't established until 1882. That's still much older than anyone alive today.
It's not unusual for old buildings to be made of brick and stone, and Selwyn College was no exception. It was built to withstand the harshest of environmental conditions - even the fabled wolf from the 3 Little Pigs would've had a hard time blowing it down.
Given its fortress-like status, it's no surprise that this eerie discovery wasn't made until just recently.
When the workers showed up to renovate this 1880s dorm, they weren't expecting to make a historical discovery. What they found hadn't been seen by human eyes in over 100 years.
So, what exactly did the crew unravel when they knocked down the wall? Why, nothing less than a hidden room containing awesome artifacts! Indiana Jones would have been lucky to make this discovery.
Thankfully there were no snakes or evil archaeologists hiding in this tiny little room behind the wall. There was, however, this old photograph of the college chapel, which still looks the same today. Yet, this is small potatoes compared to what they found next.
The first thing the construction crew noticed was the old stove. Many of us are familiar with cast iron pots and pans. For Victorian-era folks, they went all out and made entire stoves out of cast iron. This one looks pretty well "seasoned."
The room, known as a gyp, would have been used by servents to prepare daily tea and breakfast for the students studying at the college. The British do seem to enjoy a good "cuppa" tea, and this stove would certainly have kept the kettle piping hot.
The room likely belonged to a servent who lived in the dorm. The historical treasure trove that was patiently waiting to be rediscovered included a collection of photos, letters and postcards.
The postcards were dated between 1912 and 1916, which was right smack dab in the middle of World War I. Although the original message is mottled by water stains, one could imagine that the postcard was informing the gentleman that his brother had just perished on the Western Front. It may have been his own tears that washed away the ink.
Although cigarettes are a no-no in today's health conscious world, they were certainly a welcome commodity in the post-Victorian era. Tobacco cards, such as the one below, were like tradeable baseball cards and used to stiffen the soft cigarette pack.
The images on the cards included everything from actresses, to Native American chiefs, and even the King or Queen of England.
Tobacco companies made the most of their trading cards, and utilized the space on the back of the card to promote their brand - with a bit of history thrown in, too! That last part is actually very forward thinking of the old tobacco empire - "Hey, let's get folks addicted to being a history buff while they puff!" Could a thirst for knowledge be the real reason why people got addicted to cigarettes? Nah, didn't think so.
This gorgeous photograph indicates that this room was likely the living quarters of a male. Perhaps the woman in the photo was his wife, who was still living miles away on their impoverished homestead in the countryside. It's easy to see how this man would have stared longingly at this photo every day, praying for the day when he had saved enough money to go back home and be reunited with the love of his life.
This colorful piece of paper, possibly another postcard, shows the life and times of Victorian England. It seems like cartoon artists were funny back then, too. It's quite understandable to see how a lower class servent would have a penchant for low-brow humor. It's what they would have been exposed to on a daily basis.
The popular fashion trends of the day can also be seen in the image. It's fun to see the carefully drawn details on the woman's stockings, which includes a dotted back seam.
The maintenance manager at Selwyn College was surprised at the historical find. The room had already been renovated twice before, and the hidden gyp had not been discovered in either of those instances. The college archivist is hard at work trying to find out who the room belonged to during that time period. Tracking down the descendents might shed some light on some of the items found, such as the identity of the mystery woman in the black and white photo.
Watch this video to find out about the 13 biggest treasures ever discovered.
Just looking at these items is a fantastic way to time travel, without having to endure all the messiness of a science fiction movie! Thankfully, these historical pieces will be put on display at the college, so that visitors can experience history coming to life.