9:25am Friday 18th October 2013
By Stephen Mather
A PIECE of St Helens history has been unearthed thousands of miles away in Mexico by an amateur metal detector enthusiast.
Eliseo Amavizca unearthed a small iron plate from a Victorian chemical works while treasure hunting in the Mexican state of Sonora.
Written across the plate are the words ‘United Alkali Co Ltd Walker Works 70% 72% Caustic Soda St Helens Great Britain’.
Eliseo contacted local historian Stephen Wainwright through his website Sutton Beauty and Heritage to try and find out more about the object.
Stephen said: “The Walker Works were actually in Merton Bank, not Sutton and owned by Thomas Walker from 1876 until it became part of the United Alkali Company in 1890.
“It was a very small chemical works and is said to have closed two years later.
“So I can date Eliseo’s discovery as between 1890 and 1892. Not much is known about the Walker Works so this is quite an exciting find.”
How the plate ended up under Mexican soil, near the small steel town of Rosario is a mystery.
However the many chemical works in St Helens were known to make caustic soda for the export market.
Stephen said it is likely that the plate had been the iron lid of a caustic soda container that had been shipped to the Americas.
Eliseo, 47, found the plate underground stacked beneath old iron objects and stones and thinks it was deliberately hidden.
In his message to Stephen he wrote: “I work in electricity and plumbing and like history. I use my metal detector to look for ancient things or lost coins.”
The last chemical works in St Helens closed more than 80 years ago so such artefacts are quite rare.
In 2011 an Anglican curate discovered a St Theresa’s Sutton Manor Founder’s Certificate, which had been made out to a wealthy nobleman in the loft of his new Kent vicarage.
In addition last year an old Cannington Shaw glass jar lid was found by eight-year-old Alfie Atkins while treasure hunting in the River Kenwyn in Truro, Cornwall.
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