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The Queen’s visit frozen in time

An edition of the Gibraltar Chronicle was one of the items discovered in a time capsule that was found behind the foundation stone laid by the Queen at the old St Bernard’s Hospital in 1954.

The time capsule was not placed by the Queen but after her visit. This came to light because the edition of the Chronicle was dated May 12, 1954, while her visit took place on May 11.

Dr Geraldine Finlayson, a director of the Gibraltar Museum, and Dr Kevin Lane, the Gibraltar Government archaeologist, undertook the responsibility of carefully opening the time capsule to ensure no damage was incurred.

Both Dr Finlayson and Dr Lane discovered the capsule on site when they went to inspect the foundation stone. Director of the Gibraltar Museum Professor Clive Finlayson is used to uncovering items from Neanderthal times but expressed his delight in the time capsule find and the items uncovered.

He said: “it is always exciting to find new discoveries,” “it is great to find these things,  and something for a change as what we are normally doing is thousands of years so to have an exact match to almost the day is great.”

“This can trigger a lot of interest and discussion.”

Also included in the lead time capsule were copies of the now defunct local newspapers The Gibraltar Post and El Calpense, as well as copies of The Times.

Building plans dated January 1954, with revision dates of February and May 1954, were also inside the capsule. It is assumed the plans are of the old hospital but due to the documents being damp they will need to be handled carefully and when they dry they will be opened up.

A set of Gibraltar coins dated 1953 were also found. The significance of the coins is that it was the first set to feature the Queen’s head following her coronation in that same year.

In addition and in its own casing was a five Shilling commemorative coin for the 1953 Queen’s coronation. The other side of the coin depicts the emblems of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A letter, which includes the names of people involved with the hospital was also found, names such as the architect, the person who commissioned the works and the Governor at the time, Gordon MacMillan.

Some photographs were also in the time capsule. However, due to slight water damage these will need to be processed with care before all of them can be seen.

So far, all that is visible is a photograph of the trowel the Queen used for the foundation stone and a photograph of the new wing of the hospital.

The insides of the time capsule suffered slight water damage when workmen using a kangol hammer sprayed water on the machinery when it started to overheat, unaware that they were drilling into a piece of heritage at the time. 

The maximum length of time the documents would have been submerged in water would have been 24 hours, as a result it is thought that no permanent damage has been caused.

The items inside the time capsule will eventually be on display at the Gibraltar Museum and copies of all items will be taken and placed inside a new capsule to be buried at the site of the old hospital along with new items from present day.

Chief Executive Officer of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust Claire Montado was also present, she said the collection of all the items together and the fact it was placed behind a foundation stone laid by the Queen was significant.

Minister for Heritage Steven Linares was present when the time capsule was opened and displayed a lot of intrigue and knowledge on what was found.

At present, neither the Gibraltar Heritage Trust or the Museum are aware of any persons who may have been involved with the placing of the time capsule and are asking the public to contact this newspaper, the Heritage Trust or the Gibraltar Museum with any information or photographs they may have.

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