An Exeter MA History student discovered an archive of personal items “dumped” in the mud on the side of the Western Way, Exeter on 4 June. Joe Williams, 22, launched an appeal on Twitter to reunite the collection with family members of Paul and Elizabeth Ascher, the deceased couple to whom the items belonged.
The archive included love letters, telegrams from friends, sketches, paintings, framed photographs and albums dating back to the late Victorian period. Williams used these to piece together the lives of Paul and ‘Betty’ Ascher, who were married in 1963 and lived most of their lives in Reading.
Williams’ twitter thread received over 1,000 retweets and 3,000 likes and the story was featured online by Devon Live, Get Reading and BBC News.
the Aschers’ goddaughter was found and Williams has since returned the collection to her
The online appeal proved successful: the Aschers’ goddaughter was found and Williams has since returned the collection to her. The Exeter student described her as “heartbroken” that the archive, which had been in her possession until last month, had been dumped at the side of the road, but is unsure how it ended up there. She had given it to a distant relation at Elizabeth Ascher’s funeral in May.
The appeal also reached a distant cousin of Paul Ascher in Canada, to whom some of the items have been sent.
Williams told BBC News he was “amazed” that “someone could see these mementos, going back over 100 years, and decide the best thing to do was dump them at a roadside in wet mud.”