Property agents working on the sale of a house in Gloucestershire have discovered a metal box containing letters dating to the time of India's partition of the subcontinent, providing a rare insight into the turmoil of those times.
The letters, as well as certificates and other memorabilia, were found in a house in Cirencester belonging to a couple who had lived there since 1910.
Described as a historic treasure offering a glimpse into country life, the box was found in a wall cavity. All the material in the box is said to be in a good condition, according to property agents Moore Allen and Innocent.
The box contains birth and marriage certificates, wedding photographs and correspondence with friends from India. The house belonged to Herbert and Irene Branston, who spent their entire married life at the cottage.
Reports from Cirencester say that Irene Branston died in 2002 and so far none of her family members has been traced. The box was found when workers knocked down an interior wall built across an alcove in the cottage.
Rachel Vincent, of Moore Allen and Innocent, told mediapersons: "It is a fascinating record of a complete marriage and family life dating back to 1910. There are birth and marriage certificates, photographs of weddings and family occasions, letters from friends, some who live in India - all of them giving a wonderful insight into bygone times.
"The letters appear to be from a friend Herbert Branston had made during his time in India. The friend is a Hindu man who mentions that he lost all of his possessions during events in Pakistan in the 1940s."
After a local appeal, the property agents traced a niece of Irene Branston, Maureen Baulch, who lives in Wiltshire.
She said, "I'm quite delighted to be in possession of the box. It opens up a window on my past. It is so fascinating. One of the photographs of me as a child, dressed as a bridesmaid at the wedding of Herbert and Irene, brings memories of that day back to me as if it were yesterday. To be in possession of so many of the family's documents, letters and photos of the family holidays gives me great pleasure."