Norman Tower’s Missing Key Returned after Almost 50 Years

  • Anonymous note reads "sorry for the delay"
  • English Heritage asks key-returner to get in touch for a reward of membership


A large brass key to St Leonard’s Tower, in Kent has been returned in the post to English Heritage, the charity announced today (9 December). The key, which had been missing for almost half a century, was sent with an anonymous note admitting it had been 'borrowed' and apologising for the delay in returning it. English Heritage now wishes to thank the mysterious individual with a gift of membership and is asking them to get back in touch. Unlike library books, there’s no fine for a late return.

Although it is thought to have been built between 1077 and 1108, little is known about the history of St Leonard’s Tower; the Norman tower keep is itself an enigmatic survival. It seems only fitting that a key which opens the tower’s doors, missing for 47 years, should inexplicably be returned with a tantalising note:

Roy Porter, English Heritage’s Senior Properties Curator, said: "It’s certainly one of the most puzzling packages we’ve ever received and just in time for Christmas! It’s a modern mystery to add to the historical questions posed by the tower.

"This year has been an extremely challenging one for English Heritage and we would like to thank all our members and visitors for their support, without which we just couldn’t care for historic gems like St Leonards Tower. We’d love to reward the honesty of whoever returned the key with a gift of membership.  If that’s you, please get in touch."

Why not give the Gift of English Heritage Membership to a loved one this year? With unlimited access to over 400 historic places all year round, four Members' Magazines per year and an exclusive Members' Handbook, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Your support also means you'll be helping to keep England's history alive for years to come.

While the locks at St Leonards Tower have long since been changed, the key fits perfectly in the original keyhole.

If you submitted the note to English Heritage, please get in touch with our Customer Services team on 0370 333 1181 or email

For more information about St Leonard’s Tower, visit:

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