Norman Tower’s Missing Key Returned after Almost 50 Years

English Heritage is offering a reward of membership for the person who came forward with key, after anonymous note saying 'sorry for the delay'

A large brass key to St Leonard’s Tower in Kent has been returned in the post to English Heritage. 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.

While the locks at St Leonard's Tower have long since been changed, the key fits perfectly in the original keyhole. English Heritage now wishes to thank the mysterious individual behind its return 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 the Norman tower. It seems only fitting that a key which opened its doors, missing for 47 years, should inexplicably be returned with a tantalising note. The letter that we received read:

Dear English Heritage,

Please find enclosed large key to…

St Leonard’s Tower, West Malling, Kent

Borrowed 1973

Returned 2020

Sorry for the delay


The anonymous note and accompanying key to St Leonard's Tower, Kent

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 Leonard's 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.'

With a Gift of Membership, loved ones can receive unlimited access to over 400 historic places all year round, four Members' Magazines per year and an exclusive Members' Handbook. Your support also means you'll be helping to keep England's history alive for years to come.

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

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