Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet


The Mystery of Waldegrave Pelham and the Wampum Belt



Our History tells us that the Puritans set sail on the Mayflower Fleet in circa 1630 to settle in New England on todays East Coast of the USA.

For some 40 years they lived in harmony with the local Indians, but as time progressed the settlers plundered more and more of their land for farming and housing.
In 1675, the Indians rose up and declared war on the New Settlers in protest at their ever increasing loss of habitat.

This was know as King Philips War - Philip ( a name given to him by the English) being the tribal head of various indigenous tribal factions

The Settlers having superior fire power soon quelled this uprising, Philip was captured and executed.

Philip had in his possession a Wampum Belt around his neck, which was so large it touched his ankles
Quote:- It had two flags on the back part, which hung down on his back, and another small belt with a star upon the end of it, which he used to hang on his breast, and they were all edged with red hair.

This was confiscated by the Commanding Soldier and passed over the the Governor of the Plymouth Colony in New England, Josiah Winslow.
Josiah in turn handed this over to his brother-in law Waldegrave Pelham, which he was to take back to the UK and hand over the Charles 11 as a momento of their success over the Indian uprising.

However by 1679 it never materialised in London with Charles 11 not best pleased, we know the last person to have this belt was Waldegrave Pelham
Waldegrave retreated to his family home called Ferriers, near Bures in Essex, and died in 1699.

American literature quotes:- Where Philip's belts lie today remains a mystery. Perhaps, they are buried in the ground near the old Pelham manor in Essex.

So what did Waldegrave do with this artifact ?

One tantalizing clue as to the belts' whereabouts remains.
In the 1980s, Maurice Robbins of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, believing he may have located the belts, began negotiations with a small museum in Great Britain for their return. Several members of the society remembered discussion of a possible trade, as the corresponding museum was interested in a particular type of artifact to add to its collection.

With Robbins' death in 1990, however, the negotiations broke off, and members of the society today have no written record of Robbins' work or remember the museum with which he was corresponding.

So where was this Museum ??

Update 15/07/2016
This seems to contradict Maurice Robbins dealing with a Small Museum

British Museum
However, there appears to be a Wampum belt stored in the archives at the Museum
Quote from Michelle Coughlin, Massachusetts Historian

"In 1993 a photo was taken of some Native American wampum belts that were on display at the British Museum in the coinage room. The photos were investigated and it was determined (based on Wampanoag history) to be in fact the famous "King Philip's Belt" that has been unaccounted for three hundred years.

On March 2 1995 the Massachusetts House of Representatives adopted a resolution requesting his excellency, British Prime Minister John Major, to return the Wampanoag nation certain sacred artifacts. In response, The British government promised to find the wampum belt. Spokesperson (at that time) Teresa Evans for the British Consulate in Boston Mass. stated "Prime Minister John Major has directed the Department of National Heritage to search for the belt. They are having a hard time locating it, it will take further investigation."
In 1996 a follow-up letter was sent by Representative Travis; who has since left public office and no further action has been taken on this matter."


Updated 13/07/2016

Extract taken from the "King Philips War" publications

ref:- http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/king-philips-war
ref:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/King-Philips-War-Americas-Forgotten/dp/0881504831

ref:- Acknowledement to Michelle Coughlin from Boston, USA for bringing this story to my attention
Alan Beales 15/07/2016