AFTER last week's plea by the Abergavenny History Society to help find the missing plaque of Sir Benjamin Hall, which had gone walkabout from Swan Meadows, it was feared that the whereabouts of Abergavenny's 'Big Ben', was destined to be writ large in the pages of posterity as one of history's great unsolved mysteries.
Would a budding Sherlock Holmes come forth in a timely fashion to explain to the satisfaction of all what had exactly happened to Sir Benjamin?
Chronicle readers everywhere wondered aghast if the widely admired plaque been purloined by an unknown admirer or vandal? Had it been abducted by extraterrestrials with a keen eye for history, or had 'Big Ben' simply been knocked off his perch by a savage wind and gone boing! Before being blown into oblivion, or at the very least, the River Gavenny!
The finest minds in Monmouthshire enquired as to the exact whereabouts of 'Big Ben', in much the same vein as open-mouthed and blank-eyed historians often ponder over a bottle of single malt and lament, "What primitive stargazers created Stonehenge?" Or, "What unnatural calamity caused the fall of the Minoan civilisation?"
Just as it looked likely that the Abergavenny plaque was destined to join the ranks of similar legends, lost to eternity, such as Lord Lucan and Shergar, there was light at the end of the murk and mist of this particular tunnel, and the torchbearer was none other than Chronicle reader Mrs Patricia Purkiss.
The Holywell Road resident immediately contacted the Chronicle after reading about how the plaque of Sir Benjamin Hall had gone missing from one of the standing stones that the Abergavenny Local History Society put up next to the Eisteddfod Circle in Swan Meadows.
The stones provide ceramic tile illustrations about Lady Llanover and her endeavours to promote the Welsh language.
The ceramic tiles also depict her husband, Sir Benjamin Hall, the MP after whom London's Big Ben (the bell that is) is named, and an active supporter of his wife's campaigning.
They are part of a series of historical interpretations on ceramic plaques around the town researched by local schools.
Mrs Purkiss explained to the Chronicle, "I was out walking in Swan Meadows last Summer, when I noticed the plaque of Sir Benjamin was lying discarded on the grass like it had been ripped off and thrown away.
"Not wanting to see it vandalised any more I picked it up and took him home with me."
Mrs Purkiss revealed how she then asked her husband, Keith, to take the plaque to Abergavenny's One Stop Shop and hand it in.
"I thought once it was handed in, they'd get someone to stick it back on the stone. So it came as something of a shock to read in the Chronicle that it was still missing.
"I can only assume 'Big Ben' was stuck under a counter or shoved in a drawer and forgotten about, but hopefully the Chronicle will be able to jog a few memories and restore Sir Benjamin to his rightful place."
Upon contacting the One Stop Shop, the Chronicle was informed that no-one in the office had any immediate recollection of the 'Big Ben' plaque being handed in.
After repeated requests council staff carried out a thorough search of their extensive database and informed us that sadly there was no record of any such plaque being handed in last Summer by a Mr Purkiss.
An impasse had apparently been reached, but five minutes later, the One Stop Shop contacted the newsdesk again to say that one of their employees did have a vague recollection of the plaque being handed in and that it had been transferred to the care of Monmouthshire County Council's Commercial and Green Spaces Manager, Tim Bradfield.
The One Stop Shop assured us that the plaque would be put back forthwith, but like a sleuth on a scent, the Chronicle contacted Mr Bradfield to find out exactly why, if Sir Benjamin Hall had been found, had he not been in situ all these long months?
Mr Bradfield told the Chronicle, "So many of these plaques are torn down by vandals, and our boys do their best to locate them and put them back up as soon as we're notified that one has gone missing.
"Some of these plaques have been ripped down, replaced, ripped down, and replaced ad infinitum, and I honestly can't remember when the Sir Benjamin Hall plaque was last handed in, but rest assured, I've got the boys searching the depot for the plaque as we speak, and if it's there, we'll soon have it back where it belongs."
Hold tight Abergavenny and keep your fingers crossed. All is not lost.