The Lost Treasure of Francis Wainwright, Chapter 10: The Secret of Francis’s House

The search is on for the location of Francis Wainwright’s house and what secrets it might have waiting for the cousins. How will they find the location where the house once stood? What, if anything, will they find when they get there? It is anyone’s guess, as the Willick grandchildren continue their search for the lost treasure.

Click Here to listen to the podcast.

Francis Wainwright’s house was in an odd location, with land that ranged from marsh to field to forest. Armed with old maps from books online, as well as a day trip to the Ipswich town hall the next day, all five Willick grandchildren quickly came to a consensus on the exact location of the house and where its footprint could be found in the modern-day town.

A few collected stories and first-hand accounts of previous searches for the treasure on what was thought to be Francis’s land helped them narrow down their choices. One circa-1880’s map showed a little square representing the house in its position on the land, which gave them an idea of where on the land the house might have been. A copy of Francis’s will, which gave a description of the land and its location and was used for dividing it amongst his children, also helped in the search, even using the archaic directional terms of the 1600s.

After reading and comparing all of their sources, they were well prepared when they went hiking to the outskirts of town, armed with a metal detector and trowel, just in case. It never hurt to be prepared.

“Francis’s actual house, the one he lived in with Philippa, was on the high field land, about a dozen yards from the marshy land behind it, and three acres from the wooded land on either side,” Grace reminded the group as they trekked. “A primitive road made by wagon wheel tracks was in front of the house, with more field beyond that, and then more forest.”

“The marsh was drained long ago,” Christine added, “but based on the maps, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out where it was. The house was closest to that part of the land. Once we find where the marsh used to be, finding the footprint of the house should be easy. The modern maps of Ipswich show that part of town is still not totally developed, and there is plenty of open space, so the chance the footprint of the house hasn’t been built over yet is good.”

“And, if it is?” asked James.

“We’ll deal with that when and if we come to it,” Adam said. “Worst case scenario, we explain the situation to the home or business owner and ask if we can explore the property to try to find the footprint. All they can say is no.”

“And, if they do, we’ll just come back at night when no one is watching and do it anyway,” Emily said, smiling.

“Emily,” Grace said, laughing. “Always willing to jump into danger.”

“And break the law,” James said, shaking his head in disapproval.

Emily grinned. “I prefer to think of it as bending the rules for a better purpose.”

“That’s one good way to think of it, little cousin,” Christine said. “If it comes to that, we’ll let you go first.”

The cousins laughed as they marched down the street and into the wooded area on the edge of town.

The land that used to be marsh was easy to identify. Completely high and dry now, it was covered in a thick carpet of lush green grass, a leftover of the wetland is once was. The Willick grandchildren used their maps to orient themselves, quickly locating the edge of the former marsh. Once there, it was merely a matter of walking forward the required number of yards, and they would be where Francis’s house was probably once located, assuming they had all of their calculations correct.

Using a retractable tape measure James brought along, Adam walked out with it, while James held the other end at the edge of the marsh. When Adam stopped walking, he was on the outer edge of someone’s back yard, but not quite on the property. It was public land belonging to the town. This was very good news. His sister and cousins followed him across the grassy land to where they would hopefully find the remnants of Francis’s house. Even the barest trace would do.

Of course, after more than three centuries, no one was expecting the actual foundation of the house to be visible. All were in agreement that they would be lucky if they could find a piece of wood that could be associated with the house or an indentation in the ground that might indicate where a cellar once was. Their expectations were small, but this was all they had to go on at the moment. Even if there was nothing here, just being on the land where the house stood might give them a clue to keep the search going. They had to be on the lookout for anything, even the smallest, most seemingly unimportant thing.

That is why they came early in the morning and prepared to stay all day, complete with packed lunch and bountiful drinks, courtesy of Emily.

As expected, nothing was immediately visible where the house used to be, but that did not deter them. James used the metal detector to carefully go over the area where the house once stood, while James and Emily used the trowel and some sieves to go through the first foot or so of soil on the house’s footprint. Christine walked what she believed to be the outline of the house, where the foundation would have been, hoping to see or step on something unusual, while Grace coordinated where they were searching from her laptop, making sure they stayed in the area where the actual house probably stood. They were almost certain they had it correct.

Adam and Emily found some bits of pottery, old buttons, and a decent cache of coins, some of them from Francis’s era, which they collected to bring home to maybe shop to museums or collectors. Christine found some bits of stone and wood that looked like they could have been cut by humans but were too worn to tell. But it was James who thrilled everyone later that afternoon.

Working his way from the perimeter to where the middle of the house would have been, the beeping of the metal detector, which had been silent all day, startled everyone. Adam immediately tossed James the trowel, and he began to dig, his siblings and cousins coming to stand around him, hoping to be the first to see what he found.


The unmistakable sound of metal on metal.

“Guys,” James said. “I think we have something here.”

To be continued in Chapter 11