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Mysterious bottle discovered buried in cathedral chapel
IT’S a mystery in a bottle.
A century-old glass vessel containing an intriguing note is baffling history buffs at Durham Cathedral.
Stonemason Steve Mann unearthed the remarkably well-preserved bottle while re-laying flagstones near the tomb of the Venerable Bede in the cathedral’s 12th century Galilee Chapel on Tuesday (September 24).
The corked bottle has not yet been opened, so no-one knows the contents of the mysterious letter held within.
But some tantalising clues can be spotted from external analysis.
The words ‘Globe Theatre’ are visible on the time-worn paper’s letterhead, meaning it must have dated from no earlier than 1909 – the year the London venue, known since 1994 as the Gielgud Theatre, changed its name from the Hicks to the Globe.
The bottle was handed over to Durham University conservator Liz Branigan for expert study today (Wednesday, September 25).
The discovery, between slabs of mortar, is the talk of the cathedral community, with many pet theories on its origin and meaning flying around.
Some say it is an Edwardian time capsule. Others believe it was hidden by a previous stonemason. Perhaps some are even hoping for a hidden treasure map.
Speaking about his find, Mr Mann said: “I was surprised and delighted. I’ve never found a message in a bottle before.
“I thought the stone needed re-bedding so I took it up and the bottle was just lying there.”
Cathedral archaeologist Norman Emery said: “I’m hoping it will have a date on it. All we know is it’s after 1909. It’s certainly unusual.”
The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham, said: “I’m fascinated.
“We all love the romance of a message in a bottle.
“It looks as though it’s a century old maybe and we’re all eager to know what it says. Maybe we’ll all learn something important.”
Cathedral bosses are to search their archives for any known links with the Globe Theatre.
Mr Emery said the cathedral was fortunate to still have its archives and accounts dating back many years, meaning there is more chance of solving such mysteries.
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