A VICTORIAN message in a bottle was uncovered at a church yesterday.

Contractors restoring the floor at St Helen’s Church, in St Helen Auckland, County Durham, were stunned when they discovered the 142-yearold bottle, with a piece of paper still inside.

The message, which states it was written in 1866 when the medieval church was restored, gives details of the restoration and the people who carried it out.

It also asks the finder to return it to the church’s foundations.

The bottle was found by Stephen Smith, of Grove Reconstruction, the contractors who are restoring the church.

It had been sealed with a cork, which had partly disintegrated and crumbled when it was removed. The message was in an envelope, which disintegrated when it was handled, but the note inside remained intact.

The bottle, which is made of clear glass and may have held ginger beer, is marked with the words “Auckland” and “JW Townend”.

It was found in the foundations of the church’s southeast chapel.

Other features of archaeological interest have also been discovered.

The remains of a medieval wall painting were found and it was also discovered that the bottom of the pillars is made of brick, which means that they probably date from around the time of the restoration.

Archaeologist Peter Ryder, who has been on site, said although he had seen other messages from the past left in different ways, the discovery of a message in a bottle was unusual.

“I’ve not seen anything quite like this,” he said.

“It is the classic message in a bottle.”

As requested on the paper, details of the latest restoration were added to it and it was resealed in the bottle and put back into the church foundations yesterday.