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Last Updated: Friday, 14 January, 2005, 15:14 GMT
'Lost' ball located 91 years on
Lincoln Cathedral
The ball at Lincoln Cathedral has gone unnoticed for decades
The family of a boy whose tennis ball got stuck high up in a cathedral archway have asked for it back - almost a century later.

It has been lodged in the mouldings of Lincoln Cathedral since 1914.

But its presence was only noticed by cathedral staff after the nephew of Gilbert Bell, who threw the ball, wrote a letter asking for it back.

The Norfolk family, who make regular trips to check the ball, were concerned it might be dislodged by scaffolding.

I have walked round the cathedral hundreds of times yet never noticed the ball
Cathedral spokeswoman Carol Heidschuste
David Bell, 78, Gilbert's nephew, said he decided to write the letter asking for their ball back as a joke.

But he added he secretly hoped they would notice it and leave it in place for future generations.

He said: "The story in our family goes that Gilbert threw the tennis ball up to the cathedral against the wall and it stuck in a crevice.

"Every time we go up to Lincoln now we go and see if it's still there."

'Never noticed it'

Mr Bell, from Diss, added the family spotted scaffolding at the cathedral and became concerned the ball would be lost if the walls were cleaned. "We wrote the letter tongue in cheek to ask for our ball back," he said.

"It really tickled us. Personally I would rather it stayed there."

Cathedral spokeswoman Carol Heidschuster said: "I have walked round the cathedral hundreds of times yet never noticed the ball."

She added they had no plans to clean the stonework for at least 10 years but would return the ball if it came out.

The ball is believed to be among the oldest surviving examples in the UK.

The earliest proper tennis ball held in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum dates from 1916, while Gilbert Bell's is from at least 1914.

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