Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Saturday, 20 December 2008

Message found in museum's chimney

Joe Kipling with the message in a bottle
The bottle was discovered by stonemason Joe Kipling

A century-old "message in a bottle" has been found in a chimney by a stonemason working at a museum in County Durham.

Joe Kipling made the discovery while he was creating an archway as part of an extension to the shop at Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.

The beer bottle contained a 102-year-old letter written by the then curator, Owen Stanley Scott.

If refers to the blocking up of several flues on "Easter Eve" in 1906, after a new heating system was installed.

At that time the museum, which opened to the public in 1892, was heated by stoves, and according to Mr Scott these were superseded by a "Hot Water Heating Apparatus".

'Precariously balanced'

In his message he wonders if the flue will ever be reopened and if the bottle, which once contained Usher's Extra Hopped Beer, will survive.

Joe Kipling, 18, said that the bottle was precariously balanced, and could easily have smashed and been lost forever if it had been caught by the masonry drill.

"We were all curious as to what was in the message and it caused a lot of interest among the men on site," he said.

Adrian Jenkins, director of the Bowes Museum, said: "It's intriguing to have found this tangible link to the museum's past.

"We are proposing to leave our own mark during the transformation for future generations to discover."



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