A YOUNG stonemason found more than he bargained for when he opened up a chimney at a North museum.
Joe Kipling, 18, who works for local masonry contractor Peter Coverdale, discovered a message in a beer bottle, secreted by the curator of Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, 102 years ago.
At that time the museum, which opened to the public in 1892, was heated by stoves, but according to the message from the then curator, Owen Stanley Scott, several flues were blocked up on ‘Easter Eve’, April 14, 1906, the stoves having been superseded by a ‘Hot Water Heating Apparatus’.
In his message, Mr Scott wonders if the flue will ever be reopened and if the bottle – which once contained Usher’s Extra Hopped Beer – will survive.
Joe, who lives in Woodside, Barnard Castle, found the message as he was opening up the chimney to create a new archway from the museum’s entrance hall.
He said the bottle was precariously balanced in the flue and could so easily have smashed and been lost forever if it had been caught by the masonry drill.
Joe said: “We were all curious as to what was in the message and it caused a lot of interest among the men on site.”
Adrian Jenkins, the museum’s director, 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.”
The Bowes Museum is open daily from 10am.
It was purpose-built as a public art gallery for John Bowes, the illegitimate son of John Bowes, the 10th Earl of Strathmore and his wife Joséphine Benoîte, Countess of Montalbo, who both died before it opened in 1892.
It was designed by the French architect Jules Pellechet in a grand French style within landscaped gardens.
As part of the transformation taking place over the next few weeks, a limited catering and retail service is available.
This will be replaced by upgraded facilities, including a passenger-operated lift, early in the New Year.