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News from the past

14 November 2014

AS A joiner, he must have had a sense of history; for in 1880 he wrote his name and hid a couple of newspapers in the sealed base of a bookcase, while working in the Monks' Dormitory at Durham Cathedral. The two papers, the Newcastle Daily Chronicle dated 13 July 1880, and The Weekly Times, a London paper dated 17 June 1880, were found during work to transform the Dormitory into part of the Cathedral's Open Treasure exhibition of its history.

The cathedral's archaeologist, Norman Emery, says there are no articles in the two papers about the cathedral itself, "but it's very interesting to read about the various murders, marriages, and miracle cures". It is a bit of a mystery how the papers came to be sealed up in the void between the base of the bookcase and the floorboards, he says, as records show that the library was opened in 1856, and there seems to be no reason why anyone should have got under the bookcases after that.

He is also trying to find who the joiner was. The name on the bookcase is John Milbanke, who might have been a builder or joiner; the Weekly Times also has a name and address written in ink across the centre page. "The name looks to be Mr R. Gelloly, or something similar, from Berwick on Tweed. It would be fascinating to know the link between this man and the man who ended up with his newspaper."

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