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Archbishop's treasure found in river
By Paul Stokes

A number of valuable ecclesiastical treasures given to a former Archbishop of Canterbury have been found dumped in a river.

A bronze given to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is one of the precious relics discovered by diver Trevor Bankhead, who was diving in the River Wear in Durham Photo: NORTH NEWS & PICTURES
A haul of 32 artefacts, including gifts from Pope Paul VI and a commemorative medallion presented to the bishop for the Queen's coronation in 1952, have been recovered from the River Wear in Durham.
They had been in the possession of Michael Ramsey, the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent part of his retirement in the northern city where he served as bishop.

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One theory is that he may have cast the items into the water himself at various times, having a reputation for eccentricity before his death 21 years ago at the age of 83.
Another suggestion is that they may have been stolen before being discarded by thieves for some reason as they crossed Prebends Bridge.
However, there is no record of the house where Ramsey and his wife Joan lived on South Bailey having been burgled.
The objects, some solid gold, have been discovered by amateur divers Trevor Bankhead, 40, and his brother Gary, 44, a fire service watch officer, over the past two and a half years.
They conducted 300 dives and believe there are no objects left on the river bed after their last find on Sunday.
It is their belief belief the items could have been put into the water deliberately as a “gift” to the city by Lord Ramsey.
Trevor Bankhead, a former soldier, said: “We believe the Archbishop threw them into the river in 1983 or 1984, by which time he would have had limited mobility.
“So we chose places which were easily accessible by the water’s edge and threw silver washers in the river to try and trace the trajectory the objects could have taken.”
The dives were carried out under licence from Durham Cathedral which owns both banks of the stretch of river.
Mr Bankhead added: “It’s been very exciting, not just finding the objects, but also researching them and being able to pin down the time when he would have received them.”
Their first find was an ornate silver trowel presented to the Archbishop for laying the foundation stone of an Indian church in 1961.
The brothers have since retrieved over 30 other items linked to Ramsey, along with hundreds of medieval and Saxon artefacts.
Among them are gold, silver and bronze medals struck to commemorate the second Vatican council, which must have been presented to Ramsey, who was the most senior cleric in the Church of England from 1961 to 1974, when he met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1966.
It was during the same visit the Pope gave Ramsey his episcopal ring which the Archbishop wore until the day he died and is now kept at Lambeth Palace.
Other items discovered include a solid silver coin from the Greek Orthodox Church and a solid gold coin, likely to have been presented when Ramsey met Nikkyo Niwano, president of the Japanese Buddhist movement, in 1973.
Anne Heywood, chapter steward at Durham Cathedral, described the notion that Lord Ramsey may have been responsible as “pure speculation”.
She said: “We don't know whether he might have had a burglary. Somebody might have thought these were worth something, and discovered when they were running across Prebends Bridge that they weren’t, and just threw them in the river - but again that is just pure speculation.”
Mark McIntosh, professor of divinity at Durham University, who was a student of Lord Ramsey, said the former Archbishop's health declined in his later years.
He said: "My hunch would be that he would have had very little knowledge of where most of his things were at that point in his life as he was growing feebler by the day."
The value of the items has still to be established, with estimates up to £10,000, and will be split between the cathedral and the brothers.
It is hoped some will eventually go on display at Durham’s 11th Century cathedral.

 



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