Friday 30th October 2009
A COLLECTION of precious artefacts found on a riverbed could be heading for a remote monastery.
It had been thought the value of more than 30 items that belonged to former Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey would be shared between brothers Gary and Trevor Bankhead, who recovered them from the River Wear, and Durham Cathedral.
But John Miles, executor of Mr Ramsey’s will, believes the Community of the Resurrection, a religious retreat near Mirfield, West Yorkshire, could have a claim on the haul.
Mr Miles said that after some personal bequests, all of the estate of Mr Ramsey and his wife, Joan, went to the group.
He said: “If these things from the river were Michael’s property, then presumably Mirfield has a claim on them.
“Certainly, had they still been in his possession at the time of his death in 1988, then they would have formed part of his estate.
“At the very least, Durham ought to talk to the people at Mirfield when it comes to deciding what to do with all this stuff.”
The treasures include gifts from Pope Paul VI and a silver trowel presented to Mr Ramsey for laying the foundation of an Indian church in 1961.
Speculation has raged as to how the items came to be in the river, with the Bankhead brothers saying Mr Ramsey threw them in as a “gift to the people”.
Others believe Mr Ramsey, who retired to Durham, was burgled.
News of the possible boost came as shock to the Reverend Father George Guiver, superior of the Mirfield community, who said: “Michael Ramsey is remembered here with great affection and warmth. He was a good friend to us.
“It would be a great boost to our £2m appeal for the reordering of our church, but we must just wait and see.”
Philip Davies, the chapter clerk at Durham Cathedral, said: “We shall be contacting Mirfield in due course, but no decisions have been made.
“The Durham coroner has been informed and it will be for him to decide if an inquest is needed to see if it is treasure trove or belongs to someone else.”
Gary Bankhead said that if the coroner declared the items to be treasure, he and his brother have a legal agreement that they would share the money with the cathedral.