A mysterious treasure trove of historic police artefacts has been uncovered from the waters of the muddy River Wear.
Underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead discovered buttons, badges, a whistle and collar number submerged in the riverbed under two metres of water near Elvet Bridge, in Durham City.
Little is known about the material, other than it includes a whistle which still works despite years on the riverbed and a collar number which appears to belong to Constable 145.
It is unclear how old they are, but are in remarkably good condition and are marked the County Constabulary, the name adopted by Durham’s police force between 1839 and 1974.
The material appears to belong to one long-lost tunic, perhaps discarded as a brave officer went into the water during a river rescue.
Mr Bankhead, a station manager with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and with 25 years’ experience as a sub-aqua diver, found the items just downstream from Elvet Bridge, as he was recovering other objects which form part of the Durham River Wear Assemblage.
He said the river is relatively ‘shallow’ and the visibility typically ‘good,’ which made finding the artefacts a lot easier.
Mr Bankhead said: “It’s so special to me to find objects that can be traced to an organisation like Durham Constabulary.
“Being able to uncover and hand over a piece of local history to them gives me great satisfaction.”
The finds discovered by Mr Bankhead, who is also an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, will now be displayed at Durham Constabulary Headquarters for officers, staff and visitors to view.
Inspector Andrea Arthur of Durham City Neighbourhood team said: “It’s fascinating to imagine what incident caused our colleagues uniform to end up in the River Wear.
“I am sure policing has changed greatly but the desire to help is an integral part of being a police officer - I am however grateful that the uniform has changed.”
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