Fascinating story of church beams sold Down Under

An archive photo, supplied by Alan Prest, of one of the beams being examined.
An archive photo, supplied by Alan Prest, of one of the beams being examined.

A Facebook-based nostalgia page for Alnwick has turned up a fascinating tale of how 15th-century beams from St Michael’s Church ended up being sold Down Under.

To mark Australia Day last Thursday, Bill Matheson shared a newspaper article on the Alnwick Memories page, which relates to an auction in Canberra almost 50 years ago.

Bill explained that at the auction, in December 1969, among the lots were three oak beams from the church, dating back to around 1470.

He posted a photo of the newspaper article, Oak beams fetch $90, only for another user of the page, Alan Prest, to provide a photo of the sale, which he received when he asked friends in Australia to look out for Alnwick pictures.

The article reads: ‘An O’Connor (a Canberra suburb) man paid $90 at an auction on Saturday for three 15th-century oak beam from a historic English church.

‘Mr RB Wilkinson, who was the only bidder for the beams at an auction at the St Mark’s Library annual fair, said he had strong family ties with Alnwick, where the beams were taken from the roof of the Church of St Michael.

‘Mr Wilkinson’s family lived at Alnwick and he had thought it was fitting that he should have the beams, although he has no idea what he will do with them.

‘The three beams, each fluted and eight feet long, were removed from the church when the roof was replaced in 1956. They were later shipped to Australia to be used in the construction of St Mark’s Library, but this proved impossible.

‘Two former residents of Alnwick, Mrs T Dixon, of Nhill, Victoria, and Mrs C Cole, Canberra, watched the beams being auctioned by the High Commissioner for New Zealand, Mr Luke Hazlett.’

Do you know any more about the beams? Contact ben.oconnell@jpress.co.uk or 01665 602234.