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700-year-old artefact found thanks to pub smoking ban
By Jim McTaggart
PUB landlord Billy Nettleton was astonished after a 700-year-old grave cover was discovered in his village pub - thanks to the smoking ban.
He knew nothing about the carved stone relic that had been built into an internal passage wall.
But one of his regulars, archaeologist Percival Turnbull, spotted it low in the wall as he stood outside puffing his pipe, because he can no longer smoke in the bar of the Blacksmiths Arms in Mickleton, County Durham.
Though the stone had been painted over, he identified it as part of a stone used to cover the grave of an important person, such as a merchant or successful craftsman in about 1300. Graves of less important people were not marked in that era.
Mr Nettleton said: "I've run the pub for ten years and walked past the stone many hundreds of times without noticing it. Nobody would ever have known about it, but for the smoking ban. I am really amazed.
"It is in a passage on the way to the gents' toilets. I opened up a door in the passage so customers could go out for a smoke. It was pure luck that Percival was standing outside with his pipe when he spotted it."