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Supernatural twist as asylum bottle found in Sheffield Cathedral roof could be to 'ward off evil spirits'

Reverend Canon Keith Farrow with workmen Adam Green and Rob Bowyer with the discovered bottle.
Reverend Canon Keith Farrow with workmen Adam Green and Rob Bowyer with the discovered bottle.

An intriguing mystery over why an old medicine bottle was lodged in the roof of Sheffield Cathedral could have been solved - and it has a supernatural twist.

Workmen carrying out renovations in December were shocked to find what looks like an old green medicine bottle labelled 'Asylum Wadsley' with the cork still in it tucked away under lead roof tiles above the nave.

Reverend Canon Keith Farrow with the bottle found in the church roof.

Reverend Canon Keith Farrow with the bottle found in the church roof.

It is believed the five inch long bottle came from a former psychiatric unit - latterly known as Middlewood Hospital and based in Wadsley that dates back to 1872 - but nobody had any idea how it ended up stuck high inside the city's cathedral roof.

But the mystery could now have been solved.

Andy Wainwright, an army engineer who in his spare time buys and sells old bottles, and Dr David Clarke, an author who has written books on the supernatural, got in touch after reading the story in The Star and believe they may have the answer.

Dr Clarke, a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "There is quite a lot of evidence that objects such as shoes, bottles and even mummified cats were walled up in roofs, chimneys and walls in the past. In folklore they were placed there to protect buildings from evil and as counterspells against illness that some believed was caused by witchcraft.

The exterior of Sheffield Cathedral.

The exterior of Sheffield Cathedral.

"Later in the 18th and 19th centuries cheap glass bottles were used for the same purpose. The bottle found in the cathedral roof still contains its cork so it would be worth checking inside to see any material had been concealed as part of the ritual.

"The fact this bottle came from a former psychiatric hospital strongly suggests it was placed there for magical purposes."

Mr Wainwright, aged 40, of Buxton, added: "The bottle is very valuable and is a very early example. If there is a line and a rough area (on the base) it will pre-date 1850 and would be worth £2000 plus, if not it is still very rare."

The Star has now arranged for pictures of the bottle to be sent to Mr Wainwright, currently based in Aldershot, for analysis to establish the true value of the bottle.

Middlewood Hospital pictured in 1975.

Middlewood Hospital pictured in 1975.

Reverend Canon Keith Farrow, who actually used to work at the hospital before joining the church, said: "I am not surprised that it may have been used for this sort of thing, however things which are of religious folklore are usually found in houses rather than churches or cathedrals.

"But the value of it really has surprised me. I can only guess that it was put there by a workman to protect the building years and years ago."

He added there are now plans to put the bottle on display inside the cathedral's heritage corner.

There is no known link between Middlewood Hospital, which closed in the mid 1990s, and the cathedral.

Andy Wainwright.

Andy Wainwright.

The cathedral's roof is being fixed using a £480, 000 grant from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund and is due to be finished by March 2018.

Dr David Clarke.

Dr David Clarke.