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Mystery of missing key to castle's historic banqueting hall solved after 40 years

Lumley Castle was left without the key to its banqueting hall for 40 years.
Lumley Castle was left without the key to its banqueting hall for 40 years.

A man who pinched an ancient key has sent an anonymous confession to a hotel castle's bosses.

Lumley Castle Hotel, at Chester-le-Street near Durham, has been trying to find the key to its historic banqueting hall since the 1970s.

The hotel is a North East landmark.

The hotel is a North East landmark.

But the whereabouts of the missing item were finally solved this week, when it turned up in the post with a letter from a man called John, confessing to taking it.

“Back in the 1970s, to my shame, I arrived home with the enclosed key after an intoxicating evening at Lumley Castle,” said the letter.

“The key, to the best of my memory, fits the outside door in the banqueting hall.

“It has been on my bookcase for around 40 years, I have moved house four times since that time and now reside back in the south of England.

The key was returned to Lumley Castle along with an anonymous note.

The key was returned to Lumley Castle along with an anonymous note.

“Over the years my conscience reminded of those good days in the North East but it is time to correct matter, so with sincere apologies I duly return the key to you.”

The letter has no surname and no address, so hotel staff have no idea who “John” is – but are very happy to have the key back.

“The key has been missing a very long time and nobody had any idea where it was,” said Lauren Colledge, sales manager at Lumley Castle.

“We have no idea who John is but are very glad that he’s finally had an attack of conscience and returned it to its rightful home.

Hotel manager Ed Stephenson returns the key to the lock.

Hotel manager Ed Stephenson returns the key to the lock.

“We hope that someone will know who he is so we can tell him that we forgive him and are very grateful that it’s back at Lumley.”

Lumley Castle is a 630-year-old castle and is now a four-star hotel which has retained many of its original features, including a dungeon, crenelated towers and more than 50 bedrooms decorated in period style.

The hotel is also famed for its medieval banquets and is a popular choice for weddings, conferences and events.