For the last few months, staff at the Northallerton Tourist Information Centre have been looking for Love. Amazingly, they found it, hanging in a village church – but then, a fragile flower, it disappeared again and now they are appealing for anyone to help them find their lost Love.

This curious quest began when an email pinged into the TIC from Norway with a 1940s newspaper cutting attached to it. The cutting featured a picture of a man in a cap beside a model ship, and although the article was all in Norwegian, one word stood out: “Modellen skal leveres til sbyen Northallerton.”

A translation tool revealed that the article was about Captain Gunerius Olsen, of Oslo, who had completed his 39th model of a warship, the Norske Løve, which is “to be delivered to the town of Northallerton” where someone had paid 500 kroner for it.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The 1940s Norwegian newspaper article about Capt Gunerius Olsen making a "kirkeskip", or church skip, for Northallerton

Denmark and Norway were united until 1814 and for centuries, their navy had ships called Norske Løve – the “Norwegian Lion”, which stands proudly on the country’s coat-of-arms. Even today, in the Danish seaport of Køge, there is an old inn called Norske Løve after the ship of that name that fought heroically against the Swedes in the 1677 Battle of Køge Bay.

Capt Olsen’s model, though, is of a later Norkse Løve, a three mast warship launched in 1765 with a crew of 402. It acted as a guard ship around the coasts until about 1798.

The article says that Capt Olsen was in his eighties, and since the 1870s, he had been sailing to Grimsby with ice cut from frozen Norwegian lakes for use in the English fish industry.

It tells poetically of the accuracy of Capt Olsen’s models – “they remind us in a wistful way of the white swans of the sea” – but it doesn’t explain the Northallerton link, although it does say that the captain had made “an excessively beautiful church ship”.

Darlington and Stockton Times: This cannot be Capt Olsen with the ship as he was over 80 when he made the model. The picture caption says that it is his "last beautiful work", so perhaps the captain declined to have his photograph taken and someone else was drafted in for

Since medieval times, it was traditional for churches in seafaring communities to have consecrated models of ships on display in them as a way of blessing all the local men risking their lives on the ocean waves.

However, landlocked Northallerton is not known for its nautical links.

The TIC’s search for Love came to the ears of local historian Colin Narramore, whose pictures regularly grace these pages, and in his collection he discovered a photo of the ship hanging in Ingleby Arncliffe church.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Colin Narramore's picture of the Norske Løve hanging in Ingleby Arncliffe church. But what happened to the model?

On the back, someone had written: “The ship was originally given to Mrs Dagmar Johan Cooper Abbs of Mount Grace Priory in 1947 and it was later presented to the church at Ingleby Arncliffe. In a special service, the ship was dedicated by Dr Cyril Garbett, Archbishop of York, alongside the vicar, the Rev RG Brownrigg, and the Ven GF Townley, Deacon of Cleveland.”

So now the quest for Love was hotting up.

“A visit to Ingleby Arncliffe church confirmed that it had hung from the ceiling, pointing east, until at later date it was placed on a shelf above the door,” says David Cundell, chair of the Northallerton TIC.

“But unfortunately, that is where the trail goes cold because about 12 years ago, the ship disappeared. Borrowed? Stolen? Who knows, but is has never been seen since.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: The church at Ingleby Arncliffe where the Norske Løve used to hang

The Norwegian who sent the original email, Grant Gundersen, is hoping to visit Northallerton soon. “It will be great for him to see the church, see the photograph, see where the ship hung, but does anyone known where the model is now?” asks David. “My search for Love is continuing…”

David clearly has his heart set on finding Love, so if you have any information, please email

Mount Grace Priory was bought by ironmaster Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, of nearby Rounton Grange, in 1898 to prevent it falling down. His family gave it to the nation in lieu of death duties in 1953 so in 1947, the Cooper Abbs must have been their tenants in the 17th Century mansion in the priory.

Dagmar is a Scandinavian name (although it was also a pub in EastEnders long ago), which probably explains why Mrs Cooper Abbs, presumably of Scandinavian origin, had the Norske Løve model shipped over.

We believe her daughter, Miss Kathleen, was the last to live at Mount Grace. Miss Kathleen was 73 when she died in 1974 taking part in a swim around Saltburn pier that was supposed to raise money for local churches.