Metal detectorists make finds from all ages and probably half of the total items recorded on the United Kingdom Detecting Finds Database (UKDFD) happen to be post-medieval. It is also a fact that much of this later material was minimal or non-existent prior to the advent of the hobby. Even now the identification and dating of relatively recent items is often more difficult than that of the ancient counterparts. That’s quite a thought.
In January 2007 I produced the first UKDFD newsletter, Borrowed Times. In the same year an alliance was forged with The Searcher magazine to feature some of the more interesting finds from the database. I started writing a regular column for the magazine entitled Just for the Record.
In my first article I said:
If it were not for the published works of detectorists like Brian Read, Gordon Bailey, Edward Fletcher and others, we would have very little to go on. But I can assure you that the UKDFD is building on the foundations laid by these detectorists and is destined to become an important resource in its own right.
The risk of confusing material of one period with that of another is greatly reduced if we have knowledge of artefacts from both periods – Roman and Georgian is a good example. It is with this in mind that I have looked at the database and selected a number of post medieval finds which I think you may also find interesting.
What follows is a reprise of one of those finds I borrowed from the database.
Bachelor Button Spring Stud or Cufflink Fastener
I don’t wish to confuse you but the cornflower, the famous flower of many romantic legends, was often called the Bachelor Button. Why was this? I understand that years ago the bloom was worn as a signal of availability. The name, Bachelor Button, may have arisen during Victorian times when the flowers were often placed in the button holes of men’s suitcoats.
So, bachelor button flowers, often called cornflowers, are an old fashioned species once considered a weed of arable fields. The development of intensive agricultural practices nearly wiped out the cornflower in the wild. This delicate, blue flower is now most likely to occur as a garden escapee, as part of intentional wildflower seeding, or as the result of the disturbance of soil containing old seed banks. Its strongholds remain roadside verges, scrub, waste ground and farmland. It flowers from June to August.
CORNFLOWER also called BACHELOR BUTTON
However, the item found by Glenn Miller is recorded as a ‘Spring Stud’, often referred to as a ‘Bachelor Button.’ The term probably came from the fact that they did not have to be sown onto the cuff like a regular button. I know from the frequent requests my wife (a dressmaker) gets from fellows to take up trousers and sew on buttons that this must have been a problem for bachelors since time immemorial – so it does have a ring of truth.
The stud is in fact a rather complex mechanical cufflink fastener. The above picture shows a polished black stone, possibly jet, with traces of gilding on the surface and is one element of a two-part stud. Studs of this type, known as a ‘Solitaire’ were patented by George West in 1872 as ‘Fasteners for Collars and Cuffs.’
The button’s face and backing are separate pieces and operation was simple. With the face on one side of a shirt slit and the backing on the other, the two snapped together and were held in place by a sturdy spring clip.
I hope that you have found my foray into the innermost recesses of the database both interesting and illuminating. I have certainly enjoyed fossicking among the finds.
References – The United Kingdom Detector Finds Database – Gentlemen’s Dress Accessories, E Eckstein, J and G Firkins – Metal Buttons c900 BC – c1700 AD, Brian Read.