Detectorists often have artefacts that they love to collect. For some it is Roman brooches, hammered coins, gold staters and the like. Items like spindle whorls or buttons are often regarded with disdain and some even throw them into the nearest hedge. I used to collect buttons and am especially fond of the four-holed variety.
– Lynda Winter
BEDFORD REFORMATORY BUTTON
‘Just a button’ is how Joe Tilt described one of his recent finds when writing on a detecting forum. In a way he was apologising to the members for ‘only’ finding a button. There was no need. His find was much more interesting than a hammered coin or Roman brooch where information is sparse or non-existent. The humble button spoke volumes and told us a lot about our recent social history.
Today we have Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOS) but in the middle 1800’s we had reformatory schools, a way to provide care for children involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour. In later times these young people were referred to as ‘juvenile delinquents’. It was a humble die-stamped two-piece copper-alloy button from an item of reformatory clothing Joe had unearthed.
Bedford Reformatory School, a penal institution for young offenders, was opened in 1857, with room for 30 boys. Its purpose was to provide an alternative to prison. The inscription BEDFORD REFORMATORY is surrounded around a beehive (called a skep) surrounded by flying bees and has a simple looped wire shank, not back-marked. Similar depictions of bees flying around the skep – symbolising industry, diligence and effort and the concept that work is rewarding, can be found on many late 18th century tokens.
HOW CAN A HOOVER VACUUM CLEANER BE ASSOCIATED WITH AN INTERESTING CUTTING EDGE FIND?
Read on and find out!
*Rusty and in a Sorry State
In a previous post I looked at the detectorists’ database, the UKDFD. The item I revisited was a pen or fruit knife found in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire. Another good example of a find telling us a lot about our social history. *‘Rusty and in a Sorry State’ doesn’t refer to me!
The picture below show a clean knife, but it was rusty and in a sorry state when rescued. Should have taken a ‘clod shot’ or video, but it wasn’t the fashion then. We were primarily metal detectorists with enough to lug around without a mountain of movie gear. In retrospect I regret not taking a ‘before’ shot showing its condition before cleaning.
Mrs John worked wonders with her diligent restoration and conservation skills so it now looks in almost pristine condition. Some details were easy to record. For example, it has a mother-of-pearl handle with two ‘stainless steel’ blades made by Fisher in Sheffield. But I was intrigued by the letters or meaningless word, IBAISAIC . What could it mean? Finding out proved to be a little more difficult.
I searched Mr Google with few positive results and it wasn’t until I proudly (well, I was a rookie swinger at that time) showed my find on a detecting forum that all was explained . . . by a former vacuum cleaner repair man! He told me that knives of this type were given by Hoover salesmen as gifts to retailers in the late 1930’s. This information has been confirmed by the manufacturer who told me to ‘take care of it because it’s a collector’s item.’ I’ve seen one for sale on eBay at £40 – £60.
Detecting Skills – You need to be able to laugh at yourself, have a sense of humour plus the ability to tell a white lie.
In 2016 or thereabouts Garrett started advertising ‘treasure hunting’ as a sport. They still are. At the time this fact dismayed many English detectorists who regarded their metal detecting as a hobby. What do YOU think?
It’s a well known fact that to take part in any sport you need skill and ability. Here’s just a few examples. They are not all mine, but have been inspired by, borrowed, and adapted, by an entertaining piece I once read by Maurice Darling in an old detecting magazine.
Snooker – using a straight stick to knock a coloured ball into a hole, even after smoking endless cigarettes and consuming copious amounts of beer during the game. (It used to be like that!) You gain points by causing your opponent to foul.
Pool– same as snooker, except that you use a smaller stick and fewer balls. Beer is readily at hand. I had a friend who was an expert at this game of pocket billiards – as the game is also known in America.
Darts – darts has long been a bone of contention in the debate around what constitutes a sport, with some seeing it as the ultimate pub game.
Rugby – rugby is a free-flowing game that features a combination of strength, speed and strategy to move a ball into the opponents’ territory. Rugby is a full-contact sport. Be prepared to donate a pint of blood every two weeks.
Fishing – the challenge here is to find and catch a fish. Having accomplished that, you then throw the critter back. Actually, the only skill you need here is to stay awake and not fall in the water.
Football– you attempt to put a ball into the back of the other team’s net. If you do this then the only other skill you need is to be able to run the length of the pitch and give all your team mates a kiss after skidding along on both knees. Practice pulling your shirt over your head as you fall to the ground.
Detectorists are capable of all the sports above with few problems, but wielding and understanding a metal detector is far more demanding.