Monday, 29 February 2016

Digging for buried treasure

Back when I was a kid and still in 'explorer' mode, I persuaded my parents to buy me a metal detector so I could make them rich and they could buy me a bike.

Garrett Ace 250
Garrett Ace 250
I have no idea what kind it was but it was cheap, it was blue, it made noises and it gave me an excuse to get muddy, so naturally it was brilliant.
My only memory of using it, other than a vague recollection of trawling the beach for pennies, is when my folks - totally illegally - took me and it to Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands to look for Irn Bru cans dropped during the massacre in 1692.
After 10 drizzle-soaked minutes I found a rusty old beer barrel hoop at the bottom of a tree, then got bored, went home and gave the metal detector away. The hoop stayed where it was and we weren't gaoled.

Now, a mere 30-some years later and with a small patch of historic land I can legitimately call my own, I'm back. And I'm packing a Garrett Ace 250, which is apparently perfect for a newbie like me.
Moving here has given us an appreciation for the history of the property, so the promise of literally unearthing a piece of it is too good to resist.
The metal detector might be £175 but it'll be completely worth it if I find just one Victorian or Georgian coin.

My first spin around the place ended with the Ace 250 going bananas for no apparent reason and refusing to power-up, so it went back and was replaced a few days ago.

This time the new one is behaving better, but I've read that getting to know how it responds to different triggers is a steep learning curve - and that's proving to be true. Often it beeps once but won't repeat it, many times I get a beep which seems to move around like I'm chasing a robot mouse and on other occasions it'll insist there's a horde of treasure beneath my feet only to petulantly stop beeping altogether when I've dug a crater big enough to bury an elephant.

The garden, yesterday
Nevertheless I have been finding stuff: a 5ft length of bent iron bar; a lump of lead with a bolt in it; a nail; acres of chicken wire and three small calibre bullet casings. I've also found what may or may not be an original hinge from the original gate at the front, but because that was lying on the surface under a tree it doesn't really count.

But yesterday I found my first proper Thing, and we're well chuffed! Dawn was Googling all night about it.

It's a mostly-flattened Calvert's Carbolic Tooth Powder thimble, and at first I thought it was probably silver (I wanted it to be silver, too) although it has since been suggested that it could be aluminium, which sounds more likely because it was clearly a promotional freebie.

Thimble, left
If that's the case I reckon it's possibly dated somewhere between the last few years of the 1890s and the first few years of the 1900s because it seems that aluminium production in Britain sky-rocketed around the cusp of the new century (with prices dropping accordingly), and the latest Calvert's advertising I can find that uses the logo enclosing the 'a' inside the 'C' is around 1908.
Also, see the little star on the picture below? It's only used to mark the beginning and end of the legend, but over a century later it looks very much like a Star of David to me. Back then, presumably, once the symbol could be mistaken for signifying Judaism I doubt it would have been used in such a flippant manner - which again puts it somewhere in the first decade of the 20th Century at the latest. Ish.
It's all over-reaching guesswork, of course, but in lieu of anything concrete I'm happy to go with that for now.

Sadly that's the limit of my Calvert's thimble knowledge (should've paid attention in school) and the internet has failed in its duties to provide information about such a thing.
Calvert's, yes - to a point, but Calvert's thimbles, no.

So we're not rich yet, and I still can't get that bike, but I'll keep looking. I won't be happy until I find my first coin. I'll let you know when it happens.

We just happened to have a jar of silver cleaner in the cupboard. This is the result after a lot of soaking.
'Powder * Cal'

The other side. Not a second thimble, dad.
(v on left edge)
'ert's CARBOLIC Tooth'

How nurses washed their big knickers in the 1880s

The 'I will stab you in your sleep' look of the 1890s

1 comment:

  1. That's not carbolic washing powder Muz. That's carbolic tooth powder.

    Can't find a May & Roberts one. Have a Cheers and Hopley, Dispensing Chemists instead :)


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