The phone call went ‘Hi its Tim the building contractor, we are working in the roof at Walnut Farm and I think you will be interested in what we found under the floor boards, I will bring them down for you’ Mmmm could it be a mummified cat, an old cigarette packet, coins or letters? all things that are often found under floor boards. The doorbell went and I rushed downstairs, I opened the door to see a grinning Tim empty handed, but behind him was a truck loaded with 40 fertilizer bags full of ‘stuff’ from under the floor!
Tim, who I had worked with on another building project had recognized that the cloth bits chewed up letters and nails in amongst all the dust, rat nests and general detritus would be worth looking at, rather than going in the skip.
Oh lucky student placements this was the job for them, sieving through the bags to see what they could find. Though I would make sure I got chance to have delve in the dust 🙂
There were lots of things in amongst the dust, we found the remains of animals – rats and birds, iron nails, a bone knife handle, and a brass lid with engraved initials.
Tthe most interesting items are the things that tell us a bit about the everyday lives of the people who had lived in the two rooms in the roof of the farm. The rats had nibbled pages from various books, a play called the Double Dealer, and an almanac from 1798, a clue to the dates of the other things found in the rats bedding!
On one piece of paper someone had been practising their writing, and there was a letter mentioning John Galpin probably from the early 19th century, which was the name of the tenants living at the farm when it was found under the floorboards.
Cloth was the largest collection we found, it had survived as it was dry in the roof, and some of it had been tightly packed, probably stuffed in the cracks to stop the draughts!
It’s a very varied collection and we think dates from the late 18th/early 19th century, some of the patterns are very Jane Austin! We are hoping a student will take on the research of this collection, as we had not expected to find it, time and funds to do research are not plentiful.
Here are some of the things we found. Enjoy!