In the Trust we have many large wonderful gardens, but we also have many small gardens attached to our offices, tea-rooms, shops, holiday cottages and some tenanted properties. These gardens are cared for by a group of volunteers who do a fantastic job tending them all year round.
A few weeks ago I had a call from the group who work in Purbeck, they had collected lots of pottery, ironwork and clay pipes while digging in the gardens they look after. They hoped I would be able have a look at them and help them to record what they had found, date them and add the information to the archive.
They had done a great job keeping every site separated from the next, so we could relate the finds to the properties they came from and where in the garden they were found. The pottery was a mixture of china and local earthenware, and were mainly 18th and 19th century in date. Though there were some sherds that were probably medieval and a few from the early 17th century. The pottery can tell us a lot about the social standing of the people who lived in the attached properties. The quality of the china, and the types of vessels can point to the inhabitants position in society and whether they had good or bad fortunes! Clues to changes in society were found in the collection from one of the gardens were the property had been a private family home, a poor house with 12 families and a pub!
As we went through the boxes and bags it became clear that some of the sherds fitted together. We soon found we had a lovely small ginger jar probably from the first half of the 19th century. Yay! time to get the glue out and also to look out for the missing bits when next digging the weeds!
Amongst all the pottery, clay pipes and ironwork there appeared a piece of flint. Oooo excitement grew as the soil was brush off and the light hit the tell tales signs that mans hand had been involved in shaping this stone. Probably Bronze age, and a multi purpose tool, reduced in usefulness after being snapped in two.
So when weeding that flowerbed collect all those bits and pieces, give them a wash, find a friendly archaeologist, offer them tea and cake and you never know what new tales will emerge about your own little plot of history.