Thursday, 13 October 2011


We all collect lots of stuff on our passage through life. Most of it is useless junk that we could easily do without. But, oh, it's so hard to part with any of it! Amongst it all there are just a few items which have value beyond usefulness, beyond monetary worth and really beyond all logical evaluation. For these are items which carry memories, a story or connect us with our past.

When the last cart left the harvest field adorned with the "horkey branch" it was a sign that the harvest was over for another year - but was it? For the end of the men's labour was also the start of the gleaning season for the womenfolk. Young girls and women could then go out into the fields to collect any grain which had been left behind. The two vases above were bought by my great-grandmother from money earned in this way when she was a girl. Somehow they caught her eye and she just had to have them. They must be at least 120 years old, probably of no great value, but they charm everyone who sees them, just as they must have charmed a young girl all those years ago.

The old copper kettle was unearthed in the wood by my grandmother. She spent hours polishing it up, as has my own mother (and I must have spent an hour or two on it myself). When I was a boy the back of it was black from being heated on the fire but gradually even that part has become shiny. Dad always thought that his mother had probably thrown it out there herself years before but then thought better of it and retrieved it from its grave.

Sixty years ago my mother got married, an old lady turned up at the wedding that my mother had never seen before. She later learned that it was Dad's aunt, Aunt Sarah Radford as he always referred to her. The old lady told my mother that she made a beautiful bride then went home. She returned later with the plate above saying that she wanted my parents to have it as a wedding present. I have no idea of its age though it certainly looks ancient.

My mother's family came from London where my grandfather had a coal-delivery business. The photo shows the family on their way to a show in the inter-war years. My grandfather's horses often won prizes at such shows. He lost his father at an early age and had to deliver coal before going to school each morning, with the result that he often fell asleep at his desk. Despite being born and bred in the heart of the city he was something of a country man at heart. After the war he moved out of London and took over a country inn. Sadly he died before he had much time to enjoy it. He was only 49. 

My dad's old penknife. He carried it in his back pocket for years. The blade used to get sharpened on any handy wall or post. It reminds me of the time we worked together on the

Take care.


  1. Wonderful collection of interesting nostalgia. I know we do value a lot of sentimentality. My daughters will probably pitch a lot of my stuff when I'm gone, but for now it makes me happy.

  2. You're right, John. These items have value far beyond any price they would bring at sale. Please let me encourage you to do one thing: print out this blog and put it in a safe place. I don't know if you have children, or if you have siblings who have children, but what you have offered here is information that will be priceless to future generations of your family. Jim

  3. Stuff with wonderful memories attached - I particularly love the top two vases in that magical cranberry-rose colouring with pretty scrolled handles.

  4. Hello John, I did enjoy this post. I love the stories behaind family treasures and was especially drawn to the two vases, I think I would have saved up for them! Jane x

  5. Interesting how objects can bring back so many memories. I too am enchanted by the two vases and because you know some of their history I bet they are worth more than you think they are.

  6. Moves through the years have meant sifting through my bits and pieces, but there are some items which are always carefully wrapped to travel to a new home. It is interesting to see what we folks of ordinary means cherish and to know the stories that make them part of our family history.

  7. I thought everyone would love the two vases and the story behind their purchase. Thanks for all your comments.


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