When we were kids my sister and I grew up in a small village near Malvern called Hanley Swan. I dont really know why we moved from the Northeast, I guess it must have been for dad’s work, but we arrived there some time in about 1982, and shortly afterwards, my sister was born. The whole place had a touch of the fairy tale about it, right from picturesque the village duck pond, the ponderous and ever flooding River Severn, even the address conjured Elgar and gloaming sunlight: Lilac Cottage, Picken End, Hanley Swan, Hereford & Worcestershire.
The best thing about the house was the enormous garden. We were totally spoilt kids with a tree house, a pet rabbit, a swing, a sandpit, fruit trees, Wendy house, steel drum kit (how many kids have one of those made for them!?), go-cart, and enough space to get lost in. I have really good memories of the whole place. However despite these manifold distractions and entertainments, the corner that I seem to remember most time poking about in was about half way down the garden on the left hand side, sort of under an old rotting tree… the old rubbish dump!
As a slightly (Ok… not even slightly… massivly) geeky kid complete with metal detector and trowel I would spend hours digging up old bits of metal, glass bottles, buttons, and miscellaneous victorian junk that must have been tossed away by the former inhabitants of the house. I even remember proudly showing my horrified mother a set of old false teeth that I had dug up from somewhere…
So, why am I taking you on this meandering jaunt into my childhood and telling you all about some junk I once dug up? Well, I guess by writing this, and you reading it, I have already proved my point… the internet is crammed full of total nonsense, but it does have little corners of clutter that offer remarkable access to information. Lord only knows why people publish the nonsense that they do, but I for one am grateful that they do… By accident the other day I found a photo of the very people whose junk I had been digging up all those years ago. I could actually stare into the eyes (sadly not dentureless mouth) of the people who had drunk from those bottles, lost those buttons, and tossed all their junk into what was once their own garden. And here they are, thanks to the Hanley Castle and Hanley Swan Village Website:
George Dovey was born in 1819 and, as a young man, he travelled widely in Worcestershire. He had first married a Castlemorton girl, but she died in the early 1850s, leaving him to bring up two daughters. At some point in his travels he met Jane Colley, 16 years his junior, from Suckley Green, the daughter of an agricultural labourer. They married and their first child was born in 1854 in Doverdale. George and Jane had a total of 12 children over a period of 24 years, eight boys and four girls, all the boys becoming, like their forebears, agricultural labourers.
George died before the end of the century, leaving Jane as the matriarch of the family. With 43 grandchildren by 1917, she was known throughout the parish as Granny Dovey. When the Blackmore estate was broken up in 1919, she somehow found the money to buy the two small properties the family rented in Picken End – Liliac Cottage and Rose Cottage. Jane died in 1926 at the age of 91.
I guess the point is digging up trivia, ephemera, and rubbish is great fun, be it as a kid in the garden, or sitting on the sofa with google as you metal detector and trowel.