I know that I haven’t been well but my subject today is a subject many of you will find uninteresting and you may think that this old duffer has finally lost the plot. On the contrary. Today I tell of the finding of a (mundane) button and the cleaning and research … but then I go off on a tangent
One Foot in the Grave
There’s no future in growing old. I used to be a keen detectorist, but now that I’m worn out, decrepit and disabled, digging is no longer possible. Today I get my ‘fix’ vicariously by writing about the finds of others. My imagination is triggered through their discoveries and experiences.
The nearest I ever get to an active participation in the hobby these days is once every year, when Mrs. John wields her pinpointer in the long grass searching for the clothes whirligig metal support thingy. You know, the one nearest the path. ‘Left a bit. Right a bit.’ And this is only after finding fresh batteries to replace the ones that have lost their oomph through inactivity. Bit like me.
But recently, there has been a buzz of excitement in the less than extensive grounds of Winter Mansions. Whilst tending her garden and creating a hole for a clematis plant, Mrs. John found something of significance. Not a golden torc, an enamelled Roman brooch or a coin of Cnut, but a four-hole metal button!
I’ll just wait awhile and let those last few words sink in. The metal button is probably one of the most common items found … and discarded … by detectorists. The housing estate on which I live was built where a farm once stood, so a find of this nature was to be expected. A lot of them will be just plain metal discs, so it’s always a pleasure to find one with a bit of information on the front. Most just have a maker’s back mark like ‘Firmin’ or ‘Gaunt of London.’
In days of old, farming involved large manual workforces whose clothes had sturdy metal buttons that were often lost. Was this one of those? Objects of this nature are difficult to date owing to deterioration, but I was feeling adventurous and wanted to know more. And I was in for a little surprise!
Close examination by Mrs. John using a magnifying glass plus diligent and gentle cleaning with a soft brush and wooden toothpick revealed the legend: DORE – 25 CONDUIT St. – W – a place situated in the West End of London.
Research on Mr. Google revealed that Dore and Sons were ‘tailors of distinction’ and were active in the 1890’s. Their specialties were shooting, fishing, yachting and travelling suits. They were also makers of the ‘War Office Sealed Pattern Coat or Great Coat’ for use with the ‘Lieutenancy Uniform’. A few words on a simple button can lead us to understanding more of the social history of the time.
The firm seemed to be very versatile and did a lot of general tailoring. I guess that if our hobby had been popular then, the best-dressed detectorists would be wearing a suit … preferably made of camouflage material!
Here’s a fine example of a Dore’s cardboard delivery box containing ‘hygenic’ underwear.
A second button was found, again with front markings. No back mark. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear and all I can decipher is & Co. LONDON. Any ideas?
Writing the above has reminded me of my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother threading a needle, tying a knot on the end of the double thread and sewing buttons onto an article of clothing.
Me old Ma used to keep a box full of buttons made from all kinds of materials, not just metal. I used to play with them on a typically rainy day. And so did my children. The tiny object that keeps our shirts and coats together is often taken for granted until one of them falls off.
Have you seen a Granny’s box on your visit to the local boot sale? Take a closer look. It could contain a hidden treasure!
And, I presume the farmer and not one of his workers lost the Dore example … but I could be wrong.
My elation over finding the button was short-lived. ‘Kevin’ phoned me. Judging by his almost incomprehensible accent I guessed he was from India, probably Mumbai. He told me that I would be arrested later in the day for ‘illegal activities’.
In the ensuing – increasingly heated – conversation I tried to determine what these were. Had I failed to inform the authorities about a particular find … or something totally unrelated to the hobby? Was my past catching up on me? I was worried.
At the mention of money I told him, in no uncertain terms, to ‘go away’. He then accused me of not taking the matter seriously, repeated the arrest scenario, and put down the phone.
That night, because I didn’t want the cops bashing down the door with that red ‘persuader’ thingy, I left it open all night. You can’t be too careful!
ANOTHER INTERESTING BUTTON