Ian Evans kindly shared the link to this Daily Mail article on Australian concealed objects. Its tagline reads: ‘Mummified cats, children’s shoes and an EMBRYO in a purse: Some of the haunting objects hidden in the walls and under floorboards of Australian homes in a secret 19th century trend to ward off black magic’.
While at an Oral History Society workshop in Sheffield last week I got talking to a woman about this project. She excitedly told me that just the week before her friend Phil, a basket-maker in Cumbria, had been telling her of a variety of objects he’d found concealed within his home, a 17th-century farmhouse in Deanscales, near Cockermouth. The woman kindly put me in touch with Phil, who was quick to respond and eager to discuss his finds. I’m hoping to go up to Cumbria at some point over the next few months to take a look at the house and the finds, but for now here’s what I learned from speaking with Phil on the phone.
The first of these finds was a cache within a walled-up cubby-hole beside the fireplace, containing a broken glass, salt pots, a clay-pipe, and a comb. Phil and his partner thought little of this find until they visited the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, where similar items are on display – it was then that they realised this odd collection of items may have been deliberately concealed.
As well as the cubby-hole cache, Phil also found the base and stem of a broken glass buried under a cobble floor in the corner of a room (pictured: courtesy of Phil). If there are any glass experts out there, I’d appreciate an estimate of date!
More surprising for Phil was what he found beneath the hearthstone when he was re-laying flag flooring: the skeleton of a cat. At first he thought the cat may have become accidentally trapped, but soon realised that someone must have laid the hearthstone on top of it. Unlike the other items – some of which have been disposed of, and some removed but retained – Phil left the cat where he found it, re-laying the hearthstone on top. As he said to me on the phone: ‘it just felt right’.