It’s not difficult to imagine that some of these concealed objects are found, seen as rubbish, and thrown away. But they’re valuable archaeological finds and the more we can record, the more we can learn.
So if you do stumble across an object – any object – in a part of your house that it doesn’t seem to belong in (e.g. up the chimney breast, in the roof space, under the floorboards, in the walls) then please do treat it as an archaeological find, and follow these guidelines:
1 – Either leave them where they are or record exactly where they were found. You might find more than one object together, in which case it’s really important to keep a record of where they were in relation to each other. So if you can, take a photograph before you move anything.
2 – Look out for smaller finds. Sometimes there are small items hidden inside larger ones, such as coins, petals or pieces of paper stuffed into shoes.
This cache of finds was discovered in a wall in Water End, Hertfordshire, demonstrating just how many items can be found together
3 – Don’t clean them. It might be hard to resist scraping the grime off an old shoe or scrubbing the dirt off a piece of clothing – especially considering how filthy some of these objects are! – but everything is evidence. Yes, even the dirt. So if you can, leave them in the condition you found them.
This shoe was found in the roof space in a house in Otley, Yorkshire. It has been kept in the condition it was found in.
4 – If you do want to conserve or restore them, take them to your local museum or conservation centre and asked for their advice.
5 – Get snap-happy with your camera. Take as many photographs as you can, from as many different angles as possible. It’s also helpful to put a scale in the photos (if you don’t have a photographic scale then a coin is a great idea).
Photography with a scale. One of the shoes from the Water End Cache
6 – If you want to store them safely, keep them in boxes. Try not to handle them too much because they’re probably quite fragile.
Four children’s shoes, discovered in the roof space of Toad Hall, Cheshire, are stored in a box
7 – Report your find. I’m eager to hear about all finds, large or small, so please get in touch, either by filling in the form below or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me as much information as you can: what object(s) you’ve found, where they were, what condition they’re in, how and when you found them, and where they are now. The more you can tell me, the more we can learn about this mysterious custom.
8 – Pin your find. Add details of your find to our online Historypin collection by following the instructions here.