Antiques expert Allan Blackburn goes green-fingered in his search for gardening gems...
I am lucky enough to celebrate my birthday as part of the bank holiday weekend (good timing) and so I am going to take a very rare day off, which I plan to spend in the garden.
However, I know I’m not going to get away with sitting about and not picking up a trowel. With everything growing like mad it really is the time to be getting rid of the weeds before they take over, so this week I thought I’d write about garden tools.
Britain is a nation of gardeners; 80% of houses in Britain have private gardens, covering an area twice as large as Surrey. That’s 15 million gardens in our green and pleasant land, and the history of getting our hands dirty goes back thousands of years.
Garden tools are not a modern day invention, the earliest record of garden and farming tools can be found around 10,000 years ago.
The first multi-tool was developed during this time, consisting of a “microlith” (a sharp sliver of bone or flint) set into a handle made of wood, bone or antler. Resembling a small spade, it could be used to dig, clip and cut plant material. The development of metal working, first in copper and later in iron and steel,
enabled the manufacture of more durable tools.
Incredibly, if a Roman gardener turned up in your garden, he would recognise the design of many of the exact same tools!
While modern tools are mass-produced for sale at your local garden centre, at one time gardening tools were highly valued. Necessary for the livelihood of family and the community, the men who made these tools were considered important craftsmen.
Like carpentry or milling tools, gardening tools are often collected for their decorative appeal. Their value depends on their rarity,
function, the maker and, of course, their condition. A 19th century trowel could be found for only a few pounds, but a more unusual item like a garden hose attachment may be worth £25 or more.
However, a lot of collectors like to use their old tools. The craftsmanship involved in producing such tools means that they are incredibly durable. It’s lovely to think the trowel you are using feels so comfortable because it has literally been passed from hand to hand by gardeners down many generations.
However you spend your bank holiday, I wish you good weather, good gardening and good collecting!