Monday, 8 August 2011

Some Hidden Gems from Essex

I have returned from a brief Ramble to Colchester Castle in the fair county of Essex. A fine museum where I was very taken with one of their temporary exhibitions. This one was all about buried treasures, from Anglo Saxon and English Civil War Hoards to unfinished neolithic flints and clothes and shoes secreted in the fire places, floors and walls of old houses. It was this group that really caught my eye. From mummified cats to witches pots and even this mid 17th century coat that had been hidden in a house in Malden in Essex....

The Maldon Coat

This old coat in particular really fires my imagination. Why was it hidden there? Many think they know but no one can be certain. There are those who will tell you that shoes were hidden to trap witches, for it is said they they can't walk backwards! A great story if nothing else. And the coat it too has a story to tell. It was oft times repaired and the fancy cuffs later added. Many owners perhaps each with a story. And that's the point about museum exhibits - they are far more than the sum of their interpretation panels. Don't be afraid when you see things like this coat to let loose and imagine what sights, sounds and scrapes it's wearers once got into. These tattered rags tell of its owners status, but might also hint at their aspirations, their hopes and dreams. We can all be tellers of tales and so too a raggedy old coat!

16th century shoes, witches pots and a mummified cat
From various Essex houses

Roman cow bells buried in a circle

Saxon through to 17th century Civil War Hoards

For more information of hidden clothing we of the R.S.A.R suggest you visit the Deliberately Concealed Garments Website here...

+Many Coats+ R.S.A.R


  1. How I love all this old shite! My little collection of 16th, 17th and 18th century candlesticks ought to shed light on it, but they don't - they just shed light.

    When excavating a 17th century inglenook here in Somerset (destroyed in the Civil War and re-built soon afterwards) I came across a collection of gaming-pieces hidden in a niche - old bone dice, etc. Dead cats were very common - many have been found in Londone, inspiring the Dick Whittington legend.

  2. Please delet the 'e' from the above 'Londone' and add it to 'delet' in this comment. Thanks.

  3. Excellent comments as always Tom and by coincidence I once found a cache of old fashioned 'e's in a nook in my cottage that Oooooooooooostead dates to the late 17th century. We of the Learned Society suspect they were taken off their words about the time of the Restoration. It probably has something to do with the enlightenments rejection of archaic language. We can only assume they were hidden in the hope of a return to the olden days when they could be returned to their words or as the olden people said, their wordes!

  4. I have been in that museum, i think in easter last year and i was impressed by all those artefacts as well and the randomness in general. I didn't expect to see such things...although to be honest i actually went there just to see the castle (medievalist historians...what would you expect?) although i think it was a nice surprise anyway

    And nice pictures by the way. i didn't manage to do anything useful with my camera

    W.U Hstry

  5. Thankyou WH ands it's good to see you back here. There is a wonderful randomness to Colchester Castle that many a Ragged Rambler finds pleasing. It's like sorting through your Grans Christmas box, for you never know what delights might surface! There is to be a complete refit of the museum in early 2013. Let us hope they don't Heritage Lottery Fund away all that character....