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The story of the wooden tudor spoon found in Little Paxton Church tower

Here is a picture taken yesterday at St Neots Musuem when the new curator Liz Davies was given a tudor spoon for safe keeping, found in Little Paxton Tower during the building work last year.

It was late autumn when one of Baker of Danbury’s workmen, Maurice Avery found the spoon whilst preparing a hole high up in the tower to receive a new ring beam. It had been buried for many years and only came to light by chance. Little Paxton church council thought it best to lodge the spoon and also a small part of a clay pipe, with the local museum so other people can see it.

Fortunately we were able to have an expert opinion on the spoon and why it might have been hidden in the tower. The following words are from an e-mail sent by Bethan Holdridge from the Norwich Strangers’ Hall Museum.

” To me this spoon looks mid to late sixteenth century. I have attached a picture of a spoon found on the Mary Rose to show the similarities. The clay pipe may be the best object to help to date the concealing (if it has a small bowl it is an early pipe) because it is a more disposable object. An assumption cannot be made that the spoon and pipe are contemparies. The person possibly bringing an old spoon along to conceal and adding the remnants of his pipe alongside.
It is a difficult query to answer as to why they were concealed in the church tower. All I can do is ponder like the experts, because in truth no-one really knows why our predecessors concealed objects (like pipes, spoons, shoes, cats…) within walls and under floors of buildings. The theory put forward is that it is a superstition, or folklore, of some sort, that it protected the building’s inhabitants from harm. The spoon and pipe being placed in a church may have been one of the workmen trying to ensure a bit of protection or good luck for himself or his family, a bit of religion and folklore mixed up. Maybe their being placed in an inaccessible area secured or heightened the protection a bit. It could even be that the person believed that their proximity to the bell would help ward off evil spirits as it was believed by some that the noise of church bells tolling would do just that. Or, it could just be, simply, that whoever placed them just wanted to leave some token of themselves in the building they’ve worked on, knowing it’ll be in place for hundreds of years, and nothing more than that. As to why there was a spoon in particular placed. Well, the harvests were pretty good during the 1500s (although there were a couple of bad ones late on) so it may’ve been some protection against starvation or requesting of God a good harvest although this would be more likely if there’d been a succession of failed harvests. Importantly in this case, spoons were very personal objects (as I suppose were clay pipes). Up until about the 1600s, everybody had their own personal spoons that they would take about with them, cutlery not being commonly provided when you went to dine with anyone. Spoons were often given as Christening presents because a good quality spoon was a very convenient gift for a person. The close personal attachment of the spoon to the person may have had the effect upon the person who placed it within a religious building that they were encouraging some sort of divine provenance. The spoon, likewise, may have belonged to a dearly departed and the person who placed it saw it as help for them in purgatory or gaining access to heaven. Whether the spoon was new, or old and already worm eaten when interred, can also form part of any other theories you may have. Plus, if you can find any local history that may have encouraged people to feel a need to try and control their own destiny at this time…. I wish I could be more specific but the above is what has been mooted by those who have made studies of concealed objects plus some of my own musings. 
Thank you for the pictures of the graffiti too. Very interesting, especially the circular ones. I have seen these elsewhere and it had been proposed that they are mass-sticks (a type of sun dial) although it has also been postulated that they are superstition marks, once again to keep evil spirits at bay. These are found near entrances to buildings:doors, windows, fireplaces. Although in this case, you would have thought a church a strong enough charm to keep evil spirits from entering! I wonder if these can be dated to around the same time as the spoon and pipe were concealed?”
Here is a picture of a Tudor wooden spoon at Norwich museum.
Fascinating stuff…. I wonder who it was who buried it there, and why?
We shall never know.


February 23, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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