why so many buttons and thimbles in the fields

Forums General Discussion why so many buttons and thimbles in the fields

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    why are their s man buttons and thimbles in the fields , musket balls i can see why and buttons we lose them but not that many surely and thimbles??? were their lots of people walking and sewing??


    i once read that they would use old cloth to spread on the fields which if true could explain some of the buttons but not the thimbles


    Someone told me they used to put old rags on the felds to keep the soil loose and to also stop the soil drying out …….thimbles Who knows ?


    that is interesting thanks Steve,as for thimbles i was thinking it could be that folk who made their own walking sticks would use old thimbles as make shift ferrules for the tips of the sticks hence they could and often would fall of in the ground, but i cant be sure, although it makes some sense.


    Here are a few suggestions as to why buttons and thimbles are found so often when detecting:

    Thimbles were not originally used for sewing, but for a much more practical use. Farm workers who had just finished cutting the corn had to go and collect the bushels of corn and stand them up so they stayed dry. Corn stubble is very sharp and splinters get infected very easily. A splinter in medieval times could have led to the loss of a finger or even a hand or death. Therefore you would have a thimble on every finger to help prevent this and this is why you find thimbles on virtually every field.

    There are several plausible reasons why so many buttons are found in fields. There was a fertilizer, which was known as shoddy, that was usually the waste from recycled cotton and wool material that couldn’t be put back into cloth made in cotton mills and weaving mills in the 19th and 20th century. Also, farming was hard work and done by huge numbers of labourers before the advent of the industrial revolution. That amount of people working the land would have led to the loss of loads of cast off bits of clothing. I think we find buttons for the same reason we find buckles and strap ends. Then there are the military and livery buttons and cap badges etc. we find so many of. Not all uniforms were destroyed after they were no longer needed for duty. For a lot of men returning from war, the only work available was on farms as labourers. So the uniforms continued to be used on the farms by these men, which inevitably led to losses of buttons in particular. There is also the possibility that a lot of buttons are found as a result of clothes/uniforms being buried as landfill or burnt on bonfires.


    Thanks mickp very interesting, fire makes a lt of sense but i would have thought that buttons were valuable enough to remove from shoddy thoroughly before laying it on the fields a type of cottage industry in rags and they would not miss a trick or a button as it were, so i think landfill and casual loss sound more likely.

    In the army i was forever sewing new buttons on meaning i had a thimble and sewing kit on my person whilst on exercise im sure with clothes being expensive make do and mend was the order of the day so maybe carrying thimbles was common enough to account for casual loss.

    And im not sure about the thimbles as finger tip protection it sounds like an origin myth to me surely gloves of some type would be more practical and cheaper than metal thimbles surely they could if needed have fashioned some wooden ones for protecting finger tips, and more than that these were tough men with hands like sand paper very tough, and having thimbles on your finger tips and working would surely be impossible it would just get in the way, its a clever idea but is their any historical reference to the practice?, i have heard it myself and never questioned it , but ill do some research and see if their is any evidence for it or indeed against it


    Alchemical practices in the c17th saw the use of cloth on open fields in spring to absorb the dew, which the treatises labelled the “universal spirit” which could be used with other elements to manifest substances and was considered the impetus of all alchemical processes. Don’t know how widespread this practice was, however. Probably the least feasible theory regarding button finds.

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    really detectingop, very interesting and i imagine it was widespread as this was the dawn of the pamphlet after all and knowledge was traveling fast wrong or right it did the rounds, and was surely practiced by forward looking villagers jumping on the science band wagon, great picture too thanks


    after looking through The Complete Farmer Or a General Dictionary of Husbandry In All Its Branches … a 1770s book on farming i found no reference to thimbles other than in gate hanging nothing in the huge harvest section, ill keep looking but i dont think ill find anything


    I’ve never found a thimble… honest 🙂

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