September 2018 - John and Carole Matthews - Vintage Tools

The audience at Mickleton Gardening Club’s latest meeting found out why John Matthews’s interactive talk has been widely recommended when he came  (with his wife, Carole, in support) to the King George’s Hall in the village on 19th Sept. He was informative, excellently prepared and entertaining.

What a revelation it was! They came an hour early to lay out tables with vintage garden tools ; brought from their Vintage Garden Store in Redditch (which also sells architectural features). What a bewildering and beautifully renovated assortment!

We felt overwhelmed at the sight of them but, as John spoke he ran around, picking up a new tool at every opportunity to explain the type of tool manufacture used over the last two hundred years and the social history associated with them. 

Tempered steel used to be produced in Britain but now its forged in India and brought over to us; together with the pre-formed handles. The elements of tools are put together here and then given a British flag mark to con us into thinking they are British made.

The vintage tools that John and Carole sell are all British and John showed us different sizes and weights and shapes...all with specific uses! It was reminiscent of a visit to the  ‘Lakeland’ shop where we see things of such a variety and inventiveness that we can’t believe how we have managed without them. He had a Canterbury hoe  of the same type that can be seen in use on an original woodprint of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales. Then there was a Suffolk hoe which was blacksmith made and had a knob at the end of the shaft to prevent blisters.

We saw trench digging spades and different forks for use in breaking-up the many thicknesses of clay soils. There was a metal shoe sole protector for workers who spent many hours of each day digging ditches. (Lots of these have been found over in France where our soldiers dug trenches in the 1st and 2nd World wars.) Then there were the different types of Ash or Beech handles which tend to differ depending on where we are in the country. In the North they prefer ‘T’ shaped handles and, in the South, ‘D’ shaped ones. However, during the 2nd World War there was a shortage of wood and some manufacturers produces ‘Y’ shaped handles as a result.

John  sells his tools at all the major Shows (including the upcoming Malvern Show) and has experienced a rush when Monty Don recommended a type of vintage hoe. Monty has even visited one of his displays and bought from him. He also sells to film makers and says that the way that the scythes were used in Poldark was incorrect!

What a brilliant evening the Mathews treated us to!