What was in the ancient time capsule found in a Devon farm cottage?

An old bread oven is throwing up a treasure trove of historic objects hidden more than 100 years ago. Picture: Tony Gussin
An old bread oven is throwing up a treasure trove of historic objects hidden more than 100 years ago. Picture: Tony Gussin

‘Time travellers’ from a century ago left a variety of fascinating objects hidden in the fireplace of their Putford cottage for future generations to find...

Homeowner Nigel Jarmin with AHJ Curtis builders Lawrence Linciano and Andy Curtis and some of the items found in the ancient fireplace. Picture: Tony Gussin Homeowner Nigel Jarmin with AHJ Curtis builders Lawrence Linciano and Andy Curtis and some of the items found in the ancient fireplace. Picture: Tony Gussin

Shoes to ward of evil spirits and a toy cannon are among a fascinating assortment or artefacts unearthed in a century-old time capsule on Torridgeside.

Builders working at Littlecot in East Putford have found a carefully sealed up old-fashioned oven – complete with cast iron door – in the fireplace of the 19th century cob farm cottage.

Other oddities include the tooth of a horse-drawn plough, cooking implements, old hand shears and other items from daily life of 100 years or more ago.

Bideford builder Andy Curtis of AHJ Curtis said the items are not chance finds, but they and the oven had been carefully sealed up behind a stone wall in the fireplace for future generations to find.

This old leather ladies shoe - complete with hobnails - was found in the fireplace time capsule at East Putford and was thought to have been placed there to ward off evil spirits. Picture: Tony Gussin This old leather ladies shoe - complete with hobnails - was found in the fireplace time capsule at East Putford and was thought to have been placed there to ward off evil spirits. Picture: Tony Gussin

Andy and his workmate Lawrence Linciano are restoring the inglenook fireplace and installing a wood burner for new Littlecot owner Nigel Jarmin, who moved in with his wife Perry and son Sam four months ago.

The little cannon they discovered is a tinplate toy howitzer that Andy – who also owns collectables store The Strange Shop in Bideford – believes is a very rare German-made toy imported into the country before World War One.

He said there could well be more treasures to discover: “Over 35 years in building I have found several bread ovens in fireplaces but never one with a door on.

“These people had made a special job of sealing it up for the purpose of people like us finding it.

Nigel's son Sam Jarmin, 10, with the fascinating fireplace they have found in their new home. Nigel's son Sam Jarmin, 10, with the fascinating fireplace they have found in their new home.

“The shoe is the major thing. That’s to give luck to the family or the next family in the house. I know from previous experience they used to place an old leather shoe in them to keep the evil spirits away.”

Ironically Andy only visited the house to buy a Citroen 2CV from Nigel, who restores classic cars, but they got chatting and Andy was hired to work on the cottage. It is thought the fireplace has had three or even four incarnations in the past 200 years.

Nigel has been poring over the deeds to the house and the earliest reference they can find is 1833, but it could well be older.

He added: “I would not have believed all that stuff was behind there and it’s awesome to think it has been there so long.

This miniature model cannon - which it is thought could actually fire - found at East Putford, most likely dates from before World War One. Picture: Tony Gussin This miniature model cannon - which it is thought could actually fire - found at East Putford, most likely dates from before World War One. Picture: Tony Gussin

“When it’s done, everything we found will be put back on display in the oven.”

Were these old shears found in the bread oven at East Putford used to cut meat, or placed in the time capsule as an example of daily farming life? Picture: Tony Gussin Were these old shears found in the bread oven at East Putford used to cut meat, or placed in the time capsule as an example of daily farming life? Picture: Tony Gussin


This may also interest you

Most Read

Latest from North Devon Gazette

Newsletter Sign Up

North Devon Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Enjoy the North Devon Gazette digital edition

Find planning applications in North Devon - planning finder