FAHG-C743A5: Post-medieval toy gridiron

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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Unique ID: FAHG-C743A5

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Complete toy gridiron with fish, made from a lead/tin alloy (pewter) with a patina which is shiny in patches. The gridiron is basically rectangular but slightly trapezoidal, flaring from the handle end; it has six bars of equal thickness and triangular cross-section parallel to the handle, and a similar transverse bar to either end. The longer transverse bar has a backwards-curving hook to either end, one now crushed. The shorter transverse bar, at the handle end, is decorated with oblique ribbing giving a cabled effect. This bar has an angular U-shaped arrangement at either end as if it is designed to hook onto a support. The handle is a low D shape in cross-section and has a raised beaded border. It expands slightly in the centre and ends in a circular unbeaded pierced suspension loop.

The fish is a crude representation, perhaps of a flatfish; it is the right way up when the toy is held with the handle downwards. It is shown in detail with a single large round eye with raised border above the central axis, a large mouth with lips, a large head without scales and a body with scales. The body is symmetrical about a horizontal axis with two fins on the top and two on the bottom of the body, and the broad tail is finished with a short concave length of fin.

The reverse of the toy is flat and undecorated. It measures 65.5mm long, the handle taking up c. 35mm of this length; it is a maximum of 38mm wide, a maximum of 1.3mm thick, and weighs 4.2g. Compare Forsyth and Egan 2005, 124-6 and BH-A64484.

The interest of this object lies in its securely dated context. It was found during building work, under the upper storey floorboards in a house built after 1861 and before 1871. It was found with a group of other items (a clay tobacco pipe stem, some slate pencils, a ceramic marble, some textile) above a small area of surviving original ceiling. The four similar items in the Museum of London are thought on morphological grounds to be 16th or early 17th century (circular gridirons come into use in the late 17th century and continue throughout the18th) but the finding of such a flimsy yet complete object in an undoubted late 19th-century context suggests that this date should at least be extended if not completely revised.

Further corroboration of a late19th-century date for rectangular gridirons comes from Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Two Bad Mice published in 1904. The picture on p. 40, painted by Beatrix Potter, clearly shows a large rectangular toy gridiron in a pile of other kitchen equipment including an iron and a kettle.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Period to: MODERN
Date from: Circa AD 1850
Date to: Circa AD 1900

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 65.5 mm
Width: 38 mm
Thickness: 1.3 mm
Weight: 4.2 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Thursday 1st November 2012 - Friday 30th November 2012

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Dr Helen Geake
Identified by: Dr Helen Geake

Materials and construction

Primary material: Lead Alloy
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Suffolk (County)
District: Mid Suffolk (District)
Parish or ward: Woolpit (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: TL9762
Four figure Latitude: 52.220968
Four figure longitude: 0.882625
1:25K map: TL9762
1:10K map: TL96SE
Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Building work
Discovery circumstances: Under the floorboards of a cottage built between 1861 and 1871
General landuse: Other
Specific landuse: In use as a building

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: FAHG
Created: 6 years ago
Updated: 4 years ago

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