Curiosity of the Month

January’s Curiosity has been chosen by Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood:

I am sure we have all thrown pennies into a fountain?  Curious to think that people have been doing this for over 2,000 years.

Back in 1979 the Mineral Baths in Buxton were restored. A hoard of coins was found there, you might say, blocking the plughole. These 215 mostly low denomination coins cover 300 years of Roman history and along with four bracelets, are on show in the Museum.

But there were more, and a second part of this hoard was acquired more recently. This contained even more Roman coins and other things too. There were several fine pins long with bulbous heads, two coiled finger rings, a part of a buckle and this month’s curiosity: a hoop of metal, the sides slightly slanted in and decorated with impressions of dots all around.

DERSB 2007.6.96 view a

If you sew, you will immediately recognise this as a thimble – not a full finger one, but a hoop thimble.  If you sew, this is an important tool to help push a needle through cloth, protecting the skin of your finger from being abraded by the sharp needle top.  This hoop one will have protected the side of the sewer’s finger, and made sure that the finger did not bleed from regular stabbing and making the skin get rough. Sewers usually have a favourite thimble, the one that fits best. Parting with such a favoured tool is a wrench!

So why put this into the fountain?

If we look at the whole groups of objects, not just the coins, they suggest a group of things owned by women.  Buxton’s mineral waters were renowned even in Roman times for their curative powers. So did women come here, offering gifts and asking the local goddess Arnemetia to help them? How great an offering would be needed – your precious fine pins, your jewellery, even an essential thimble – would any or all of these ease her troubles?


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