weird wollaston

I’ve just been off to visit my mother in the delightful, picturesque English village of Wollaston. It’s a nice enough place, I guess, but it scares me a little: I’m sure if you scratched the surface you’d find a veritable hot-bed of wife-swapping splosh parties and Daily Mail-inspired nimbyism. My mother runs the local museum (it’s a voluntary role), which is an interesting place because it contains all sorts of weird-looking stuff. Traditionally, local industries in the village have been shoemaking (Dr Martens boots first rolled off the UK production line here in 1960) and agriculture, and many of the items in the museum are strange looking tools that, at first glance, appear to be instruments of medieval torture rather than something you’d use during the dayjob. There’s a couple of items she’s been unable to identify, so I’m posting pictures here in the hope that some kind blogjam reader will be able to diagnose their use.

Any ideas?


  1. Fraser m’colleague,

    Been popping over to blogjam a bit whilst out here in Basrah. Well done, keep it up. In fact, blog more please.

    As it happens, my better half works in the museum industry (?) and knows a whole load of museum-type-people. I’ve forwarded her on the link in the hope that your mother’s flumoxed ID’ing is put right.

    Merry xmas,


  2. Why, thanks James. The second object bears the inscription “McDonald – June 7 1892, USA”, if that helps. And keep safe, big fella.

  3. The second item could be a device for carrying spagetti safely between Italian restaurants at night during the days before street lights, non-slip soles or licensing laws!? Unlikely I know! But love the site…

  4. The first one looks rather like the sort of pincers you see illustrations of in history texts about the Salem witch trials.

  5. Wollaston, spooky. Did you ever take in the atmosphere of the Black Lion on St. Giles Street, Northampton of an evening circa 1985? If yes, I may have an interesting book and a flood of ‘important’ MP3’s for you.

    No idea what the objects are.

  6. Yes. In 1985 I was an fairly frequent visitor to the Black Lion, although you’d be more likely to find me at the Old Five Bells in Kingsthorpe or the King Billy on Commercial Street. 1985 was my big year for Northampton boozing before I left for the big city.

    So I’m curious… tell me more.

  7. Interesting. Will e-mail you off-list, as they say.

  8. hush hush, mum’s the word ‘n’ all that.

  9. The first one is obviously a Grolsch bottle opener.

  10. Hi,
    The second photograph shows a Top Hat smoothing iron for smoothing the material on top hats in the 19th and early 20th century.

  11. Did you ever find out what item 2 is??..the so-called smoothing iron. I also have the exact same item which has been hanging around the house for 40 years and knowbody has any idea what it is!

    Ralp Marriott
    Toronto Canada