Why am I so excited with this old stone gatepost?
Our landscape is packed with relics from our industrial past. These objects of heritage are given from the past in the same way we inherit a family heirloom. If history is about what happened in the past, the stories of where, when why and how, heritage is about objects we have from the past in the present.
These objects from the past not only have changing values, but they can also tell stories of the past events too. The stories these objects hold, are not immediately obvious as in a written narrative, they are a record of events imprinted on the object and landscape through time that has shaped and changed things in a coded format. We need to understand the code, and how it was shaped and imprinted.
The value of objects is also an ever-changing entity. When we buy a new car, it will give a different value to a person’s status, however, it will worth less than half its monetary value less than 3 years’ time. As the car transcends time, this once pride and joy object is looking tired. Its status value has diminished with everyone else having something, newer, bigger, better, faster. The value has changed and diminished, it’s time for the scrap heap.
As 6.1 million cars in the EU are scrapped each year, there is also a change in value for the cars that get away. The garage find or the well-loved enthusiast’s car can suddenly realise a now value due to rarity. Should the car survive the inevitable wear and tear, corrosion problems, MOT’s and subsequently the scrapyard, the surviving car can be elevated to classic car status or even a vintage.
We all know classic and vintage car are highly collectible and expensive. Sometimes well exceeding the original purchase value. These classic cars bestow on the individual a newfound status as a classic car owner, along with all trappings that go with it. Knowledge of old cars and engineering, restoration, and maintenance skills, topped with the endless opportunities to show off at classic car shows. What more could the status driven classic car collector want.
The objects from the past also hold a story that can, and often do add to the overall value, as long as the object is not overlooked or not misunderstood. Familiarity in the landscape erodes away the curiosity of the casual passer-by.
Fortunately, objects of the past can be bought back to life through stories of their own histories. It is possible to change, and influence values of objects by opening up and laying out, for all to see, the imaginative potential of the object’s former lives. It shows that objects are imbued with a history and geography all of their own.
I am so excited with this old stone gatepost because the route I am walking is known to be the towing path of a long disused canal that ran just south of Lea Bridge to the Cromford canal junction at Aqueduct Cottage. This short section is a shadow of its former self and barely visible without a back story. In the past there was a wharf would have been a hive of activity. Narrow boat and butties packed in, eagerly waiting for the transhipment of the goods. People, and horses quietly ready to move these goods to other destinations.
It was a scene of intense activity. But time has changed this landscape into a serine setting, now a nature reserve where a visitor can find quietness and be at peace with the landscape and themselves. It is now a million miles away from its bustling industrial past. A best kept secret that no one will ever know.
But the clues to its past are here, written subtly in the landscape, on and within the objects that we find. Here in the stone gatepost, we can see the rope marks of the thousands of horse drawn narrowboats that have passed by this spot. The gatepost just catching the rope, yet when done thousand of times, a number of groves have been cut.
These rope rub marks are quite common on the canals around the industrial midlands, but they don’t need any stretch of the imagination to understand their origins. Here in this rural setting, it is not so obvious and harder to imagine the level of industrial activity in times past. But its here for me to see and become so excited with an old stone gatepost
If you listen, the landscape and objects whisper in the wind. They will keep the past and the memories of the people who lived before us safely as time passes.
History is not to be seen as a set of facts that add to an individual’s body of knowledge. It is a place of possibility.