A string box

String seems to have the ability to get in tangles all on its own. No wonder people use string boxes to help keep the stuff in order. We have recently been given such a box. It belonged to the Cooper family of Parsonage Lane.

For one reason or another, the name Cooper crops up quite often in this blog. It was a common local name and as far as we know there were several unrelated families about. Coopers, of course, were barrel makers and the prevalence of the name probably indicates just how important and useful barrels were. These days we think of them as holding beer, but in past times all sorts of goods were stored in barrels. There were lots of barrel makers (coopers) and their trade gave them their surname – Cooper.

The Coopers on Parsonage Lane were, amongst other things – farmers and coal merchants.

But back to the string dispenser.

Victorian string box which belonged to the Cooper family of Parsonage Lane

Victorian string box which belonged to the Cooper family of Parsonage Lane

Our research into this simply lovely wooden object suggests that it is lignum vitae. This is a very hard and dense wood – dense enough, we understand, to make it sink in water. But fear not, we have not tried that out with this item. It dates, we think, from about 1870. It is in two parts. The lid unscrews so a ball of string can be put inside with the string coming out through the hole in the top.

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The box is open so string can be put in

We can see in this picture that the passage of time has taken its toll with a crack down the body of the box. Another crack in the base has had a neat little repair made.

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A repair to the base

These faults will, no doubt, drastically cut the cash value but we have no real interest in that. What we like is the thought of old Jacob Cooper pulling string from this for all sorts of tasks associated with his job as a farmer – or Mary his wife cutting off some string to tie a cloth lid on a pudding basin back in the 1880s.

A generation later, perhaps Jacob’s son James had this item up at New Farm on Salisbury Plain and maybe it came back to Parsonage Lane when his son George returned to the old family home.

We are delighted to be able to show our visitors this lovely piece of treen.

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