A most delightful archaeological find: an entire hoard of 16th and 17th century children’s toys, found at Market Harborough parish church, England
In the course of my research of VikingAge woodcraft, I somewhat unexpectedly turned up information about a most delightful archaeological find: an entire hoard of children’s toys, found at Market Harborough parish church, England[i]. A charming stash of the everyday playthings of sixteenth or seventeenth century children, the hoard throws a rare spotlight on the material culture of children in the archaeological record.
The hoard was revealed when construction workers unblocked an old disused stairwell at the church and discovered that the space had been stashed with over 200 toys. Staff at Harborough Museum dated the collection to the late Tudor and early Stuart era (1570-1630).
The hoard was comprised of street toys, specifically 117 objects known as tipcats, 89 spinning tops, thirteen sap whistles, six knucklebones, seven balls, five whip handles, two possible teetotums (a kind of spinning top) and eight wooden cylinder objects that were also thought to be toys. The finds were made mainly from wood – willow, ash, hazel, alder and fruitwoods, cut straight from the hedgerows or out of a carpenter’s workshop – with some bone, clay, leather and fabric also used.