Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A link with the past

Like many families we have a few family heirlooms.  Nothing spectacular, but they provide a link to the past.  Most of them fall into the category of jewellery which I imagine is the same for many families.


One, however, is a little different.  A silver thimble which once belonged to my great grandmother, Sarah.  It passed to my grandmother, and then my mother who has now decided the time is right to pass it onto me.

It might not be the most ornate or financially valuable (in fact I’m fairly sure it’s not worth much at all), but it’s now one of my most prized possessions.


We know it is pre 1910 and we believe it was given to Sarah when she worked at Blacketts in Sunderland as a seamstress.  It’s always been referred to by the family as ‘the silver thimble’ although I believe it probably has a steel core and then silver outside.  It’s certainly quite heavy.

This tiny little thing makes me feel very strange inside when I hold it.  It’s a direct link back through time to my forebears.  It’s not a fact, or a date, but a tangible object which has been used and loved.

I remember my grand mother using it when I was a child.  Even to my young mind I could tell there was something special about it for her.  Later as I grew I realised she treasured it because of the link to her mother.

Now it has passed to me and I find it’s stirring all sorts of emotions, the strongest of which is wonder.  I wonder at the ability of such a small, mundane, inanimate object to affect me.  It triggers a desire to know more about it’s history and also my own.  Did Sarah have any idea when she received this tiny bit of metal that one day her great granddaughter would look at it and wonder about her life.  Was it something she was happy to be given as part of a sparkly new job, or did she not really want the job at all.  Of course I’ll never know the answers but it doesn’t stop me wondering about it.


Here it is with a much smaller, lighter thimble which my mother used when she still sewed.  ‘The silver thimble’ is all well and good but was simply to big for her finger.  I must have inherited her hands as I have the same problem when I try to use it.

The Antiques Road show is due to go to Layer Marney Tower in May where my friend Maytheweed works.  I wonder if it would be possible to take it along and see if I could find out more about this little piece of metal which has touched my heart so deeply.  Then again, does it really matter?  Whatever they say won’t change the link if forms with my past, and that’s the magic this thimble holds over me.


Oh and Fire the cat seemed to enjoy watching me take these photos from his bed next to me.  I simply couldn’t resist taking a photo of him as well.


  1. Such a precious thing to own. These links with the past are so important and as you say every bit as emotionally valuable as the family tiara

  2. Thank you for your comment on my blog - I think I would add the smell of naturally dyed and home spun yarn to your definition!