Drawers are great places to find heirloom detritus, the small things which can tell so much about cultural values in the recent past. Drawers, often contained with a larger piece of furniture, are useful for storing things. And then forgetting about them, in many cases, and then adding to them until the drawer is full and loses any kind of functionality. While cupboards and chests are good sources for larger items, drawers retain an element of intimacy. Who would not be interested in the contents of the bedside table drawers in Buckingham Palace?
There has yet to be any conclusive study of drawers, and my own initial research is based on some of the drawers at Judley Hall, where I have kindly been given access to many a fascinating drawer (although I did draw the line at those used for the storage of underwear). This particular drawer forms part of a long oak sideboard in one of the eastern hallways on the ground floor, and is about a foot square and four inches deep.
1. News story about the closure of a library
This piece of paper, on which a news story from a website (MSN) has been printed, makes clear that the drawer is still in use. Dating from 2011, the story states that residents of Stony Stratford, annoyed at the potential closure of their library, took out all the books in protest. Incidentally, the book in the picture is the Oxford Companion to Scottish History.
2. Shell map of southern Scotland
Part of the Shell 'Supermap' series, this is number five of a series of six maps of Great Britain. It is well-thumbed and judging from its position on the top of the drawer, has been recently used. It probably dates from the late 1970s or early 1980s. It is not clear how many traffic jams this map has endured, or how many times it has led the residents of Judley Hall the wrong way. Far too often we associate maps with authority, when often they are full of mistakes, or just too difficult to interpret.
3. Circular measuring tape
This tape, about 6 inches in diameter, is rolled up in a spool. There are no visible markings to indicate its length, and therefore I have estimated this at around 30 feet given the size of the rolled tape. Its connection to the other items in the drawer is unclear, yet there is evidence that it has been used in some of the measuring ceremonies which take place on Aeppeltun Isle each year. This will be the focus of a forthcoming separate study.
4. Map of Wygarth
This is the only map of the town of Wygarth, published in 1988. Until that point, the lack of visitors to the town meant that a map was unnecessary. This also brings into contention the popular view that the whole of the UK (or even the world) has been mapped. This is clearly not the case, as there is no map of the nearby town of Tyngarth, or its neighbour Weedle. There is also no map of the island of Ei'Grayne.
5. Unidentified map
This is a map of somewhere, with an index of place names. The abundance of maps in this drawers suggests it may well be the geographic centre point of Judley Hall. Unfortunately, I have been unable to examine the bottom of the drawer, to see whether it is inscribed with any important symbols or lines. That level of investigation will require separate research.
6. Metal case (glasses)
Why keep a case containing a pair of glasses in a drawer mainly full of maps? Firstly this is a fascinating example of a 'drawer-er', i.e. an item containing another item within a drawer. It might be better described as a 'sub-drawer' although the opening mechanism is a hinge rather than just pulling a drawer out. Secondly, because maps are often printed rather small, one often needs to wear reading glasses to see them. Otherwise there is a risk of getting lost as per item (2).
7. Ordnance Survey map
In 1838, the cartographers of the 2nd Scottish Ordnance Survey came to Judley Hall to undertake a survey of the lands owned by the Judley Family. Sir Ambrose Judley, who had been hard of hearing ever since an accident in his youth, thought that they wanted to buy Judley Hall and promptly chased them down the drive, armed with a 17th century pike. Since this incident, officials of the Survey have been reluctant to return to the area, and so their maps should not be trusted for an accurate depiction of the area.
7a. Envelope addressed to E.Judley
There is no way of knowing what was once inside this large brown envelope addressed to Eustace Judley. It is sad that the most common of envelopes used for so-called 'official' business is this rather indiscriminate shade of brown. And it is perhaps the most worrying example of unimaginative behaviour which seems to have been adopted by myriad bureaucracies across the land.
Halfway through this piece of analysis, I must refrain from speculation as to this piece of cord's history and future use. But it has been retained, rather than either discarded or used somewhere else. What is this object hibernation in which things are suspended in both time and place until a new owner arrives? How should we record these periods in an object's history?
9. Unidentified object
This object, a small wooden orb, escapes categorisation. This is evidently a good thing, as the post-Enlightenment search for rationality has created almost as many problems as it has looked to solve through its endless search for classificatory systems. How do we not know that objects may have many different uses, different names, each particular to the time and place in which they exist?
There is yet to be a definitive history of sunglasses. This pair, dating from the 1970s, are functional, and believed to have been used on sunny days in Angarth and the surrounding area. They are lacking a case, although they may have once been associated with (6), there is now no record of this. It is these potential lost associations which I find so compelling, and well as to speculate what sort of nose these sunglasses have once sat on.
11. Knife (Pork pie)
This knife, with a weathered bone handle, is known as the Pork Pie knife in the Judley family. While it may be confused with (12), it is around 35-50 years old, and has a 4 inch blade.
12. Other knife
The handle or hilt suggests another knife, but I wonder whether it is there. The presence of (11) means it is likely to be a knife, but one with less information so readily attached to it.
13. Map of Ireland
Strictly speaking, this is a map of a part of Ireland, the city of Galway and the Aran Islands. How it has come to rest in the drawer is unclear – and whether any member of the Judley family has ever visited these places. It is perhaps more useful to consider the variance in use of 'isles' and 'islands'. It really doesn't make much difference, but perhaps we should reconsider the British Isles as the North East Atlantic Archipelago.
14. Glasses in case
Following (6) and (10) I have little to further say on this object.
15. Envelope with writing
The writing on this envelope is dated 2/3/99. The envelope has a printed reference to 1995. It would be the work of another pamphlet to try and set out some of the pertinent events in the period 1995-1999 which is itself the subject of Room 88 of the Museum, the K Roy Wethermaster Collection of Internet Archaeology.
Readers of Angarth or Wygarth: Myth and Reality will be aware of the selection of 1980s guidebooks in Judley Hall (either Lonely Planet or Rough Guides). This guidebook however is neither of those, and firmly proclaims its 80th year of publication. Whether it is useful for a guidebook to have been published for so long is debatable. There is a tendency in this country to place excessive value on old things whose only value is their age!