Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Penny For Them


Sunday saw us wandering around Carshalton in South London, popping into the Honeywood Museum of local life and climbing an early eighteenth century water tower, both taking part in the extraordinary Open London scheme where you can often see things not normally open. Carshalton came as a welcome relief after the day before when an insulation savant in Belsize Park got twelve of us shut into his small bathroom to tell us about condensing boilers.

My mate, (who was brought up around here), suddenly said "I wonder if the holes are still in the wall by the Ponds bus stop?". Indeed they were, as you can see. Every brick in the wall immediately behind the stop had holes in them of roughly the same diameter and depth. They tailed off in each direction. What can they be? Giant masonry bees? The only explanation we could come up with was that for decades schoolchildren had bored them out with their bus fare pennies. They're about the right size for an old penny, and presumably the brick is soft enough. And if the bus was late you'd soon have made a serious indent. But we're not at all sure. So come on Old Carshaltonians, have you ever joined in this communal making of brick Emmental? Or is there another even more unlikely answer?

6 comments:

Martin H. said...

How wonderful to see my home village featured on U.E.! If I'd known you were there on Sunday I'd have rushed down and bought you a pint. I'm sure the story of the pennies is correct - the wall belongs to Carshalton House (as does the Water Tower - aren't the tiles lovely?) which is 18th C. and the bricks are much softer than modern bricks. Part of the wall has been rebuilt where the frost has destroyed it. My friend Keith, who alerted me to your post, points out that Oyster Cards are unlikely to have the same effect.

P.S. Next time you're in Carshalton, try to come on the first Sunday of the month, when you'll be able to visit Little Holland House, the Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts home that Frank Dickinson built. I think you'd enjoy it.

CarolineLD said...

Intriguing! I shared this on my Facebook page, where Graham Chapman commented 'Explanation is much simpler, as schoolkids we found that if we ground some brick dust onto our pennies and rubbed between our fingers, they became shiny as new. This became quite a craze in the mid 50's, and I was in SE London.'

Stephen Barker said...

Peter, nearer to home there are similar holes to be found in the brickwork of the Jubilee Hall in Bowden Lane, Market Harborough.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou all for your brilliant comments. I will never pass by a brick wall in quite the same way again.

Martin: Yes, we loved the plunge bath tiles, and if we'd had time we were certainly thinking of visiting Little Holland House. I really liked the Frank Dickinson paintings on display at Honeywood.

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James Russell said...

I like the giant masonry bees - hope you're well and our paths will cross soon, James.