Gardening News

Meet the gold-fingered gardener who unearths a piece of treasure EVERY time she tends garden

Many a veteran gardener will tell you they’re ‘green-fingered’.

For relative novice Jan Long, however, ‘gold-fingered’ is a more apt description – as nearly every time she weeds her borders or tends her vegetable patch, she unearths an antique.

She has dug up an incredible treasure trove of dozens of valuable items including a diamond ring, a solid gold Victorian watch and an Edwardian chain-mail bag at her historic farmhouse.

The mother of three has also found more than a hundred coins – some of them Roman, and an Austrian Crown from 1780 – as well as brooches and medals in her 150ft long garden. Among the more bizarre are a plough, a gate and a wheelbarrow.

Her unusual ‘crop’ began when she took up gardening six years ago after she and husband Dr Richard Long, 70, a retired university lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, moved to the rural property near Ledbury, Herefordshire, and found a stash of Victorian bottles.

‘I decided I wanted to move one of the magnolia bushes to the other side of the garden.

‘But when I was digging up the roots I suddenly started hitting something hard and thought “oh no I’ve hit some electricity lines”.

‘I got a fork and started scraping out the soil – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got a bit further.

‘I realised there were hundreds of bottles beneath the soil and every time I had been digging I’d been smashing them all.

‘I used the fork to pick out the smashed ones and realised there was a whole Victorian bottle bank buried underneath.

‘There were lemonade bottles, blue vials, enamel bottles and all sorts, some of them are over 150 years old.

Jan Long

Jan Long

Unearthed: An engagement ring and dozens of antique coins

‘That was just the start of it really, nearly everytime I’m out in the garden I make a new find.’

Jan was a regional director of the British Council for more than 20 years, but is now retired. As well as thousands of 19th century bottles, she has found hundreds of other tiny trinkets alongside a huge working plough.

Her most recent discovery has been a treasure trove of coins, including Victorian pennies, an Austrian Crown dated 1780, a King Crown dated 1935 and an 1837 Canadian Bank Token.

Her most valuable find has been a solid gold watch which she hopes to have restored.

Biddell and Webb auctioneers in Birmingham have valued some of the collection and say the main items such as the diamond ring and the watch could earn Jan several hundred pounds.

The overhaul haul could possibly be worth £2,000, though Jan said she is more interested in the stories behind her finds rather than their worth.

Although she, too,is at a loss as how the varied haul ended up in her garden.

She believes the fact the house was built in the 15th century could go some way to explaining why there was so many unusual items.

A gold fingered gardener

A gold fingered gardener<

Haul: An Edwardian chain-mail bag, decorated mirror and ornament

Jan Long.

antique items

Booty: Medal, brooch and a solid gold watch which she hopes to have restored

She added: ‘The farmhouse dates back at least 500 years when it was a two up, two down cottage.

‘It was only when the owner became more wealthy that he had the Georgian frontage put on it.

‘I suppose the age of the house might go some way to explain why there is so much stuff under the ground, I guess a lot of people would have been here that could have dropped them.

‘For example, did a jilted lover throw her engagement ring away or simply lose it?

‘Was there a garden party at which a guest left behind a shawl and bag, and why, was she drunk or did she leave in a hurry, perhaps caught in a compromising position?

‘And the farm implements, were they left outside to grow rusty when the sons of the family went of to war in 1914 – I can’t begin to imagine.

‘The biggest item is by far the plough, a farmer looked at it and believes it was made around 1890. It’s really amazing because it has been really well preserved.

A gold fingered gardener

Whatever next? Among the items found were a gate, wheelbarrow and plough

gold fingered gardener

The farmhouse home in Ledbury, where the antiques were recovered

‘My favourite item is a tiny wooden locket carved out of wood into a rose, which unusually opens from left to right and is so intricate and beautiful.

‘I really have no idea to the total value but the monetary value is not that important to me is.

‘It is more the tales which can be woven around each item that I find fascinating.

‘I’ve really loved discovering them all and am looking forward to what’s going to turn up next.’

Dr Jamie Pringle, an expert in earth science from Keele University, said there are a number of reasons why unusual items can be found together.

‘With a lot of old buildings because there were no rubbish collections back then they would just throw things in the back garden,’ he said.

‘The items like the bottle and plates may have been thrown out like this, which may explain them being there.

‘The high value things like the watch and the ring could have been dropped in the long grass and laid undiscovered for all these years at various social functions.

‘Or they could be from a burglary centuries ago, buried and then forgotten.’

Twenty of the treasures from Jan Long’s garden:

  • solid gold Victorian watch
  • gold coloured walnut, 1.5″ hinged box with two Victorian collar studs
  • solid gold ring with three diamonds
  • chain mail silver coloured Edwardian bag
  • small gold coloured child’s bangle
  • ebony carved 1.5in locket
  • two Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution medals
  • Victorian bottles
  • 120 coins from Roman, Victorian and other foreign coins
  • Austrian Crown coin dated 1780
  • Canadian Bank Token 1837
  • plough1890
  • wheelbarrow from the 1920s
  • late Victorian wool shawl
  • World War I-era five-bar gate
  • a1950s brooch
  • Victorian corkscrew
  • *bone-handled spoon and fork from the Victorian era
  • nutcrackers with Shakespeare image on them 1820
  • antique black laquered box

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