Iron Age ‘kitchen appliance’ used in breadmaking found in Derby garden rockery

Posted on 19/06/2019 in Press Coverage

An iron age object which helped to provide bread for England’s ancient ancestors thousands of years ago has turned up in a Derby garden.

A heavyweight Iron Age beehive quern, so-called because of its shape and dating to around 400-300BC, was discovered in a rockery in a Mickleover garden.

The item, which is around 2,400 years old, was taken along to a free antique valuation day at Hansons Auctioneers, at Etwall, near Derby.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “These heavyweight, hand-carved rotary querns were used to grind grain to make flour for bread.

“They took such a long time to make and were so important, they were passed down through the generations.

“I suppose it was the ultimate early cookery appliance of its day – and one built to last. An essential tool to enable our ancient ancestors to make bread and feed their families.”

Its owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said the object had been discovered in a cottage garden rockery in 1954 by a family member who had a passion for geology and recognised its importance. The rockery had been built by his grandfather.

He said: " It was in the rockery for many years but it's been on our patio for the last 12 years. I wondered if Derbyshire's Heage Windmill might like it, or a museum. When I was a child I remember seeing a working quern at Derby Museum."

Mr Hanson added: “The cottage where it was found dates back 1760, though the quern is, of course, much older than that. The vendor also produced an old diagram which showed how it worked (above). This was a labour-saving device. Producing flour by rubbing wheat by hand used to take hours.”

Quern stones were used in China at least 10,000 years ago to grind wheat into flour. A prehistoric quern dating back to 23,000 BCE was found at the Longwangchan archaeological site, in Hukou, Shaanxi, China, in 2007.

The beehive quern was the earliest type of rotary quern to appear in the British Isles. It arrived in the middle of the Iron Age (about 400-300 BC) and spread into the northern half of Ireland, probably from Scotland, some time after the 2nd century BC.

The Derby quern enters Hansons’ August 27 Historica and Metal Detecting Finds Auction with an estimate of £100. More entries invited. To find out more, email [email protected]