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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Totnes Market with Knobs On

My favourite haunt for a morning of taking photographs is the second hand stalls section at Totnes Market on a Friday. I have made several posts already and I don't think I will tire of doing it. I just have one rule, don't move anything, all the photos have to be of the objects as they are displayed. Part two is some street photos and history, and part three is the rest of the market.


On arrival you have to make your way through the narrow medieval back alleys and lanes to the market square. Old Totnes developed inside a town wall and space was at a premium. The market has existed since at least the twelfth century.

Cars do venture in to the old town but at their own risk.

I will dive straight in to today's offerings and this one makes me think of pearls in a shell, so diving is appropriate. These spoons have a pearlescent glow and the classic optical illusion if you stand back is that they are convex and emerging from the shell.


Wine racks, and could that waitress be carrying wine? Or are they sauce bottles?


This one looks a little like a gargoyle fallen off a building next to a shield that sports a Gryffon if I am not mistaken, if I am mistaken it might be a dragon. But in either case they never existed so sue me.


.....and here are the knobs mentioned in the title. In Henley in Arden there is a shop called Knobs and Knockers, and I am leaving that there.


This just made a nice abstract with some striking chevrons and an intriguing little green piece of litter which I couldn't bring myself to crop out. If I were in the mood and had a brush and a canvas I would do a version of this in paint.


Actually I think I just like the photo well enough not to bother.


My feet sneaked into this one. I like these miniature car parks. We're in the South Hams, so of course there's a caravan, a tractor, a crane, three Landys and two large trucks. A sort of a repeat journey to Totnes Market from earlier. That's why I was late.


This has bashed out some tunes in it's day, but looks like it has some life left in it yet.



This is why the cheap light throwaway plastic laundry tools we use today are called irons. You needed muscles to use these, and hands like sandpaper. They were very hot and very heavy. You also needed an open fire.


Here's a question. How come when everything back then was made of iron, was it that just these implements got stuck with that name? Isn't it strange that removing creases from clothes is the act of ironing. If they had per chance made them from aluminium we'd be aluminiuming our clothes. Or if you were American aluminuming your clothes.


Anyone under the age of 26 will not know what these little things below are, because of Primark. This little collection of thimbles though has several stories attached. Thimble is a lovely old fashioned word and old fashioned housewives all had one or maybe even several. In Birmingham, the City of a Thousand Trades, there is a Thimble Mill Lane.


Thimble - A thimble is a small pitted cup worn on the finger that protects it from being pricked or poked by a needle while sewing. The Old English word þȳmel, the ancestor of thimble, is derived from Old English þūma, the ancestor of the English word thumb.


Thumble might have been more appropriate then.


As far as I can tell these are all collectable thimbles. They are not actually for darning your Primark socks, you just throw them away, the socks I mean. I have looked closely and amongst them is one from Strathpeffer, a spa town near Inverness. For once I am not looking up this stuff, because many moons ago we holidayed there, and I never got an urge to buy a thimble. I do remember the little spa house where the water ran though, so that you could go in and cure your ills. That's if you like drinking rotten eggs. We had tea at The Strathpeffer Tea Room which still lives in infamy.


Next to the Strathpeffer thimble is an Oliver Cromwell one. It's from the delicate bone china set of thimbles which features the world's authoritarian murderous dictators. Pol Pot is the rarest one and rather valuable. The Oliver Cromwell thimble has quite a connection with Totnes as he used to do business here at The Guildhall, exporting Royalists to France if they kept their heads.


There are quite a few roses in the collection, and lots of furry animals, so the customer profile is starting to get clearer. I see a racoon, a fox, a deer, and a beaver. We also have one from Pixieland and one from Blackpool, while another is from Cockermouth. How we used to giggle as kids when we explored the map on the way up to Scotland and discovered Cockermouth 165 miles north of Penistone.


I would have expected the Pixieland thimble to be smaller than that, pixies have quite small hands, and even smaller socks. They also don't have Primark. Lastly we have a royalist Queen Mother thimble, because Oliver Cromwell ultimately lost, like most authoritarian murderous dictators. Now the Queen Mother was someone old enough to have actually used a thimble if she hadn't already had a fleet of humans to wear thimbles for her.


This is like a technicolor flashback to my childhood on a Saturday afternoon after all the cowboys lost. Not a lot of people realise this, as "Red Indians" are so tied up in our imaginations with horses, but horses didn't exist in the Americas until the Spaniards took them there and they escaped and naturalised. Native Americans took to horse riding like ducks to water. Three of these figures even have horse shaped legs, that's evolution in action.


What's going on ear then?


I hadn't seen these at the market before and was really taken with them, just as beautiful objects let alone their ability to play music, which I can't. They are made by David Nicholas Hill of Hillbilly Guitars. In case you hadn't realised, they are made from wooden cigar boxes.

Cuban cigars are historically regarded as among the world's “finest”, they are synonymous with the island's culture and contribute nearly one quarter of the value of all exports from the country. All cigar production in Cuba is controlled by state-owned Cubatabaco. The Cuban cigar is also referred to as "El Habano".



A velour telephone cover, a well used one at that. Hyacinth Bucket might well have had one sitting on her gun carriage drinks trolley, or it might have belonged to her son Sheridan.


At a Fiver each I almost felt sorry for these two, lying there waiting for a new home.


Greg Evigan stars as Billie Joe "B.J." McKay, a professional freelance itinerant trucker who travels the country's highways in a red and white Kenworth K-100 Aerodyne (a COE semi truck) with his pet chimpanzee Bear (named after Bear Bryant, the famed football coach for the University of Alabama.


Never say I don't put in the work for you. Now we have Amazon and Yodel which is just dandy.


A fairly typical melange of completely disconnected objects until today, when my photo preserved them as a family, forever, or until a sunspot fries my hard drive. Then it's goodnight Vienna.


Where are you Scooby Doo? Usually in a cave or down a mine. The mystery of course was Velma, but that mystery is now solved.


The other book has to be one of the best titles ever. Anyone remember Comic Strip Presents? A grim case of murder and retribution for two shillings and sixpence. I always used to confuse Perry Mason with Perry Como.


Does what it says on the tin. Actually spoons are quite good for opening tins. You'll never go hungry on a camping holiday with these earrings. It's a pity we don't have three ears, as you could have a full place setting.



For some reason there are always galleons in Totnes Market, and this is quite a selection of rigging.


Here is an image that has been around all my life and I suspect after 70 years on the throne, images like this one, on a million different objects, will continue to feature throughout the rest of my life too, mainly here, on visits to Totnes Market.

My follow up post will feature some shots from around the town and the food market. Coming soon.

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Unknown member
Oct 09, 2022

Loved the tour. It's one of those place where if I ever entered would not leave for quite sometime, so manyitems to look at. I loved the hillbilly guitars, quite unique and inventive. But what threw me was the velour phone cover...who in their right mind dresses (dressed) their phone??? Is this sort like those Kleenex covers people buy to make the box in the bathroom look appealing? Anyway, great tour! Did you by chance see our wand friend again?

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Oct 09, 2022
Replying to

I remember those tissue box covers and also the crocheted figures that fitted over the spare toilet roll. Uggggh. No I haven't seen the wand man for months, hope he is OK. He did say he travels in Asia during the summer and sells

wands in the winter so he may suddenly appear again.



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