by Harry Pope

Ice House steps

Ice House steps

For years people have been unearthing strange items in their back gardens. Just recently a man in West Yorkshire was digging in his back garden. The spade hit metal. ‘I wonder what my spade has hit,’ he ruminated. ‘I must investigate further,’ in his Heckmondwike accent. Round and round the object he dug, until he had uncovered. He was not expecting to find a 1950s Ford Popular car. A lot of the vehicle was intact, with engine and registration plate. The car was two-tone, grey and mud. Why was the car there in the first place? One theory I can relate to is that when the price of scrap went right down, it was cheaper to bury the car than sell for scrap in the hope that one day the value would appreciate.

Popular in the back garden

Popular in the back garden

Sittingbourne in Kent is the next garden location. Hannah and Tony Raistrick were digging away, when they hit an unyielding concrete block. Hannah had a good idea. ‘Use a crowbar on it.’ Tony did, but the hole underneath was so big that it disappeared underground. More leverage was used, up came the slab, to reveal steps down to a small underground brick sided room via a four meter hallway. The roof was domed, the bricks are the same as used for the main house, built in the 1930s. Hannah thinks that it was a form of ice house for a mansion on the site called Gore House. Ice was used to keep food preserved during the summer, underground of course for a constant temperature.

‘Who’s that knocking on the door mum?’

‘No idea, answer it would you.’

It was the police, telling owner Sue Bramley that they wanted to dig up her Nottinghamshire back garden. They had received a tip-off that two bodies were buried there.

‘Strange,’ said Sue, ‘I could never grow anything in that plot.’ The police found two bodies, people who had been murdered by the previous owners nearly twenty years previously for an inheritance. The murderers are now serving prison sentences, Sue can grow her flowers now.

Another un-named man was digging away in his Burnham on Sea, Essex, when he unearthed what he thought was an unexploded device. He called the police, whom called in the army bomb disposal unit. The area was cleared, neighbours evacuated, and it wasn’t until six hours later that they all went home. It was a large metal weight.

Gilmerton, Edinburgh is our next location. Our 2020 un-named hero was doing some lockdown digging when he discovered a plastic bag containing bones. He was convinced that he had uncovered the remains of a child, aghast he contacted the police, who were going to call in a forensics team. But before they did that, one enterprising officer decided to do some of his own digging, and discovered the identity of all the recent owners of the house. Twenty years ago their much loved family pet dog had passed away, so to keep the children happy dad had buried poor pooch in the back garden. When they moved they hadn’t thought any more about it, so there is a lesson here.

We now go back to 1978 Los Angeles, California, and two kids were digging in the back garden of the family home. They hit a Dino 246 Ferrari. No, really, it was all part of an insurance scam, by the previous owners, and no-one, not even the neighbours, had any knowledge. Or so they said. Let’s face it, you would have to bury a Ferrari during the dead of night to stand any chance of getting away with it, and then the neighbours would be pretty suspicious at any nocturnal activity. The story has a happy ending, because the car was taken out, reconditioned, and sold for a huge sum, now with the number plate DUG-UP.

In 2014 a man was digging his garden in Calgary, and found a sealed bag. It took him a while to open it, and inside was a mobile phone, plus a machine gun. No explanation has been unearthed.

250 million years ago dinosaurs ruled the earth. But none have been recorded visiting Ipswich in Suffolk, despite the fact that UK mainland was joined to Europe until 10,000 years ago when the North Sea breached and created the English Channel. I suppose they could have walked across, despite no remains ever being discovered until John Lambert found one in 1997. He wasn’t a particularly inquisitive type, because he put it in his garden shed for the next 16 years until he had it examined and it came from a Pliosaur.

You may have heard of the Californian gold rush in the 1840s, one man had and owned a house with a large back garden. In 2011 he found a nugget, or should I say boulder, weighing in at 8.2 lbs, and when he sold it at auction he was some $840,000 better off. If that had been me I would have invested some of the windfall in an earth mover, because he was told by experts that it was highly likely that there was more gold in that there backyard.

I have saved the best for last. In 2015 rug designer Luke Irwin discovered a complete mosaic floor on his Wiltshire property. He had previously found pottery, broached and coins, and what has now been uncovered is the largest Roman villa in the UK. Lucky man.