Matthew Biggs' Mattock

Contributed by Gardeners Question Time

Matthew Biggs' Mattock

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The earliest mattocks were deer antlers but later evolved into several basic designs. They have a broad blade, at 90 degrees to the handle, and another parallel with the handle, like the one shown here, that is perfect for cutting. It has been renowned for centuries for its versatility as a hand tool for breaking up hard ground, grubbing out tree roots and digging out stones, they are used by the army for digging 'foxholes' and were also used as primitive pole weapons in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Smaller versions are invaluable in archaeological excavation.

I have a special affinity for this particular mattock, it has been a constant companion while clearing gardens. It once enabled me to grub out a giant 'Lime Tree' root, when hydraulic machinery was unavailable. Gradually, this became a personal challenge and after several weeks hard graft, we were triumphant!

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 07:47 on 4 November 2012, Chinnorfan wrote:

    Try using one on Salisbury Plain to dig a trench! The chalk yields painfully little; despite battering all night with this tool we often resorted to kneeling in the first light "stand-to" gloom, disguising our puny scratches on the earth as a 1/2 decent slit-trench to bleary eyed young officers on inspection rounds!!

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