Dock dung

Contributed by Cornwall Museums

THIS OBJECT IS PART OF THE PROJECT 'A HISTORY OF CORNWALL IN 100 OBJECTS'.

SALTASH HERITAGE MUSEUM AND LOCAL HISTORY CENTRE. As you probably know, horse dung makes fabulous compost, and in Victorian times there was a lot of it sitting on the streets of Plymouth and Devonport (Plymouth Dock). After collecting the road sweepings, it was dumped in a heap at the quayside. This was called 'Dock Dung'.

This fabulous compost was auctioned and transported by river barges up and down the river Tamar. The farmers on the banks of the river found this manure to be 'manna from heaven'. The aroma did not deter the farming community and their yields increased enormously. Dock dung was used as a fertiliser until 1913. In amongst this manure were items such as beads, broken china, marbles, clay pipe ends, coins, buttons and children's toys.

Today you can still find evidence of it scattered in the hedgerows and along the shoreline between Saltash and Calstock. This legacy of dock dung has been collected and is displayed in Saltash Heritage Museum.

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 15:43 on 9 October 2011, Colette Usher wrote:

    Fascinating subject. How do I find out more about the china pieces and why there is so much lying around still?

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