The Collector: Dorothy Harrison, retired traveller, teacher, small holder, Nottinghamshire (UK).
The Collection: Hand pushed vehicles, hand carts, seed drills and old prams.
Obsessionistas went to visit Dorothy and document some of her amazing collection at the Walks of Life Heritage Centre in Tuxford, Nottinghamshire.
The story behind the collection...
I collect any vehicle that is hand pushed or pulled, or represents social history on wheels and the hard work part of life that was essential over 100 years ago.
When I retired I started going to farm sales and auctions out of interest. I purchased a very poorly ‘box’ on wheels for £1 to save it from the bonfire. It turned out to be a local baker’s cart. I then bought a poorly street orderly’s cart, I'm not sure why. I gradually realised what handcarts were and that very few people seemed to collect them.
They all represent someone’s working life and I wished to try and gather examples of the hard life people had years ago, as there did not seem to be any collection of this type that I could come across. As I had the time, energy and enthusiasm, I could collect a fair representation.
I started collecting seriously during the 1990’s, but there are very few available now. They are arranged in three brick barns. They do take up a great deal of room and some are heavy. I would like far more room to display them but it’s not practical. I have well over a hundred (but I'm afraid that I haven't counted them all recently) but don't really have a favourite find, as they are all my favourites.
The choice of collection was not really my decision. The idea and the need came to me, so I felt I should do it. I don’t have any other collections though. The love for the collection grew with the acquisition and growth of the collection. I could never find an example of every one as there was a cart for every single purpose.
My collection is not out of control but out of space. Yes, you could say I was obsessed but also I tried to find as many examples left as possible to make a quality collection to show the working lives of long ago and how proud they were of their painted carts.
Reading material on hand pushed vehicles is very hard to find. The main reason is perhaps that most carts and [seed] drills were made to order in the local area. There are books on old prams and one book on handcarts by Shire Books (the latter is currently out of print).
My collection is open to the public on request. I would love to eventually find a permanent home for it rather than have it split up and sold off one day.
You can find information on visiting Dorothy's museum, The Walks of Life Heritage Centre, on the Nottinghamshire Independent Museums website.
All images © Helen and Graham Powell (of Obsessionistas).