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HOLE LOT OF TROUBLE; Anger as amateur historians dig up trenches in search of old bottles.

Byline: Martin Bagot

HUGE trenches have been dug up in Coventry's Hearsall Common by a small band of amateur historians.

The little-known hobby of 'bottle digging' has seen up to six foot deep holes dug on public land to uncover a huge haul of bottles and other items dating back to the Victorian period.

The anonymous diggers insist they fill in the holes and leave the land as they find it but Coventry City Council has said they do not have permission to carry out the clandestine digs.

The amateur excavation earlier this month uncovered scores of hand-blown glass bottles, elaborate bottle tops and a range of other items such as clay pipes highly sought after by members of the bottle digging community. Enthusiasts dig to uncover underground tips, which have often been filled in and turned into common land. They insist their hobby is harmless and is saving little pieces of Coventry's history.

One of the diggers - known only as Dweeb - said: "It's the best tip I've ever dug.

"The finds are not of huge value - just a couple of quid. That's not the reason we do it at all. It's purely for the pleasure of finding them and collecting them.

"I have an interest in historic Coventry and it's a way of owning something from that time."

Some of the finds included distinctive rugby ball-shaped glass bottles and old mineral water bottles with marble in the bottle neck. Many of the bottles come with elaborate designs on them such as Coventry's Three Spires and the Coventry Rugby Club motif.

Bottle diggers discuss their finds and potential digging sites on a number of online forums. The tip under Hearsall Common is thought to date back to around 1890.

A statement from Coventry City Council said: "We would naturally expect anyone taking part in this kind of activity to get the permission of the landowner.

"We are not aware of any approach to the council to dig holes in Hearsall Common.

Had we been approached we would not have given permission for this area and would be unlikely to in other areas.

"If holes this size are being dug then we would need to be completely confident it is safe to do so."

But Dweeb hit back, saying: "The council have explained in their own words why we are doing it this way, because if we asked for permission they would say no.

"The reason we knew (the underground skip) was there in the first place was because it had been dug up to repair gas mains. I had a look in and saw there were bottles and glass everywhere. I've been doing it all my life since I was about ten. It's just a case of finding the places to dig. We'll probably have to stop digging there now because I don't want to get in to any bother - but there's so much more down there."

* What do you think? Is bottle digging a way of saving little bits of our history? Or is it desecrating prized common land? Email letters@coventrytelegraph.

net or write to Letters Editor, Telegraph, Corporation Street, Coventry, CV1 1FP.

CAPTION(S):

DIGGING IN: Bottle diggers at work in Hearsall Common and some of their finds. Right, areas of turf left damaged after the amateur excavation
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 21, 2011
Words:551
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