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Ancient Suffolk Dibber

On a recent TV programme, Helmingham Hall was featured with a cameo appearance of Head Gardener 'Roy' using an unusual dibber.  Roy, surname Balaam?, is noted for working in the gardens for over half a century.  It was refreshing to see how easily he formed holes without bending, so does anyone know the origins of his implement?


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,828
    edited June 2022
    I know Helmingham Hall well … I grew up nearby … the Balaam family are local there. 

    I didn’t see the programme but I presume you mean the type of Dibber or Dibbler all gardeners around there used when I was a child … short handled and longer handled ones for using when gardening on your knees or when standing up. 

    You make them out of old ash spade and fork handles when they snap … or if you use your tools properly and don’t snap them you go to the hardware store in Debenham and buy an ash fork handle and sand the point a bit. 

    “Snapped yer handle hev yew bor?” he’d ask …. “That I hent” you’d reply … “I need a dibber … the missus must’ve put mine somewhere tidy.”  

    There was a chap in my village who was never known by his name … everyone knew him as Dibbler. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • nick615nick615 Posts: 1,364

    Thanks, Dove, if it had been one of that type, I'd have recognised it from what my Dad had in the Forties.  The one 'Roy' was using was seemingly bespoke and looked like it was made out of steel with a long 20mm shaft and a final six inches that tapered from about 4 inches diameter to a point.  Her Ladyship was on screen with him so it could have been estate property.

    They'm a bit dry in your part of the world.  I struggled through the lanes to a pub one night as a sales rep in quite thick fog.  An old chap stood at the bar, and I said 'I don't reckon much of this Norfolk fog of yours' (Isleham Fen rings a bell).  'Whatcher mean' says he, 'There's no such thing'.  'What's that lot outside the door, then?' I replied.  'Oh, that's that old Cambridgeshire stuff keeps coming across here.' was his reply.

    I'll leave you to your/my dibber research?

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,828
    I ‘spect Her Ladyship had it made at the estate workshop where they made the metal frames for training her roses over before pegging them to the ground. 
    They manufacture and sell them to the discerning rosegrower with capacious pockets nowadays. Or maybe Bloomfield’s Agricultural Machinery in Deb’n’am (Debenham) make them for them nowadays. 

    Driest part of the country … and I don’t just mean the rainfall 😉 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • nick615nick615 Posts: 1,364
    Reply from Helmingham (Katy, pp Chris) 

    Funnily enough, Roy used to make 'dibbers' from spade handles when the spade broke! I remember them recording that episode but can't remember the actual tool Roy was using. However, it is likely it was one of Roy's, handmade, make-do-and-mends.

    Presumably Roy has retired but it wasn't a fork handle.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,828
    Well … there you go … it’ll have been cobbled together from something that was laying around having been kept in case it came in useful. 😊 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

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