An Unanticipated Insight Into The History Of Wheelbarrows

During a walk from Rye through East Guldeford to Camber & back up the Rother some vexing questions were tackled thanks to the Wonders of the Internet.

The first concerned the tools available to those who constructed the huge mediaeval sea defences such as the Wainway Wall. While I’d go for (wooden) shovels loading pack-horses, another view was that wheelbarrows would also have been used. I contested this since I had some dim & distant recollection that these essential items, rather than having been created by God as a helpful afterthought sometime late on the Sixth Day, had not been introduced since the thirteenth century.

A few minutes’ squinting at my phone, without glasses and in bright sunlight, revealed that, though I was not wrong, the story is a long one, meriting an extensive entry on Wikipedia. The first records come from China in the second century CE. These generally had a centrally-mounted wheel and could carry large loads of drawn by an animal & steered from behind by the carter. Some even had sails to assist them.

“…during the Red Eyebrows Rebellion (c. 20 CE) against Xin dynasty‘s Wang Mang (45 BCE–23 CE), the official Zhao Xi saved his wife from danger by disguising himself and pushing her along in his lu che barrow, past a group of brigand rebels who questioned him, and allowed him to pass after he convinced them that his wife was terribly ill”

Some evidence exists that they were used in Ancient Rome:

“The 4th century Historia Augusta reports emperor Elagabalus to have used a wheelbarrow (Latin: pabillus from pabo, one-wheeled vehicle]) to transport women in his frivolous games at court.”

Their role in transporting women is clearly a chapter still to be written.

The wheelbarrow did not appear in Europe however until the late 12th/early 13th centuries, and these models had the familiar front-mounted wheel. There is no account of the wheelbarrow’s whereabouts during the intervening centuries.

While there seems to be no Wheelbarrow Museum, there is one for Lawnmowers, from which you can purchase a Wheelbarrow Mug. And while you’re waiting for that to arrive, you can watch many videos of Extreme Wheelbarrowing and Wheelbarrow Tricks on Youtube.

Well, that was enough excitement to keep us going till we arrived in the land of Evolving Bungalows they call Camber.

Here, collapsing wrecks, vacant lots and humble 60s style structures, erected at a time when Camber was on the edge of the known world therefore exempt from architectural values, are being designerised into cool new seaside hideaways.

Which led us across the road, up the back of the dunes (where Elms predominate, I noticed for the first time) and across Rye Golf Course where we naturally fell to speculating on the exact location of the Camber Sands Station on the old tramway route. While the Camber Golf Links Station remains in good condition, with rails too, the terminus seems to have vanished entirely.

Martin King has sought out some old maps and a  Google Earth image showing the station’s original site.

Last thing: 4 Common Seals hauled up on the side of the Rother just past the industrial zone.

 

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