Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Mr Bowcock- a "visionary" hoarder

Anyone who thinks that compulsive hoarding is a new phenomena as revealed in television programmes might like to hear of the case of George Bowcock of Kiln Lane. I would go as far as to say that Bowcock might be one of the earliest accounts of the compulsive disorder predating the case of the New York Collyer brothers by nearly 60 years. The curious affair of Bowcock came to public notice in the 1870s when his activities were first investigated by the authorities .Leek's sanitary commission asked him to clear up his “treasure house” as he styled it in 1873. George had “ by many years patient toil succeeded in amassing a heterogeneous collection of curiosities the like of which a man would never expect to see in the course of a life times travel”. The old man has assembled the collection in caves and passages around Kiln Lane, but he was ordered to clean up and the material was carted away. Nothing daunted he started again at 125 Mill St, since long demolished , as he reported to journalist he intended to gather another collection “ of such gigantic proportions to cast all other collections in the shade”

George in a visionary statement “ dreamed of a future world in which old pots grew on apple trees and there were mines of old cans, wheels, bottles, and crockery and where the whole world was engaged in an occupation collecting as much rubbish they could find room and a man's blissful or wretched state depended on what he collected”. George seems to have the obsessive desire of people in the 21st century to acquire stuff bang to rights. Perhaps a large statue of him could be erected naturally from re-cycled materials in Brough Park? However it proved too much for townspeople then and he was taken to court by Inspector Farrow for collecting rubbish “injurious to health” in 1876.

Shortly before the rubbish was removed a reporter called on George. He climbed into the house making his through “ an assortment of broken and cracked gallipots which encumbered the stairway” Clothes were everywhere and in the bedroom George sat on a bench encircled by pots in which he was brewing herbs. His bed was surrounded by detritus, but that did not concern him “ I only sleep here, I eat at Selina Tatton's”, he cheerfully remarked.