Boxed Ferret Spanner No 3 socket set on offer at Eddisons CJM.

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Indeed, not only are the most obscure objects collected by lots of blokes in lots of sheds – but they’ll likely have formed a club and be publishing a regular newsletter too.

Permit me to mention Spanner & Wrench Collector which is the journal of the Hand Tool Preservation Association of Australia.

If it has not already appeared as the guest publication in the ‘Missing Words’ round on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You then its time will surely come. The publication is a touch specialist perhaps, even in the world of tool collecting, but you can be certain that the Australian spanner enthusiast is not alone.

Its regular readers will know that Spanner & Wrench Collector has been running a series on rare socket sets and it recently featured The Ferret Spanner No 2, a set manufactured in the Edwardian period by a remarkable British company. It is one of these Ferret sets that took my team into the weird world of spanner collecting when we were commissioned to sell off the entire contents of one of the county’s oldest blacksmith shops, at Thorganby near Binbrook in Lincolnshire.

Long-established workshops often produce wonderful antique artefacts, stored away long ago, just in case, but never needed. The Thorganby Forge treasures included a boxed Ferret Spanner No 3 socket set, which (eat your heart out, readers of Spanner & Wrench Collector) is considerably larger and more impressive than the No 2.

But could a box of old spanners really ever be interesting? You be the judge: the Ferret sets were manufactured by Accles & Pollock of Oldbury, Birmingham, an engineering company that was started by James Accles in the Victorian period and would become one of the country’s leading manufacturers of lightweight bicycle tubing.

The pioneering British motorist Charles Turrell joined the company in 1899, at which point the firm began producing motorcars: first a 20mph two-seater, the Accles-Turrell, and a couple of years later a four-seater ‘New Turrell’ model.

And it was to supply a toolkit with these early motorcars that in 1905 the firm – now joined by Tom Pollock and renamed Accles & Pollock – began producing the Ferret spanners, the world’s first tubular socket spanners.

Exactly when our Ferret No 3 set arrived at the Thorganby smithy and how it remained complete, with both levers and all the sockets, in its original wooden box for over a hundred years is unknown.

It is going under the hammer in the Thorganby Forge timed online auction that ends on Friday, October 23 (taking place on It might make three figures, hardly a life-changing amount, but it has taken us on the sort of unexpected journey of discovery which I am sure many ATG readers will have embarked on and suddenly found themselves utterly immersed in.

It will be a wrench to see this one go.

Paul Cooper

Director, Eddisons CJM Auctioneers