Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Conker stink-bombs

In August 2000 we received the following note from John Cotton, of Stoke Newington, London.  Has anyone else any recollections of the use of conkers as stink-bombs?

‘Over 40 years ago, at around the age of 10, I would, with my friends, collect bags of horse-chestnuts to play games of conkers.  Besides the usual fun of conkers, we also put them to use as stink-bombs.

To explain this, the local park [Clissold Park] contained a large pond which was surrounded by horse-chestnut trees.  The majority of the windfalls would land on the ground, but due to the close proximity of the pond, many would end up floating in the water.  As with the natural process of time, these would blacken and become brittle, allowing the water to seep through and turn the centre into a putrid yellow liquid.  We would gather small quantities of these fragile blackened conkers, throw on the ground, the brittle skin cracking and releasing its odorous liquid contents to the disgust of unsuspecting passersby. (More frequently they would crack on us, covering ourselves, to the annoyance of our mothers).’

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Image: conkers, which presumably fell in the autumn of 2021, floating in pond in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, Suffolk, July 2022.

Updated 5 September 2022.

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