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History behind a mirror

SpaceForAll found unexpected things under the floor and behind the plaster. I recently found something unexpected in the tower.

When I started teaching ringers at All Saints in the 1970s there was a large mirror in the tower, as there had been in the tower where I learnt to ring. We used it to show trainee ringers what their arms and hands were really doing pn the end of a rope, as opposed to what they imagined they were. These days we use a phone to take videos that we can replay (and slow down if necessary) but the mirror acquired a new use with a safety notice on its back ‘DANGER BELLS UP – DO NOT TOUCH ROPES’. One Sunday I tripped over it and as it fell over the mirror shattered.

While removing the broken glass from the frame to dispose of it I found a sheet of newspaper behind it – a page from the Pall Mall Gazette for 5th January 1914 – definitely not something I was expecting!

Extract from 1914 Pall Mall GazetteExtract from 1914 Pall Mall GazetteThe headings included: ‘To-day’s Stock Exchange – Markets open poorly, but tone better at the end – interesting features’, ‘To-day’s shipping – Intelligence from Lloyds’, ‘Latest city tape prices’ and ’Company meetings ... India and British Textiles – A far-reaching Bombay proposal’. There were also some intriguing adverts. ... Fascinating stuff, and it got me wondering about how it came to be there.

Had the mirror been in the tower since it was framed in 1914 or did it’s owner donate it much later? The Edwardian band did more teaching than their Victorian predecessors, and they had made great strides since the augmentation to eight bells in 1903. Maybe they obtained the mirror then. But would any of them have taken the Pall Mall Gazette? The only ringer of the period we know to be a professional was the Rector, Bertram Long – the others were mostly artisans, labourers and tradesmen. Would any of them be interested in the Stock Exchange?

Could the mirror have been donated by a well to do supporter? In 1914 the Sonning Deanery branch of the ringers guild had 32 ‘Honorary members’ (non-ringing supporters who paid twice the ringers’ subscription), including Howard Palmer and HC Mylne, both well known Wokingham names. Maybe one of them donated the mirror to the tower. Whatever the truth, we may never know.

John Harrison (June 2023) 

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