The Lost Lancer

A real curiosity this week: four pieces of lead, or grape shot, on an iron wire with a parchment label. Under UV light, we can just make out the details.

It seems to refer to a soldier named John Sheel, who was a member of the 1st Lancers regiment. The text indicates that he was taken as a prisoner of war at a place called “Thingvalla de Campagny” on December 2, 1870. This date and context likely refer to an event during the Franco-Prussian War, which included the Siege of Paris in 1870-1871. The term “Thingvalla” does not correspond to any known location in France, and it might be a misspelling or a historical name that is no longer in use.

The 20mph Edwardian Speed Demon

Travel back in time to the cobblestone-laced roads of Edwardian Britain, and you’ll uncover the charming tales of early motoring, replete with mustachioed gentlemen in goggles and duster coats. Amongst such anecdotes, a delightful piece of motoring history has recently surfaced, involving a certain Percival Alexander Douglas-Barry Esq. and his encounters with the law.

In the summer of 1909, Percival found himself on the wrong side of the burgeoning traffic laws. With his motor car clocking speeds over 20 miles an hour – quite the feat in those days – he caught the attention of the Cheshire Constabulary. Percival received a sternly worded yet handwritten note, advising him to put a brake on his enthusiasm and ease off the accelerator.

Fast forward to a chilly January in 1932, and our intrepid motorist once again found himself in a pickle. This time, the offense was a tad dimmer: failing to keep his vehicle’s lights burning bright enough to reveal the registration numbers, a requirement under the Road Transport Lighting Act of 1927. This transgression led to an official summons to court, a more serious affair but still handled with that personal touch only a handwritten document could convey.

These letters, penned by the officers of the law, offer a quaint peek into the early days of traffic regulation. They not only remind us of how far we’ve zoomed ahead in the realm of vehicular laws but also hark back to a time when even a speeding ticket had a personal touch.

Battle Scars Worn With Pride

The Wound Stripe is a British military award introduced in 1916 to honour soldiers wounded in battle during the Great War. These stripes, worn on the left sleeve of the uniform, became a symbol of bravery and endurance.

Initially, the stripes were made with gold Russian braid, but this proved impractical for soldiers as they required sewing onto the uniform and were difficult to keep clean. In response, an all-brass version was created for durability and ease of maintenance. Another variant included a zinc backing plate, which might have been a cost-saving measure or a response to material shortages during the war.

For collectors, the Wound Stripe offers a tangible link to World War I. It represents the personal sacrifices of individual soldiers, as reflected in the variations of the stripes’ materials and design.

Photographs from the era bring these stories to life, showing the individuals and the hospital staff who played vital roles in the war. Each stripe and photo is not just a collectible; it’s a piece of history, a remembrance of the trials faced and the resilience shown in life-threatening situations.

Postcards from the Palace

This week we feature a series of Victorian-era postcards and a singularly notable piece—an admission ticket to the Crystal Palace dating back to 1857.

This isn’t any ordinary ticket; it’s a modest cardboard rectangle that once granted entry to one of the most famed attractions of Victorian London. On Monday, August 3rd, 1857, for the price of 1s. 6d., visitors could immerse themselves in a spectacle of culture and engineering marvel, all in aid of charitable causes supporting widows, orphans, and those in distress. It’s more than memorabilia; it’s a snapshot of social history, of leisure, charity, and the grand exhibitions of the age.

Turning to the postcards, we’re greeted by the grandeur of the Crystal Palace itself. They show images of the palatial structure, showcasing its glass facade and the intricate ironwork that held the massive edifice aloft. Printed in Germany—a detail made necessary by law at the time—these cards offer a glimpse into the building before it succumbed to flames in 1936.

This array of postcards and the admission ticket together tell a story that’s emblematic of an era. They evoke a sense of nostalgia, not just for a building that was once a beacon of the industrial age, but also for the everyday moments of the people who visited and marvelled at its wonders.

Pieces of history jukst like these are waiting for you every Saturday at Charing Cross Collectors Market. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or new to the fascinating field of historical ephemera, stamps, coins, militaria or collectables of all kinds, there’s always something to pique your interest and transport you to the past.