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All hale the Chief

Date Sent:   28 April 1902     

Sender:  Gwenda 

Recipient:  Mrs Fowler Pettie, 37Zeitzerstrasse II, Leipzig, Germany 

Transcript: April 27 1902 

Dear Mrs Pettie 

Just a line to tell you that I arrived home safely, have had a very jolly holiday. I am going to Wimbledon on 12th of next month. Will write again soon.  With kind regards to Mr. Pettie not forgetting yourself 

Yours affectionately 

Gwenda. 

A postcard with red stamp and hand written address

It’s good to know that Gwenda had a very jolly holiday. Does the message suggest she was a guest of the Fowler Petties in Leipzig?  

Meanwhile Chief Yeoman Warder Thomas Middleton resplendent in full State Dress plus ceremonial mace stands stiffly to attention. The mace head is in the form of a silver White Tower, and was originally purchased by the inhabitants of the Tower Liberty in 1792 to be carried in procession by the Tower Coroner’s beadles.   

The Tower Liberties were well established by the time of the earliest surviving mapping of their boundaries in 1536.  They acted as the local government for the Tower itself and adjoining land. In 1686 the Minories, the Old Artillery Ground and Wellclose, areas traditionally associated with ordnance storage, were added. Liberties residents were exempt from the jurisdiction of the City of London and the county of Middlesex – the latter now itself vanished  enjoying their own courthousegeneral and quarter sessions and gaol. Officials were appointed by the Constable of the Tower, and the Liberties helped bind the Tower to the changing face of East London as prosperity gave way to poverty and overcrowding.  The Liberties powers were gradually eroded throughout the 1800s until their final abolition in June 1894. Meanwhile the mace had returned to the Tower in 1876.   

A postcard with a Uniformed Beefeater standing to attention in front of some stairs. There is a hand written message at the bottom of the card.

This corner between the entrance to the Bloody Tower and its exit stairs seems to have been the default location to photograph single Yeoman Warders of various rank over the years. Wrench first produced a black and white version of the card (Series no 146) with Middleton in identical pose with Queen Victoria’s cypher (VR) on his uniform. Gwenda’s coloured version (Wrench Series No 879) appears to have been updated from the original – the German colourist adding a medal and changing the uniform cypher to ‘ER’ (Edward Rex).  Unfortunately, they were not to know that Edward VII had chosen a slightly different shaped crown to his mother’sso left the original unmodified. Even more confusing, the earlier black and white card referenced here is dated 10 March 1903 – almost a year later than Gwenda’stimely reminder that the buyer should beware – the camera can lie, and postcards are not always all they seem. 

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