Sunday, 3 May 2015

Notes on finding Madonna's trainer bra . . .

Hectic is the word here.  We took a "day off" yesterday to go up to Builth Wells for a wander round the Antiques Fair/Fleamarket.  We saw all the usual suspects and even parked right next door to fellow stallholders M & L!

Firstly, I was talking about my Clematis Montana rubens not being in flower yet.  Well, last night's heavy rain changed that and here she is, just starting to take off . . .

A couple of little indulgences - this a joint one as we love Doulton plates.  We collect coaching scenes and at just £2, it would have been foolish not to bring this one home to put on the dresser with a couple of others.

Above and below: I bought just one piece of Torquay pottery - this rather splendid shaving mug.

I also bought a rather splendid bowl in a style that Eldest Daughter would love, so I had better now show a photo of that in case she comes on here . . .

Above and below, what we laughingly call "Madonna's trainer bra" for obvious reasons!!  As far as we know it was worn by a pit pony down the mines.  A trader friend told me that all pit ponies were blind so they didn't need to see and this would have protected their eyes . . .  Well, since regulations forbid the use of blind ponies underground, that doesn't wash (it is a popular myth - and an incorrect one - that all pit ponies went blind from working in the dark underground.)  I said that they were given holidays if the pit closed, but he wouldn't believe me!  Here is a piece written by a former pit worker in Durham:

In the summer when the pit was on holiday for two weeks the ponies would be brought to the surface for their holidays. It was great to see them enjoying themselves in the fields, jumping and running and throwing their heads about and having a good time in the fresh air and in the sunlight.

My hunch is that it is a mask used on more nervous ponies or ones which hadn't had the experience before - of being lowered down shafts to the deeper mine workings.  Old drawings show ponies in a French mine being bundled up in supporting harness with hay or straw stuffed beneath the belly bands, and they were lowered down shafts bottom-first.  Perhaps the old hands didn't bat an eyelid after a while, but I should imagine this sort of mask would calm a pony the first few times it underwent this experience. From  the 20th C onwards I am assuming that they went down in the same cages the miners used to reach these lower levels.

Anyway, I can't think of any other reason for fitting a leather blind like this.  Suggestions welcome.


  1. I love the pit pony mask and your name for it, what a lovely bit of history to have :-)

  2. Love your beautiful Clematis plus it covers up the pipes !
    The Doulton dish is a prize.

    cheers, parsnip

  3. Dawn - it has a lot of character I agree. Sadly one for stock not to keep.

    parsnip - it's only been planted 3 years but has really taken off now. It replaces a lusty late winter-flowering one (cream with a darker dab of colour in centre) which got killed by the 2010 snows and bitter cold. It is now rewarding me : ) I agree with you about the Doulton plate. The bottom has dropped out of the Doulton market now, and the Chintz market, and the Torquay Pottery market and the Carnival glass s- in fact, out of the entire bottom end range of china and glass, but the real quality stuff still holds its own. That's a Recession for you . . .

    1. But if you love the piece it makes it all the better.

  4. I think you are right it was probably used to calm them when going up and down the mines. I always cover injured seagulls heads and chicks heads too when I'm putting them back on nests as they stay very quiet-makes it much safer for me!

  5. Suzie - it makes sense, as it's what they still do to racehorses to get them in the stalls and as you said, works well for seagulls too!

  6. Yes I would agree I must have been terrifying the first time the pony went down the mine.

    I do love that plate with the hunting scene on it. Lucky you to find it.

  7. Such delights to find on a sunny Spring day. Here's to continued good health and fabulous finds.

  8. Thanks Lynda. Working flat out here at present! Nothing new then . . .