The Rabbit Mine Newspaper

Figure 1: Newspaper as found in situ

Back in 2015, an article which I wrote, concerning the discoveries made in Rabbit Mine, Surrey appeared in Descent 242 . Anybody being determined enough to wade their way through this rather lengthy article, could probably be forgiven in thinking that I had covered almost everything there was to know about this rather collector’s item of a mine. However, there was one thing which I had failed to include when the Descent article finally appeared. This concerned the newspaper which was discovered by Rob Damen and myself on the 21st October 2009, in the recently discovered extensions to the mine; the discovery of this made up for the fact somewhat that we had missed the main day of exploration.

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I use the term newspaper very loosely, for when it was first spotted it was for a moment difficult to determine what it actually was. I described it as being like an early prototype for a bog brush! On closer inspection feint newsprint could just be seen on the very crumpled mass of newspaper which had been wrapped round a tallow impregnated stick. I suggested at the time that somebody might have used it, when lit, as a rather brief source of illumination. Being interested to possibly find out the name and date of the newspaper, I decided to take it out with me. Hoping it would not fall to bits even more than it had done so already, I gingerly grasped the sticky wooden end and popped it into my ammo tin with my camera.

In the end I took it to the Surrey History Centre in Woking. Somehow, I got to hear that there might be somebody there who could help me. That someone turned out to be a certain Geoff Dowse who I believe worked there as conservator. I imagined he was probably more used to dealing with items which were in a considerably better condition. Maybe a nice medieval manuscript instead? After taking a brief look and confirming that it was indeed in a pretty poor state, he seemed happy enough to take it from me so that he could try to unfurl it and hopefully get a date. I wasn’t expecting much luck, so I was pleased a few weeks later to receive a phone call to say that he had managed to unfurl some of the newspaper and also get a date from it. At the time of writing my article for Descent, I had not photographed it but below can be seen some of the better sections of it.

As mentioned in Descent it is impossible to say whether the newspaper was left by miners or those responsible for clearing the rails out of this section of the mine; here only imprints of where the rails used can be seen (figure 2). The newspaper might have even been left by adventurous explorers before or fairly recently after the mine was abandoned, i.e. before it became substantially blocked and collapsed.

Figure 3: Fragment showing date of newspaper

In figure 3, the date of the newspaper can be clearly seen, being a Sunday Express from March 27th 1927. Below this can be seen a football report for a match between Chelsea and Arsenal. The footballer mentioned is Charlie Buchan who was at the time very well known and later became a successful sports journalist and commentator. In 1927 he played for Woolwich Arsenal and in the same year helped them win their first FA cup final.

Figure 4: Advertisement for holiday in Southend

Figure 4 shows a train blasting off like a rocket and offering "a quick run into the sun", trying to attract holiday makers to "sunny" Souhend on Sea, apparently the ideal spot for an early Summer holiday.

Figure 5: Map of Lloyds Bank offices

Figure 5 shows a map of Britain and lists the number of Lloyds Bank offices in the counties of England and Wales. Apparently a total of 1700 offices and where an "interesting booklet entitled How to Bank" may be obtained.

Figure 6: Wolfe and Hollander advertisememt

Finally, figure 6 shows shows an advertisement for the fabric and furniture shop Wolfe and Hollander Ltd. They had branches in Tottenham Court Road, London and also in Bromley High Street. They ceased trading in the 1980’s.

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Adrian Paniwnyk