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I Second That Emulsion

March 15, 2013

Someone once said to me, “Every day is a day at school”.  The phrase has stuck with me ever since.  The idea that we never stop learning is a potent one and although the job that I do is, largely, a superficial one it takes me in all kinds of directions, both literally and metaphorically, and I’m constantly surprised by the things that turn up.

Take nineteenth-century paint magnate Charles Benjamin Mander for example.

Charles Benjamin Mander photographed by Oscar Rejlander

I came across him when I was booked to sing at Rachael and Tom’s wedding last December at The Mount Hotel near Wolverhampton.  Mander made his fortune as a paint and varnish manufacturer and The Mount was formerly his lavish family home.

Charles  Benjamin Mander's blue plaque

Rather than be content to sit at home counting the loot generated by his highly profitable paint business though, Mander was notably progressive and public spirited both in thought and deed.  He established the first publicly funded British art school in 1852 and, as a town councillor,  oversaw the installation of public water fountains and the setting up of a free library in Wolverhampton.

You have to love Victorian philanthropists like Mander.  In our world of colossal bankers’ bonuses and self-indulgence it’s heartening to remember the wealthy industrialists of the nineteenth century who used at least part of their wealth for the betterment of their fellow men and women.

The Mount Hotel, Wolverhampton

As well as his legacy of good deeds Mander left behind The Mount.  The Grade II listed building is now a hotel and conference centre.

entrance to The Mount Hotel

The Mount Hotel's terrace

Octagonal domed ceiling at The Mount Hotel, Wolverhampton

Victorian stained-glass window at The Mount Hotel, Wolverhampton

The interior has changed very little over the years as these two pictures of the hotel’s reception area show.

The Mount Hotel reception today

Which in 1919 looked like this:

The Mount Hotel reception area in 1919

The Mount is a popular West Midland wedding venue and Rachael and Tom had chosen it’s romantic refinement for their late-December wedding.  The marriage ceremony took place in the hotel’s wood-panelled Great Hall.

The Mount Hotel's wood panelled Great Hall

I was set up in the adjoining bar area and serenaded the newlyweds and their guests during the post-ceremony drinks with songs from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

My view of Tom and Rachael's wedding

I had first met Rachael and Tom at The Vintage Chic Wedding Fair over a year before their wedding and it was an absolute pleasure to be part of their special day.

Wedding singer Simon Partridge with Tom and Rachael

I like to think that Charles Benjamin Mander, with his altruistic leanings, would thoroughly approve of his old home now being the centre of so much fun, love and laughter.  I certainly look forward to singing at The Mount again soon.

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