Chinese riddle of disappeared doorstop

As doorstops go, the one holding open the entrance door at Munslow church is, or at least was until it disappeared, unique among English churches.

The Rev Edward Powell with the doorstop in 1961.
The Rev Edward Powell with the doorstop in 1961.

It was a brick from the Great Wall of China, brought back to this country by one of the family which for two centuries supplied the rectors for this parish in the Corvedale.

Although that oriental doorstop was still in use at St Michael's Church in living memory – a Star picture published in July 1961 depicts it at the church and tells a little of the background – today, so far as we can tell from a few local inquiries, it has not been so much forgotten in the village as not even heard of in the first place.

Guides seem to make no mention of it, and a look around the church shows that it is no longer there, having disappeared at some stage during the last 60 years or so.

The Rev Edward Powell with the doorstop in 1961.

So what has happened to the Munslow doorstop? For evidence of its existence, we can hark back to that 1961 picture which was published with the caption: "The doorstop in the entrance to the Norman church at Munslow, tucked away in Shropshire's beautiful Corvedale, is a stone unique among those in English churches.

"It is a brick from the Great Wall of China. It was brought to this country in 1884 by Lieutenant Edward Powell, then serving in HMS Cleopatra. He was the seafaring uncle of the present rector, the Rev Edward Powell, whose family have held the living of the church for over 200 years."

China connection – St Michael's Church, Munslow.

The rector is pictured with the doorstop, which can be seen to have a plaque which adds only a little additional information to the story: "Brick from the Great Wall of China. Brought home from Ninchai by Lieutenant Edward Pardoe Powell, RN, HMS Cleopatra, March 1884."

Ninchai must be some long obsolete place name in China. What the plaque doesn't say is that the doorstop was specifically given to the church. If it was instead considered a Powell family heirloom which just happened to be used by the rector, it would be a possible explanation as to why it is no longer at the church now.

One of our bricks is missing... The Great Wall of China.

In the absence of other information, how the seafaring Powell came by the brick from the Great Wall of China in the first place is a matter of conjecture.

There have been quite a few Royal Navy ships called HMS Cleopatra, but the one on which he served in Victorian times was a corvette which around the relevant period made visits to Singapore, Colombo, Japan and China, so no doubt he somehow acquired the brick on his travels.

As for the rector, the Rev Edward Powell, he seems to have been in post at Munslow from 1922 until his retirement in 1965 and had a passionate interest in fly fishing, fishing in most of the streams in the area. He kept a fishing diary which ran continuously from 1909 to 1964, and was well known in his time, among fishing circles at least, for the Orange Otter fly.

He is said to have died in 1972.

So... can anybody shed any further light on Munslow's disappeared doorstop? If so, drop me a line at toby.neal@mnamedia.co.uk by email.

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