Have you ever seen an antique iron bed that had small round mirrored medallions on it? There aren’t an abundance of them laying around. But they were made and had strong popularity throughout England and Europe back in the Victorian Era.
The are a few things that distinguish British beds from American made iron beds. One thing is the size of the tubing. Many of the British made beds were made of thin wall 2″ diameter tubing. Their side rails had little exposed rivets that wire or rope was strong across to support the feather mattresses of the day. Another tell-tale thing of those from England had were brass medallions. Because the British beds didn’t think castings were important to the design or look of a bed, they instead adorned them with multiple brass medallions and brass finials. The brass they adorned them with werea very thin and unfortunately prone to cracking and splitting.
Another unique thing that started showing up on beds made in Europe in the very early 1800’s were “mirrored medallions”. These mirrored medallions were set in small brass frames and then attached as a regular brass medallions might be attached to the interior spokes. These medallions were also always bevel mirrors and sometimes even etched around the edges. Some had star etchings on the face of the mirror.
For the longest time I had thought these mirrored medallions were simply a decorative ornament that manufacturers used to “spice” up their individual bed designs. But that wasn’t the true reason or origin for the mirrors.
I met an elderly lady back east, while selling some beds to dealers in the Manhattan area. She’d been in one of the stores looking around with her husband , while I was concluding my business with the owner. We struck up a conversation when she saw I had just sold him a number of American made beds. She said she was visiting relatives in NYC and that she also had one back home in London. She said she hadn’t seen anything like her’s since she’d been here in the states. She asked if I’d ever seen a bed with round beveled “mirrors” on it. I said I had a few times and that they were quite unique. I told her I found “mirrors” on an bed to be rather strange. She then told me why mirrors were used by a select few manufacturers. It seems as though there was a fear amongst certain religious groups, that when you went to sleep, creatures like goblins would wait for that time of repose to invade your body and take over your soul. These creatures were supposedly hideous to look at. It was thought that with mirrors on the bed, the goblin would see his reflection and be scared away. She said her bed was just one she’d found at a flea market. But that she knew people that have the same belief of goblins and a mirrors ability to protect whoever sleeps in a bed with them.
I have had a number of “mirrored” beds when I first started in the business nearly forty years ago. As is the case….. they all came from the UK and Europe. I stopped dealing in European beds a couple of years after I started because of the amount of complaints and returns. The quality of those made in England back then was quite inferior to those we were making at the same time in this country.