The Glassmaker of Donbridge
by R D Vincent, author of the Donbridge Series
My grandmother bustled about her kitchen cooking away for the annual New Year’s Eve party which was held at my parent’s house each year. Knocking on the pine door, which was halfway open, I noticed my grandmother was startled to see me. “Michael, you gave me a fright!” she said as she went back to her search. “I just can’t find that round glass cake plate I use to make my upside down peach cake. I know it’s here somewhere,” she said as she shoved and pulled more pots from the cabinets. “You know this reminds me of a story I almost forgot till just about this moment,” she said.
Christmas had come and gone in the town of Donbridge and the townsfolk were going about their daily routine of clearing snow and chipping ice from their rooftops.
Madeline Thayer was new to Donbridge having moved from Boston during the election of President Washington. She was the first generation in her family to be a glassmaker as her family was clockmakers for nearly five generations. But one reason Madeline went into glassmaking was her discovery of a formula to make glass usable for cooking food. It was said the glass she created was so durable it could withstand the heat of a brick oven and never shatter. The glassware she made came in all shapes and sizes and since her family made clocks, Madeline made sure that every edge of her glassware had teeth like the gears of a clock in tribute to her family.
Most of the Donbridgians never thought to use glass as tin, and cast iron had seemed to be the preferred material for each kitchen. But Maggie Blum, the town’s baker, was intrigued by the prospect of using the glass and ordered 10 new pie plates for her bakery. Soon after, several Donbridgians began to purchase the kitchenware.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve of that same week, Alfred Daily, the town’s clockmaker was working on the clock tower at the church. While he was toiling away, a massive wind began to howl and as it did the roof of the church steeple began to bend in the wind. Alfred grabbed hold of the internal beams to center himself, and just as he did, another stiff wind blew and this time the roof shingles tore clear off leaving the inner works of the clock unprotected. Alfred scrambled to cover the brass works with his jacket, but it was too late, the winds brought forth a heavy rain. Soon every gear in the massive clock began to cease and, not long after, the clock stopped working.
When the rains stopped by mid-morning the townsfolk began to work to fix the roof of the steeple. Inside, Alfred felt as though he would never get the clock working again as every gear was ruined. It would take months to find replacement parts. Sad at the concept the clock would not be ready for New Year’s Day, he climbed down the clock tower stairs and headed into town.
Stopping in at the local bakery, he ordered a cup of coffee and sat down at a table near the pie counter. Maggie Blum was serving some pie from one of the new glass plates Madeline had made her. Alfred looked up for a moment and thought nothing of it at first and then noticed that the edges of the pie plate were jagged like those of the gears of a clock. “Where did you get that pie plate?” Alfred asked. “The new girl who lives down the street; she makes glass that can withstand a brick oven,” Maggie said.
Without hesitation, Alfred ran down the street to Madeline’s shop. Seeing her working through the window, he knocked and she quickly ran to the door. Alfred explained his situation to Madeline. She began to smile at the notion that her glass plates could work in the clock, but soon she realized that it would take time to make that much glass and install it in time to get the clock working for the New Year.
But then an idea came to mind; if Alfred knew what sizes he needed, she would know where to get them. Grabbing Alfred’s hand, Madeline began knocking on doors throughout the town and soon the two travelers had amassed enough shapes and sizes to fix the clock. Alfred began working on the gears, replacing each rusted gear with a glass plate. By the last minute to midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Donbridge clock tower was finished and with one swing of the internal pendulum, the clock began to work and rang in the New Year.
When my grandmother finished her story, a knock came at the door and a neatly dressed man wearing a bow tie stood holding a bag in his hand. Grandmamma smiled as the man entered the door. “Jules, I am sorry to have troubled you on New Year’s Eve, but I think I have something you are going to need,” said the man as he handed her a brown bag. I watched as my grandmother laughed and looked back at him. “I knew it was somewhere. I just could not remember where,” she said as she began to unwrap the brown paper. The man nodded his head and wished us farewell and headed out the doorway and down the sidewalk.
My grandmother finished unwrapping the bag and inside was a note which read, Thanks for letting me borrow the plate; the new clock tower is working wonderfully. Sincerely, A. D. Then from inside the paper she withdrew a round glass cake plate stamped M.T. Glassmaker and on the edges of the plate, sharp teeth glistened, looking as though they were a gear to a clock. Stunned, I just looked at my grandmother who smiled at me and then turned to bake her cake.
Peach Upside Down Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 qt. of drained, jarred peaches (fresh would need to be cooked down)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚
2. Mix batter except for cinnamon & brown sugar
3. Grease a 9” x 12” cake pan or large pie pan 14” by 2” deep
4. Pour peaches in the bottom of the pan
5. Pour batter over top of peaches in the pan
6. Next, combine cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over the batter
7. Take a knife and lightly swirl the mixture into the cake pan
8. Bake for 20 minutes
9. While cake is baking, combine all dry ingredients for topping in a separate bowl
10. Then add Butter and mix through with a fork to cut the butter in
11. Next add water to the topping and stir until topping becomes clumpy. Add more water if necessary
12. Then, after baking the cake for about 20 minutes, take the cake out of the oven and add the topping, gingerly spreading it over top of the cake
13. Place the cake back in the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until center is baked through
14. Remove the cake when baked, let cool and then enjoy.