Ned Henry , 21st-century historian, assigned by Lady Schrapnell to search for the "bishop's bird stump" by all possible means. This includes attending every jumble sale held in Coventry in 1940.
Verity Kindle , another historian, who specializes in 1930s detective fiction. She masquerades as Verity Brown, a distant niece of Colonel and Mrs. Mering, in order to find and read their daughter's diary. Witnessing Baine the butler throwing the cat "Princess Arjumand" in the river Thames, she jumps into the river, rescues the cat, and obstinately brings her through to 2057, beginning the whole cascade of events.
Professor James Dunworthy , a historian who has been associated with the Time Travel program from the beginning. He also appears in the story "Fire Watch" and the novels Doomsday Book and Blackout/All Clear .
Finch , Dunworthy's clever and efficient secretary. He eventually joins the other time travelers in 1888, masquerading as the butler at the estate of the Chattisbournes, who are neighbours of the Merings. He finds the role easy to play, as he excels at organization and service.
Tocelyn "Tossie" Mering , a beautiful and intelligent "rose of England" who, through the influence of her parents, is flighty, spoiled, and ignorant. She is Lady Shrapnell's ancestor. It is her memoirs, and her account of having her life changed when she visited St. Michael's Church in Coventry, which later became Coventry Cathedral, which inspired Lady Shrapnell to begin the reconstruction. Tossie agrees to be engaged to Terence, but she is in love with the butler, Baine, and she elopes with him and moves to America.
Colonel and Mrs. Mering . The Colonel is retired from the Indian Army and now devotes his time to collecting exotic goldfish. Mrs. Mering is a hypochondriac and a fan of spiritualism. The novel credits her with inventing the "jumble sale", that is, a bazaar where people donate unwanted household items, instead of donating items they have made, such as cakes, scones, craft items, etc.
Terence St. Trewes , a young Oxford undergraduate whom Ned meets when he first arrives in 1888. Despite his not having any money about him, Terence is in fact a minor aristocrat and will have a considerable income, making him perfect for Tossie in the eyes of her parents.
Professor Peddick , an Oxford don, Terence's personal tutor, who accompanies Terence and Ned on their trip downriver. Professor Peddick is an authority on both exotic fish and military history - which instantly endears him to Colonel Mering, and secures the trio an invitation to stay in the Merings' house - and an outspoken defender of the Great Man Theory of history.
Professor Overforce , another Oxford don, and Professor Peddick's rival for a prestigious chair. Professor Overforce does not appear in person, but is frequently mentioned as an advocate of the Social Darwinism view of history.
Baine , the Merings' butler. It is revealed later that "Baine" is merely a nom de métier he was given when working for the Merings' neighbours. According to the book, employers routinely give their servants pseudonyms for various reasons. Mrs. Chattisborne calls all her maids by the same name so as not to have to learn new ones. Mrs. Mering believes it is more refined to have English rather than Irish servants. She also uses the name "Jane" to refer to a maid named "Colleen." Baine previously worked for the Irish peer Lord Dunsany under his real name, but Mrs. Mering will not have it used in her house. Baine is like P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves , in that he is very intelligent (much more so than his employers), well-read (he reads Thomas Paine while awaiting orders) and incredibly efficient, ministering to his employers' every need, and even anticipating them. His real name is William Patrick Callahan; he is in love with Tossie, and having wooed her much as Petruchio woos Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew , he marries her and they move to America, where they both become active in Hollywood.
T.J. Lewis , a mathematician and expert in time theory. Since he is black, he cannot be sent back in time by Lady Schrapnell, which is fortunate because he is needed to run simulations in an attempt to discover how bad the disruption of the space-time continuum might be.
Lady Schrapnell , a rich American with a will of iron and a voice that can overcome any opposition. She has married into the Shrapnell title and is obsessed with rebuilding Coventry Cathedral exactly as it was the day before it was destroyed, in honour of her ancestor Tocelyn Mering. Everything must be completely correct, as "God is in the details". This includes the "bishop's bird stump", which was thought to be completely indestructible yet disappeared the night of the air raid.
Elizabeth Bittner , widow of the last Bishop of Coventry. Old and infirm in the 2050s, she was one of the pioneers of time travel in the early 21st century. She was also a great beauty who entranced men, including Dunworthy. Ned compares her to the fictional Zuleika Dobson for her effect on her fellow Oxonians. Appearing late in the narrative, she proves to be crucial to explaining the bizarre happenings.
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