Walking SOE London

With the first week of the Easter holidays 2021 still in partial lockdown, we decided to take the opportunity of a quieter London to devise a walk to take our youngest children on (ages 10 and 12) for some historical sightseeing. We’d been feeling the long closure of museums and so took this opportunity to incorporate some parts of London with interesting links to the Second World War, and in particular the role of the S.O.E (Special Operations Executive). Lara exercised her History teacher skills making a little workbook for the kids to help engage with what we were seeing.

It is a walk based mainly around the Westminster area and can be adapted to include more, or cut some out (as we did with our tired youngsters!)

As our main London line station is Waterloo we started from there, but a good starting point is the South Bank by the London Eye – easy to find and arrange a meeting point with friends.

  1. From the London Eye follow the South Bank path towards Westminster Bridge. You have great views of the Houses of Parliament across the river and will go past the big attractions of the London Dungeons and Sealife Centre. Continue past Westminster Bridge towards Lambeth Bridge (currently this wall dedicated to Covid victim remembrance – a wall of hearts) and you will come to the SOE Memorial (POINT 1 on the tour).

The memorial features a beautiful bust of SOE agent Violette Szabo and information about the role of the SOE in WW2.

2. The next part of the tour was the part we were most excited about. We had heard there was a road in Westminster where all the original bomb shelter signs remained. Known as ‘ghost signs’, there are many old advertisements and signs on buildings all over the country which were originally painted directly onto the exterior of buildings, and what remains today becomes a faded ‘ghost’ sign. We found an amazing website called Traces of War that gave directions to where these signs could be found, and we could incorporate them into our walk https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/10863/Where-is-Signs-Air-Raid-Shelters-Westminster.htm

So to find these signs, leave the memorial and cross the river on Lambeth Bridge turning right to follow Millbank until you reach Dean Stanley St. on the left. Follow the road round right (past an incredible building) and then right again onto Lord North Street. The ghost signs are on this street. (POINT 2)

Time seems to have stood still here and we tasked the children with finding the signs – it wasn’t difficult as there were so many!

3. The next stop on the tour (POINT 3) is to see the statue of Winston Churchill – the Prime Minister from 1940 who saw Britain through the war. It’s easy to find by turning right at the top of Lord North Street onto Great Peter St then left up towards Parliament Square –  The Churchill statue is top right of Parliament square garden.

4. The next stop is to head to the secret headquarters of the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) and SOE. so leave Parliament Square gardens by the statue of Nelson Mandela (passing some incredible statues on the way) and take the main road towards Victoria (A302) and turn right when you get to Tothill street,

Turn left when you reach Broadway, and then quite soon turn right onto Caxton St – to the St Ermin’s hotel (POINT 4).

This hotel played an important role during WW2, housing the SOE after the historic meeting held by Churchill in 1940 when he asked a group of remarkable people to join him in ‘Setting Europe Ablaze’

Two floors above were MI6 and standing outside this hotel, you can imagine all the pinstriped gentlemen and suitably attired women dashing in and out of the building.

Apparently in the hotel Lobby there hangs an original SOE agent’s printed secret coded silk. (It was still closed due to covid on our visit). Agents secret coded messages were printed on pieces of silk as silk had the advantage of being easily hidden in the lining of clothes.

5. From the hotel it is a short walk to Buckingham Palace(POINT 5) (just walk to the end of Caxton St and turn right towards Buckingham Palace). Standing outside the palace you can picture the jubilant scenes in May 1945 when the royal family stood on the balcony and waved to the cheering crowds on VE Day!

6. Following the Mall from the palace you will pass a few minutes walk down, the statues of King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth (POINT 6) – the monarchs that saw Britain through the war – and behind them is Carlton Gardens.

7. We didn’t get a chance to explore further on our first visit, but if you turn left at Marlborough Road, (before the statues of George and Elizabeth) then left following Pall Mall (right) to turn down Carlton Gardens you will come to number 4 Carlton Gardens – the HQ of the Free French during WW2. There is also a statue of Charles De Gaulle here and it is interesting to discuss the link between the British F Section and the French resistance.

8. The final stop on the tour is the Battle of Britain Memorial on the Embankment. (we didn’t make this with tired children!) at the end of the Mall when you reach Trafalgar Square – take Northumberland Avenue on the right towards the river. Turning right at the river, the memorial is a short walk away.

By doubling back and heading across the Jubilee bridge, the circular walk is complete!

If you do follow this walk, please let us know how you got on – and tag us in any photos so we can see your favourite parts of the walk!

We plan to map out a few more walks like this, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

The VTs xxxxxx


Carry On Hiking in Kent!

When two planned trips had already been cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, our dreams of getting away this year were starting to feel less and less likely. Then, as the regulations started to ease, we took a chance and Lara found us the cutest little Air BnB in Kent, that looked right up our street.

Signal Cottage details

With exhibitions and museum visits still looking unlikely we decided to turn our getaway into a little hiking trip (partly spurred on by Emma’s increased love of ‘a good hike’) and the need to escape to the countryside for some peace and sea air. We excitedly started making plans, taking inspiration from hiking photographs from the 1930’s to create our vintage hiking ensembles, and the marvellous Betty Marsden as Harriet Potter in Carry on Camping to add a comedy element to the mix (never ones to take ourselves too seriously).

Betty and the hikers

Finally, after much anticipation, we were on our way to Signal Cottage!

In a desperate bid to make the most of our time away and get on the road, we headed to Ramsgate first while we waited for our accommodation to become available. Taking in the harbour, we headed to The Home Front Tea Room for a spot of lunch.

Ramsgate harbour and The Home Front Tea Room www.40stearoom.co.uk

We have to say this was one of the best tea rooms we have visited. Having quickly booked ahead, we walked into the authentically decorated tea room with little squeals of delight. So much attention had been put into every little detail, including a fabulously retro menu. It was such a pleasure to look around and soak up the atmosphere. Beautiful cabinets filled with vintage and homemade treasures to buy, along with a well stocked bookcase packed with books, magazines and periodicals from or about the era. (link above)

interiors of The Home Front Tea Room

The girls serving us looked absolutely fabulous and the whole experience was a delightful way to start our little holiday. After enjoying our wartime treats we were reluctant to leave but headed off making a quick detour via the Petticoat Lane Emporium, to have a wander around the stalls. We would have also loved to have visited the Ramsgate Tunnels, which were used to shelter 60,000 people during the WWII air raids, but unfortunately you had to pre book, so we missed our chance there.

After a picturesque drive down some country lanes we reached Signal Cottage, to more squeals of delight as we walked through the front door!

En route….

Alison and Graham, were the ultimate hosts. We were welcomed with fresh milk, eggs from their own hens, butter, jam, tea and coffee and in such beautifully decorated surroundings we instantly felt at home.

Exploring what would be our home for the next couple of days, we drank our tea in the garden to the gentle sounds of the rescue hens clucking away in their coop and the beautiful views across the fields to Richborough Roman fort. Time to start planning our hikes!

Armed with an OS map and some directions, first up was an 8 mile circular walk from the cottage via Sandwich for a pub dinner at The Crispin Inn. Off to a good start and after a welcome cider and some pub grub we were keen to get going before the sun set.

To the pub…

And there began a slightly hilarious walk home in the ever increasing darkness aided by the torchlight from our phones negotiating our way along pitch black overgrown pathways… and.. well… we’ll just leave that there!

The walk home

We woke to an unexpectedly sunny morning, so enjoyed a lovely relaxed breakfast of scrambled eggs (courtesy of the hens) out in the garden as we made our plans to walk from Dover to St Margarets on Cliff.

Dressed in our best vintage hiking outfits we followed the coastal path along the white cliffs past the National Trusts South Foreland Lighthouse, where we met a lovely lady who complimented us on our outfits and made sure we visited the bay at St Margarets where Noel Coward built 3 beautiful art deco houses on the shoreline, one of which was later owned by Ian Flemming.

As we made our way back we stopped for a cuppa and a piece of obligatory Kendal Mint Cake whilst watching the ferries make their way across the channel to the french coastline and back.

Back before the rain came down we settled in for tea, cake and an Ealing comedy. But not before Emma had a chance to feed the hens!

Followed by a quiet evening in, watching another classic – Hitchcocks The Birds. (the cottage had a well stocked selection of dvds, we were spoilt for choice).

After a final mornings walk to Richborough Roman Fort, we said our very reluctant goodbyes to Alison, Graham and the hens. We were grateful to have enjoyed some glorious weather during our stay, and as the rain set in for our journey home we promised to return to Signal Cottage for more peace, tranquility and adventures.

Until next time!

The VT’s xx

The Vintage Tourists in lock-down….. Part One

Like many people, we began 2020 making plans and booking trips away for the year. The Sainsbury Centre was housing the ‘Art Deco by the Sea’ exhibition so a weekend in Norfolk was arranged with accommodation at the fabulous Control Tower, as well as an Art Deco focused trip to Devon later in the year, with a reservation at ‘The Grand Hotel’ in Torquay and dinner at Burgh Island on the itinerary.

But sadly, the global pandemic put paid to that, as (along with the rest of the country) we spent months in lock down.  Many of those weeks were spent totally house-bound and apart, so what did the Tourists do?!

Here’s a little summary of how we kept ourselves busy.

  1. Crafting

To try to combat the cabin fever, and also give ourselves something to focus on other than home-schooling and housewife duties, we both got stuck into our fairly newfound hobbies.  For Emma, this was cross-stitching, and Lara, knitting!

The first few months were very productive and very vintage themed!

Emma worked through a series of Claris Cliff style cross-stitch pieces, then moving on to a beautiful Art Deco sampler and further art deco project with beautiful gold thread.

Whereas Lara used her extra time at home to knit her first ever sweater using the easily found ‘1930’s 3 hour sweater’ pattern. It’s a really simple pattern and the large needles meant quick progress and a wearable result!

When VE Day came around, Emma designed a great cross stitch for a local project and, inspired by this, Lara tried her hand at making one too (although quickly went back to knitting after!)

We both found our crafting a therapeutic way to keep focused, occupied and also a way to create great vintage pieces that felt like a good link to the past.

2. Books, books, books

We are both avid readers and we regularly updated our Instagram stories page with the books we read during lockdown. Quite often we found that one book inspired the next one and so there is a clear theme throughout!

From the great fictional biography of Chanel by G.W. Gortner to the famous French Blue Bicycle book series by Regine Deforges…. And the fascinating ‘Travellers in the Third Reich’ by Julia Boyd. We escaped the confines of our houses through our reading and explored tales of the past.

We are planning a blog of our top ten reads for another time, but happy to give recommendations in the meantime – just leave a comment here or message us on instagram/facebook.

3. Online events/lectures/webinars…

Possibly one of the most interesting things to experience during lock down was the range of online lectures, talks and tours.

One of our favourites was an online talk about Lee Miller, hosted by Farley’s House and Gallery ‘Home of the Surrealists’ , where Anthony Penrose, son of Miller and artist Roland Penrose, along with his daughter and grandaughter, discussed the career of Lee Miller. Called ‘Witnessing Women’, it focused on her photo-journalistic career during the Second World War and was a tie in for the current ‘Grim Glory’ exhibition.

Farleys home and gallery hit hard times during lockdown and we both donated to the crowdfunding campaign they launched to try to keep it open.  It was a place that we had planned to visit this year when it opened in April as we are both very interested in Lee Miller and her work. Fortunately, they raised enough to survive the crisis, and they currently have their gardens and galleries open. https://www.farleyshouseandgallery.co.uk/

Farley’s ran a second online event based on Lee Miller in Art which was equally fascinating – and linked Miller’s work to current female artists Maisie Cousins and Charlotte Edey in a discussion led by Katy Hessel.

The Twentieth Century Society also organised a series of free ‘Zoom’ webinars (in fact there are more in the programme still to come). We particularly enjoyed ‘Art Deco Britain’ led by Elain Harwood which gave us a fabulous overview of Art Deco architecture and gave us lots of ideas of where to visit in the future! The zoom seminar is currently available on the C20 website. https://c20society.org.uk/lectures/art-deco-in-britain-by-elain-harwood

Another interesting online event was a tour of the Marlene Dietrich exhibition section of the Deutsche Kinemathek museum  – broadcast live via Instagram by the museum (and still available in their highlights) this brought back fond memories of our visit there in 2018. https://www.instagram.com/deutschekinemathek/

The Art Deco Society, to which we both belong, has also arranged online events, the first of which we missed but there are some interesting ones still to come.  Events are available to both members and non-members. https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/art-deco-society-uk

All of the online opportunities helped take the sting out of the fact that we were unable to visit any exhibitions, galleries, museums, or attend any lectures live.

Added to that, for Lara particularly, the daily live radio shows hosted by Dave Dawes on 1940sradio.com gave a sense of contact with the outside world. Every week day at 8pm Lara would tune in and listen whilst knitting (and often requesting a track or two for a shout out!). The live shows have continued on Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays at the time of writing and we highly recommend a listen!


4. Shopping!

We didn’t need too much convincing to ‘Support small businesses’ and shop online during the lock down. We both commissioned 1940’s style sweaters and purchased accessories to tide us over until it was possible to shop at vintage fairs again! Lara found the House of Foxy Spring sale well timed to cheer herself up and chase the lockdown blues away, and Emma couldn’t resist some of their new stock!

Links to the above small businesses:




The lockdown gave us time to sort through our vintage and we ended up setting up a selling page over on Instagram @vts_for_sale to pass on our surplus vintage! https://www.instagram.com/vts_for_sale/

Looking back writing this, it is interesting to see how we managed to keep ourselves occupied and stimulated when most of the things we love were impossible. We will certainly never again take the trips out that we enjoy for granted.

In Part Two we’ll cover our tentative steps back into the vintage world as lockdown began to ease

Until then….

The VT’s


The Brooklands Vintage Festival 2019

Having attended the annual Brooklands ‘1940s Relived’ event for the last four years (see last year’s blog), we were delighted with our invitation to be involved in the new ‘Vintage Festival’ this year.

Photo by Simon Burgess

With such an historic site as Brooklands, where the history spans over a century, it is the perfect site for a vintage event, particularly at an institution where the combination of cars and fashion can be celebrated.

After many years as a 1940s focused occasion, Brooklands decided to expand the May event to incorporate a wider range of eras, spanning the 1940s-1960s, and as part of the new festival the museum was looking for two friendly, glamorous scouts to look for contestants for the afternoons ‘Best Dressed’ competition!

Needless to say, we were thrilled to be asked, and, as real fans of this event over the years, felt privileged to be involved.

As part of the build-up, we were given the opportunity to have the run of the museum to take some promotional shots to advertise the festival and we immediately called Simon Burgess, who has photographed us at the event before (and who is also so much fun to be with!)

So, on a beautifully sunny day in March, the three of us arrived at the museum laden with cases of outfits and props ready to shoot some images that would help advertise the event. Together with Marketing Director Paul Stewart, we set up some great shots in a variety of locations (including the gorgeous Barbara Cartland room, vintage cars and aircraft) and generally had the best day ever exploring this fantastic museum!

Photo shoot coffee break with Brooklands Marketing Director Paul Stewart and photographer Simon Burgess
Our glamorous ‘dressing room’!
Some of the fabulous locations we used at Brooklands Museum

Here’s a selection of our favourite shots from the day…

With the promotional photos done, we turned our attention to the rather crucial matter of what the two of us were to wear on the day! The pressure! We were going to be scouting for ‘Best Dressed’ so we had to feel well dressed ourselves.

As luck would have it we were offered a wonderful collaboration with the talented seamstress and knitter, Lyndsey of @vintagesoul_handmade, and so were able to commission unique outfits for the day that used original vintage patterns.  Lara went for a 1940s colour block dress and Emma chose a beautiful 1930s two piece blouse and skirt.

Our beautiful outfits from original vintage patterns by @vintagesoul_handmade
Photo by Adrian @imageperfectphotos

Lyndsey did a beautiful job and we can highly recommend her if there is a vintage outfit you would like made.

As the event drew nearer, we were excited to see the first official piece of ‘Vintage Tourist’ press when our photo featured in the ‘Surrey Advertiser’ newspaper as well as websites mentioning the event!

Simon’s photo of us gracing the pages of the Surrey Advertiser!

So the day itself arrived with a promising weather forecast and we arrived bright and early ready to ‘scout’.

Ready to ‘scout’!

As always, the stalls at Brooklands are some of the best of all the events we have attended, and while the first visitors were arriving we had an early shop – with Emma finding the perfect 1930s bag for her outfit!

Emma’s sneaky early purchase – a beautiful 1930s bag

The broadening of vintage eras meant that there were some fabulous 1950s cars on display as well as some beautiful outfits.  Much to our delight there were some stunning 1930s ensembles and, reassuringly, plenty of 1940s fashion too.  It was easy to find ‘Best Dressed’ contestants – the Brooklands crowd are always well dressed!

It was a wonderfully social day for us and we chatted endlessly with friends we have made on the vintage scene over the last two years. This is definitely an event where we feel right at home.  We took our scouting duties seriously but also found time to shoot some snaps with Simon and another great photographer, Adrian of @imageperfectphotos (we had lots of fun with these two!)

Spotting some potential ‘Best Dressed’ contestants from the balcony of the members bar
Posing with Adrian’s vintage camera

And then to business…

Backstage just before the ‘Best Dressed’ competition

The ‘Best Dressed’ line up assembled and, surprisingly, we ended up both presenting and judging the competition.  Luckily we’re both able to ham things up and smile when needed – and there was lots of that!

But with two worthy winners selected, we were able to ‘clock off’ and enjoy a gin and the rest of the event.

The fabulously dressed winners!

It was the most amazing day and for two gals, who when they attended separately 4 years ago never thought they’d get the chance to actually be a part of it, it was incredibly special.

With our boss for the day, Paul Stewart

Our friendship and our joint interests have brought us the most amazing adventures and this was one of the best so far!

‘Congratulating’ our Best Dressed winner James!

We can’t wait for our next event!

Until next time…

Lots of love

The VTs xxx

Vintage Cruise to Bruges

This years ‘Tourists on tour’ trip took us to the stunning city of Bruges, travelling on P&O’s The Pride of York from Hull to Zeebrugge on a two night vintage cruise! 


Well what a fabulous time we had. We travelled all the way from the south east of England to the port of Hull leaving our car at the convenient dockside car park (parking is just £16 for the two nights) and immediately saw lots of fellow vintage travellers hauling their cases over to the terminal. (You always need choices). Everyone looked fantastic in their 40s and 50s attire. The range of outfits was just as you’d find  at any vintage festival. Men in smart suits and hats, ladies in tweeds and furs, or swing dresses and petticoats. It was an eclectic mix of styles. 

Caught trying to bring gin aboard!

Slight hiccup when we confessed to having some alcohol in our case, which we duly had to take back to the car – (rookie error) but after a short wait in the departure terminal listening to The Swing Commanders to get us in the mood, we were heading to our fabulous cabin to unpack. We were pleasantly surprised with the layout, with a great shower and traditional wooden dressing table and of course a porthole!


We could have happily wiled away some hours in there but we needed to find some much needed gin at the bar!! And what a surprise that was too! Despite having a ‘captive’ audience, the bar prices were really cheap! Hoorah! 

Straight to the bar for a gin!

After a lovely dinner in a peaceful  restaurant decorated with pictures of P&O cruise liners of the past we got changed into our finery and decided to take a few vintage inspired snaps around the ship.





The decor is of course very modern but there are glimpses of a bygone era, around the staircases in particular and the art work hanging on the walls. There were definite moments when you felt you could really have gone back in time – an Art Deco feel.  


Then to complete our evening we headed back to the bar to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the evenings entertainment of fabulous music from the 40s and 50s by The Swing Commanders, Maggie Hush and DJ Murray Rose.



So many people were up dancing they were moving out into the adjacent cafe! Everyone looked splendid, but we retired to our cabin around 10pm so we could get a good nights sleep and feel refreshed for a full day in Bruges. 

Hairnets and tea – the perfect way to end a night!

We had a lovely calm overnight crossing and were up bright and early to hop onto the pre-arranged coach into Bruges, where we breakfasted in one of the many cafes and deposited a Vintage Tourists business card under the glass table top alongside cards and photos that other people had left from around the globe. They did a fab light breakfast for just €5 and that set us up for a morning of walking around the historical city centre, where we enjoyed  a sunny but chilly day wandering around the beautiful cobbled streets, admiring the Flemish architecture and sampling delicious local dishes (more of that in a moment).





The Dijver flea market runs along one of many picturesque canal banks, where local traders sell all sorts of fascinating treasures from the past and some locally made crafts. It’s not a huge market but we picked up some lovely old postcards from the early 20th century which made perfect souvenirs of our trip. 


We did consider a tandem tour of the city but in the end we opted for one of the many boat trips that take you through the canals, ducking under one or two extremely low bridges to take in the history of Bruges. It was a great way to see some of the parts of the city that you might miss on foot and our ‘captain’ was very entertaining in his dialogue. €10 well spent! 


Next it was time for a Belgian beer and a coffee before more exploring. 

Belgium is famous for its beer and there are several breweries in the city, alongside traditional lace makers and of course the amazing chocolate shops. We lunched at the Mozarthuys Brasserie having a traditional Flemish dish of beef stew and apple sauce (not forgetting the famous Belgian chips) It was delicious. We’d highly recommend eating here. The staff were extremely helpful and pleasant and if you can get a seat outside it is the perfect sun trap on a sunny day.




After some more exploring and shopping (for chocolate) we stumbled along an amazing little shop on a side street that was filled with pictures, postcards, photographs, letters and memorabilia from the past. It was a little treasure trove of social history. And the lovely chap gave us a beautiful little snap of two ladies from the past who could quite easily have been enjoying a tour just like ours. 

Then it was back on the coach for 5pm ready to set sail and enjoy more evening entertainment for our overnight crossing back to Hull. 

We spent a really pleasant evening chatting to a wonderful couple who have been on the vintage circuit for years, and they gave us lots of tips for future events to attend and a couple of places to buy some great vintage pieces. 


Then after a somewhat rocky overnight trip back to Hull we were soon saying our goodbyes to our fellow travellers and driving back home. 

We really would recommend the cruise to anyone who enjoys a bit of vintage fun, particularly if you enjoy the music and a dance. Oh and we forgot to mention that a pop up hair salon with hair and make up by Julia Jeckell and Michaela at Edelweiss hair and make up was onboard too! 

The cruise is an annual event and the destination for next year may change, but it’s worth giving their Facebook page a follow for updates and more information. 



Until next time…..

The VT’s xx


Vintage Fashion Fair Farnham

Saturday 26th January saw us spending a lovely morning mooching around the vintage fashion fair which takes place six times a year at The Maltings in Farnham, Surrey.

file3-5 - copy (2)
Dolly Rose Vintage Shed

This fabulous shopping event is packed over two floors with fantastic stalls and traders selling great quality vintage pieces ranging from 1900’s to 1980’s

There’s vintage for everyone here including accessories, shoes and textiles, and all budgets are catered for, right through to high end vintage designer pieces. We really enjoyed visiting all the stalls, meeting the traders (some we’d even met before)  and coming across some real vintage gems, including a men’s woollen swimsuit from the 1920’s with the label still attached! An amazing dead stock treasure.

The event is run by the lovely Nicola and Marilyn, and is currently in its third year at the Maltings. Nicola also trades at the event as Pret a Vintage and she has some stunning pieces! 

Now Lara can spot a true 1940’s piece a mile off whereas my vintage radar can sometimes be a bit off, so its always useful to get chatting to the stall holders who can really help you find what you’re looking for, and nobody knows their stock better than they do! They can travel far and wide to pick up the most amazing stock from around the world. It also helps for future shopping experiences if you’re looking for authentic pieces from a particular era.

  That said, it can be fun mixing up eras. Fashion is very cyclical and you can often find great pieces from the 70’s and 80’s that really compliment 30’s and 40’s styles so well.  So if you’re not sure of what you’re looking for or you’re new to vintage and want to experiment to find your vintage happy place, then vintage fashion fairs like this are perfect.

Just remember to have your hands free to really look through the stock and if you fall in love with something, keep hold of it!

Nothing haunts us like the vintage we didn’t buy!

you never know what treasures you might find.  As for us, well we’ll show you what we bought…..

You know its a good buy when you get 629 likes (and counting)
Lara’s beautiful dress was from Lynda Ryan




Future dates for this fashion fair are:

16 March, 27 April, 15 June, 28 September, 9 November

Vintage Fashion Fair, Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square, Farnham, GU9 7QR

Opening times: 10am to 4pm

Admission £2 (under 16s  FREE)


Until next time!

The VT’s xx


The Forties Experience

From 1942-1945 the private golf club at Bushey Hall just outside Watford, London was headquarters for the USAAF 8th Air Force Fighter Command.

Today the original site is home to the Lincolnsfield Children’s Centre – a place that offers day or residential trips to Primary school age children to help them learn about life in the Second World War.  On the last Sunday of every month this fabulous centre filled with artefacts is open to the public.

For almost two years now we have been volunteers on these open days at ‘The Forties Experience’, enjoying our monthly escape from the modern world.



The 1940s House

Based in one of the headquarters original nissan huts is ‘The 1940’s House’. Rooms such as the bedroom, kitchen and living room have been faithfully recreated using donated items and artefacts.  Visitors (as well as ourselves) are captivated by the authenticity – you truly feel as though you have gone back to the wartime era.


Nothing in the museum is behind glass or out of bounds.  Visitors can walk around all of the rooms freely and there is even a dedicated ‘playroom’ with original games, clothes and even a typewriter for guests (young and old) to touch and play with!

Every month as we approach the museum, driving down the old, pot holed road, passing buildings that were once part of this important base we have a real sense of leaving the present day behind.

thumbnail_img_5168 (1)
Photograph taken at The Forties Experience by Simon Burgess

‘Volunteering’ – by Lara


I feel a definite and distinct weight lifting from my shoulders as I enter the site –  almost seeing the history come to life around me. Many of us feel the same way about the place  – the sense of history is palpable.

Volunteering gives me a regular opportunity to wear original 1940s clothing (from my rapidly expanding collection) as well as practice the 1940s hairstyles that I love.  Everything from the shoes to the perfume that I wear is designed to evoke the era – and nothing makes me happier than when visitors comment on how much I remind them of their mothers or grandmothers!


On arrival each month, as I leave my car and walk across the ‘base’ I feel as though the present day doesn’t exist  – I feel as though I’ve entered the 1940s, such is the atmosphere of the site.

The day begins with a tea (or for me a Camp Coffee) in the NAAFI to sign in for the day and catch up with the other volunteers, many of whom were children in the Second World War and have so many memories of their own to share.  My chosen outfit will generally be scrutinised (and hopefully approved) by one of our most fastidious volunteers Ann, and then it’s off to the 1940s house ready to greet visitors.

As a history teacher with a passion for this era I have lots to discuss with our visitors, particularly younger ones who are visiting to help with school projects and who can be shown some of the interesting features in the various rooms.

But one of the true joys is chatting with the older visitors as they share their memories of the 1940s and 1950s.  My keen interest in the ordinary fashion and beauty of the time means I am often quizzing them on their mothers perfumes, make-up and beauty routines – jotting things down and researching when I get home!

The bedroom dressing table at the museum often spurs memories… the Coty Airspun Powder, the bottle of 4711, as well as numerous other beauty products that have been kindly donated.



‘Volunteering’ – by Emma


My friendship with Lara has certainly opened up a new world for me. She really is the 1940s gal!
I’ve been interested in aspects of World War II since I was a child, but my knowledge has really been limited to books and films.
Visiting the museum for the first time with her was fascinating, and volunteering has offered me a real opportunity to learn about life on the home front, in a replicated home, where you can wander freely and immerse yourself in it all. And I’m lucky to have the most perfect friend to answer all my questions!

I think of myself as more of an eternal visitor than a volunteer, always learning something new and picking up ideas, but I’m quite happy to sit and knit and chat to the visitors or play around with the dressing table and act like I actually live there. Occasionally you may even find me serving in the NAAFI.

For me the museum is a constant learning curve and I love stepping back in time and catching up with the other volunteers.
You can imagine as a pair we can certainly liven the place up with our photo shenanigans and playing house. We do love to immerse ourselves in it all!

Discussing rationing in the NAAFI!… Another lovely photo by Simon Burgess



What’s to see…

As a visitor (and we both visited quite regularly before volunteering) there is so much to see and experience. Highlights other than the 1940s House include the Blitz experience, military museum, 1940s school room and a Victory garden complete with its own Anderson shelter that the braver visitors can climb down into! As well as regular exhibits there are often reenactors and musicians playing in the Officers club  – and no visit is complete without a slice of cake and a cuppa in the NAAFI.

A scene from the Blitz Experience


Perhaps our favourite part is the 1940s living room where Emma can sometimes be found knitting (for the forces!) and the sound of Vera Lynn and Glenn Miller come from the gramophone (well, it’s a CD player hidden near the gramophone  – can’t waste the needles!)

In this room the table is set for tea and the utility sofa and armchair by the fire create the cosy atmosphere of times gone by.

We are not the only ones that love this room – so many visitors find it brings back memories of either their own, parents or grandparents living rooms.  It’s definitely our favourite place to play!

Tea Time! Another lovely photo by Simon Burgess


There is so much more to the museum and so many more rooms, exhibits and features to explore. You’ll have to come and see for yourself!

All details of open days are on the museum’s facebook page – click on the link below

The Forties Experience Facebook

You can also follow on Instagram : Forties Experience Instagram

Click for link to website



Until next time

The VT’s xx

Watching our boys in the air! Another Simon Burgess photograph taken outside an original building at The Forties Experience

P.s. If you are planning a visit, please let us know  – we’d love to have a natter over a cuppa!



Tourists on film


You may have read in our recent review of 2018, that we both took part in vintage photo shoots with Pearls Pin Up Parlour and Treasure the Moments Photography at the end of the year.

The photo shoots took place in a wonderful little speakeasy bar in Southampton called Bring and Mix. On arrival you’d never know the bar existed (the whole point of a speakeasy we hear you say). A lamp lit the way above a door in a small street, and after ringing the bell we were greeted by the beautiful Haley and led up the stairs to the secret location revealed from behind a moving bookcase!

Well the room didn’t disappoint. Decorated with period style furnishings that really set the scene for a vintage style shoot, you felt instantly transported back to another era.

Haley and Wayne are so kind and encouraging, taking a real interest in how you would like to present yourself for the shoot and instantly calming the nerves! They took time to talk about the outfits we had chosen to bring and the looks we were hoping to achieve. Lara wanted a 1940’s Hollywood glamour style shoot, whereas I went for a 1930’s look.

The bar accommodated both eras fabulously well as you can see!

Haley is a true marvel with hair and make up. We were both transformed so beautifully, that I almost cried with joy when I saw the beautiful curls she had created. (I have terribly fine hair and was sure she wouldn’t be able to do a thing with it).  Lara too had the most amazing 40’s waves. But Haley’s participation didn’t stop there. Together with Wayne, she assisted us in finding the best pose for each shot he took, which helped enormously with our confidence in front of the camera. For me this does not come naturally, but both their patience and encouragement really made us feel like we could do it.


The venue lends itself to so many possibilities for posing, with beautiful furnishings and of course the bar itself. You can even lie on that!… or just perch…

Sip a cocktail, pour a drink or even lounge seductively on the sofa in your vintage stockings and smalls if it takes your fancy. You can take along your own accessories like we did -(Lara took her great aunts compact and I took a vintage train case), or use the variety of props from around the room itself. However you decide to play it, Wayne will make sure you feel happy and comfortable with whichever pose you choose, to get the most flattering shot.

Later Wayne will pick the best shots and email them over, along with a disc of higher resolution copies for printing that he sends through the post.

If you are thinking of trying a photo shoot and you feel nervous or unsure, then we cannot recommend Haley and Wayne highly enough. From beginning to end they were so welcoming, encouraging, attentive and professional, we soon felt completely at ease and have some wonderful pictures to remind us what a fun time we had and just how glamorous we can look!


At the time of writing there is still availability for their March Vintage Makeover Shoot  – follow this link to find out more: Link to Pearls Pinup Parlour Vintage Makeover shoot

thumbnail_image1 (1)


Both Wayne and Haley can be contacted through their websites and facebook –


Link to Wayne at Treasure the Moments Photography

Click here for Treasure the Moments photography facebook

Click here for Pearls Pinup Parlour Facebook



Until next time!

The VT’s    XX

thumbnail_image1 (3)




The Vintage Tourists – the story so far………

Just 9 months ago we set up this blog to share our vintage days out and experiences in the vintage world. And what a fabulous time we’ve had!

Photo Credit: Simon Burgess Photography



The initial impetus for entering the blogging world was to review our spring trip to Berlin which we had meticulously planned and researched. Everything from the fabulous Weimar guesthouse we stayed in to the places we visited we wanted to share.



From there we started to plan visits to exhibitions and museums as well as vintage events.  2018 saw us enjoy our first ever visits to the Black Country Living Museum and the Twinwood Festival as well as seeing the glamorous ‘Liners’ exhibition at the V&A and ‘Night and Day’ at the Fashion and Textile museum.

We returned to some our favourite events such as Brooklands Relived and The Watercress Line ‘War on the Line’ as well as continuing to volunteer each month at ‘The Forties Experience’


As our confidence grew we took tentative steps into the re-enacting world representing the WVS at several events and we have developed some lovely relationships with people we have met along the way! In particular we have had some fun with photographers Dave Clarke and Simon Burgess who have taken some brilliant photos of us enjoying our vintage days out!


We also both took the plunge and booked a vintage photoshoot experience – a joint venture between the lovely Haley of Pearls Pinup Parlour and Wayne of Treasure the Moments photography.

Click on the link to the package we booked – Photoshoot package

There is a blog in the works to review our respective experiences at this shoot!


Speaking of new blogs what else is to come…….?


This year we have already booked some interesting new vintage experiences.

In March we will be travelling to Bruges on the P&O Vintage Cruise!  This came highly recommended by some lovely people we met at BCLM this summer and, although we are managing our expectations, we can’t wait to don our finest each night on the ship (ok…ferry) and can’t wait to review it for you!

vintage cruise

(Link below)

P&O Vintage Mini-cruise

We are also attending York’s Festival of Vintage for the first time in April as well as returning to the Black Country Living Museum (but this time staying for the evening too!).

Link to the event below…

Festival of Vintage 2019


Bletchley Park and Brooklands are firm favourites on our calendar and we also plan to start reviewing more vintage bars and restaurants this year.


So all in all we can’t wait to get stuck in!!

If there’s anything in particular you would like us to cover, please send us a message – and don’t forget you can follow our Instagram @the_vintage_tourists


Happy New Year!!



The VT’s


Back to the 1940’s at Bletchley

As the 1940’s event season draws to a close we decided to give our WVS Summer dresses one last outing of the year!



For the second time this year we attended Bletchley Park’s 1940’s weekend – and whereas back in May we went at the end of the Bank Holiday (read our earlier blog!), this time we were determined to see the event at its best by attending on the Saturday.
The weather forecast was good and so our WVS dresses would be suitable for the sunshine – and in the absence of handknitted WVS cardigans, we managed with fabulous Voodoo Vixen ones from their current range – the perfect colour! and we felt that as we were both wearing the same we represented the ‘uniform’ of the WVS!

For the link to our WVS dress maker, Rachel, click here…


We arrived just after opening which was a good thing, as not long after, queues of up to an hour had formed with visitors trying to get into the event! If you’re planning to visit next year bear that in mind!

This being our third visit in a year we wanted to focus on the event and what it had to offer rather than revisit the museum exhibits – and there was lots to see!
Outside the mansion were numerous homefront displays, a favourite being the ‘Family at War’ where the lovely Ria Jefferies gives fabulous cooking demonstrations with her mum, as well as selling her wartime home bakes (she kindly set aside two of her delicious rose cakes for us to enjoy with a gin later!). She also sells a wonderful range of vintage packaged tea, coffee and cocoa – as well as her own ‘Ration’ chocolate (the challenge is for Emma to survive on a week’s ration – she didn’t look convinced!)

The Spam hash Ria cooked up was so delicious and we took the recipe home to whip up for our families another time.


Another fascinating display inside the mansion was the ‘Weddings on the Ration’ – a beautiful collection of wedding gowns including CC41 and Double 11 owned by Peter and Marie Bainbridge. Their collection is truly stunning and they take it to various events so keep an eye out!

Click here for link to their webpage – Weddings of Yesteryear


One thing we remembered from our previous visit to this event was that the shopping was excellent and the selection of stalls offered quality 1940s pieces. Lara broke the record purchasing a suit within two minutes of entering the shopping marquee from one of our favourite sellers Debbie’s Vintage World. In addition there were beautiful corsages and hair flowers from the lovely Miss Bella’s Blooms and some superb hats from Karen Back of the Heritage Milliner.
We were also excited to see Sarah Dunn again and we both treated ourselves to new turbans – knowing that these days you have to set a timer for her Etsy restocks and often your item is sold before it even reaches your basket!

And that’s one big difference we noticed from our last visit here to this one – the number of people that we knew and that we got to say hello to!
Back in May The Vintage Tourists were fairly new but in the 4 months between events we have gotten to know so many wonderful people through Instagram and Facebook and it was a great social occasion for us as much as anything else. The vintage community is a very welcoming one and it was so lovely to meet other enthusiasts whether they be 1940’s reenactors or just vintage loving people! It was a pleasure to meet other WVS reenactors – some in dresses made by Rachel too, and see all the wonderful outfits worn by the visitors of the event who really make an effort.

Meeting more members of the ‘made by Rachel’ WVS!

Later in the afternoon we sat by the dance tent, listening to the sounds of the 1940’s whilst enjoying a delicious beverage from the ‘Gin Nook’ and the rose cake that Ria had saved for us!

Gin and Rose Cake… perfect!!

It’s a lovely event that we will undoubtedly return to again and again. If you are thinking about it for next year, you may need to allow at least two days if you want to take in the museum as well as the event itself – there is SO much to see. Luckily a ticket for Bletchley Park gains you entry for the entire year and so you can always return to see the bits you missed another time.

Click here for link to Bletchley Park’s website


Until next time……

The VT’s xxxxx


P.s. Keep a look out for our cards… we leave them everywhere 😉