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

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!

https://1940sradio.com/

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:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliceBrownsCupboard

https://bowandcrossbones.com/

https://www.thehouseoffoxy.com/

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

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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
Imageperfectphotos

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!
GIN TIME!!

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Photograph taken at The Forties Experience by Simon Burgess

‘Volunteering’ – by Lara

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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Until next time

The VT’s xx

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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!

 

 

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!

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Photo Credit: Simon Burgess Photography

 

BERLIN BEGINNINGS…

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.

 

TOURIST-ING…

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!

photoshoot

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

2019

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!

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(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!).

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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!!

zedel

 

The VT’s

xxx

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!

 

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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.

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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!

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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

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Until next time……

The VT’s xxxxx

 

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

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The Tourists at Twinwood 2018

 

Ever since we began The Vintage Tourists, the one festival that we heard the most about and the one we most wanted to visit was Twinwood. But having already blown our annual ‘tourist’ budget on our earlier trip to Berlin (read about it if you haven’t already!) how were we going to manage it?

 

GETTING THERE…

Held every August Bank Holiday weekend at the historic airfield site, Twinwood is a festival packed with music, dancing and shopping. The site opens on the Thursday until Tuesday with 3 full days of entertainment (not even counting the Friday night). We knew that one day would not be enough and also that we were going to be pushed to afford tickets for the amount of time we wanted to stay for. And we didn’t want to wait for 2019!

So, as luck would have it Twinwood organise a Mr and Miss Vintage competition every year and offer free tickets to those who manage to make it into the finals – worth a shot we thought!

The competition has several rounds, the first being an online Facebook vote. The contestants who make it into the top 30 based on votes get through to the second round where the organisers of Twinwood choose the 10 that they want to put into the finals (a show on the Sunday in the Colonial Club).

Despite having reservations about putting our mugs out there on social media to be judged we did it anyway, and we were relieved to see only positive comments made… and even better, lots of votes!

In fact both of us made it through to the second round (yay!) along with a good friend of ours who we work with at the Forties Experience when we volunteer there.

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Another ‘Round 2-er’ and friend Vicky

Although we never like to compete with one another, the fact that we promised to take each other meant we only needed one of us through – the odds looked good.

Given that we are writing about Twinwood goes to show that one of us made it through and so we hurriedly rearranged Bank Holiday plans and sorted childcare and imposed a summer shopping ban on ourselves so that we could justify a big shopping spree at Twinwood! (and boy, did we!)

 

THE FESTIVAL

Arriving first thing on the Saturday morning the sun was shining and we had no idea what to expect. We had decided to dress casually for the day (there would be enough outfit stress on the Sunday for the comp) and after a quick coffee we got stuck into the stalls around the main arena. In record time we had made purchases (I snapped up a lovely blue sweater from Cherry Retro and Emma found a beautiful 70’s does ’30s dress).

These stalls were just the tip of an amazing shopping iceberg!! Some of our favourite sellers were there including The Heritage Milliner, Pin Up Curl and Deborah’s Vintage, as well as House of Foxy and What Katie Did.

A particularly exciting moment was spotting a display of the American cosmetic brand Besame on the Voodoo Vixen stand (they are now UK stockists!!), and we saw for the first time the full range of beautiful products and lipsticks, walking away as proud owners of the 1941 shade Victory Red!  Another shopping ‘coup’ was getting a full head turban by Sarah’s Doo Wop Dos! Anyone who has ever set their timer for her Etsy restock will appreciate how lucky we were to peruse a CHOICE of items on sale at her salon!

After a few hours our arms were aching with purchases and we had to do a ‘car drop’ so that we could relax in the afternoon!

Entertainment at the festival is fantastic offering something to suit all vintage tastes.  Numerous dance classes are offered around the site for all levels of ability and we enjoyed a lovely cup of tea in the Colonial Club watching a beginners class.

The main arena has some incredible acts and visitors to the event bring their own chairs to sit and enjoy the various performances – a highlight for us was enjoying a gin and tonic watching the fabulous Glenn Miller band!

Evening entertainment is equally varied and there are so many venues to choose from. We chose the Casablanca Club  – an intimate seated venue with atmospheric lighting where we enjoyed some wonderful music by the fabulous Sara Spade before heading to bed ready for the Miss Vintage finals the following day.

 

MISS VINTAGE FINALS

Sunday brought with it heavy rain, but having spent a fortune the previous day we were happy to dedicate Sunday to prepping for the Miss Vintage finals.

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Umbrellas were an essential accessory on the Sunday! 

I had booked into the hair salon run by Sarah’s Doo Wop Dos to have my hair done (too many stressful hair calamities have made me run late to events before!) and Jess did a fantastic job of a 1940’s page-boy type style that would go well with my hat. (She can be found on FB and IG as ‘Rock’n’Rolla Hairstylist’).

I had chosen my outfit to represent the aspect of history that I find most interesting – fashion for the ordinary 1940’s women. This era was all about utility and austerity, and although a risky choice for a competition like this I could only be comfortable in an outfit that meant something to me.

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The dress was an original 1940’s piece (sourced on ebay) and had all the features of the ‘make do and mend’ era. The collar had been re-stitched numerous times and the skirt section was decorated with embroidered flowers which in fact hid moth holes and damage. I loved that the original owner had worked hard to keep the dress going – and had done such a good job that I was able to wear it in 2018, still in good condition.

I needed a hat and decided (since hats were never on ration anyway) to have one made. I have long admired the Heritage Milliner’s pieces and Karen, the owner, made me a fabulous black felt hat with orange stitching to match the dress.

Bag and gloves were original pieces from Etsy sellers The 1940s Shop and Glitx and Pieces.

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The full outfit!

Being in the finals involves a rehearsal early on in the day to mark places on stage and go through the order of the show.  Due to the rain and the number of people sheltering in the marquee we had quite an audience for this and it was good preparation for what was to come!

The other finalists were all lovely ladies and as we got ready in the dressing room (not as glamorous as it sounds!) it was great to see so many lovely vintage outfits and eras represented. Emma was there keeping me calm and stopping me from having a third gin and tonic (I’d already sunk two rather quickly in the hour before the show for some ‘Dutch courage’!) as well as reassure me that my outfit was good enough.

Then on to the show…

Lining up backstage were a lot of very nervous ladies ready to strut their stuff.  I kept thinking ‘whose idea was this again?’ but show organiser Sarah Dunn (yes, of DooWopDo’s!) was so lovely and supportive I managed to make it up the stairs and on stage!

 

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The beautiful contestants 1 to 5!

I can’t quite remember what I said as I was dazzled by the lights and the huge crowd but hosts Lola Lamour and Dusty Limits were very supportive and I got through it somehow! It was comforting to look out into the crowd and see my fellow vintage tourist waving (and stressing even more than I was!!)

When the results came I was honoured to be placed third and took home some fantastic prizes from the show and its sponsors.

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Fantastic prizes! Thank you Twinwood Festival!

Can I recommend entering Miss Vintage? Yes, if you have nerves of steel! Despite the backstage terror I’m so glad I entered and that we were able to attend this fantastic festival.  We met so many amazing people, in particular some Instagram friends that we were delighted to catch up with for the first time.

 

This is an amazing event full of great entertainment and truly wonderful, friendly people. We’ll definitely be back!

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The VT’s

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Going back in time on the Watercress Line!

With four stations of restored platforms and fabulous steam trains, The Watercress Line’s summer event ‘War on the Line’ has been one of our favourites so far!

 

On a fine June Saturday morning we arrived at Alton station which, from the outside, looks like any other modern South West Trains station (in fact, one could feel rather self-conscious crossing the car park in their 1940’s finest!).  However, cross the bridge and you are transported back in time to the Mid Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’.

Constructed in 1865, this railway played an important part during World War Two due to its location between the Army centre of Aldershot and the port of Southampton.  It now operates as a heritage railway and it provides the perfect setting for a 1940’s event.

Preparing for this event was great fun!  We wanted to be much more like re-enactors for this visit and so our outfits were carefully chosen (my new-to-me CC41 jacket got its first outing) and we bought baskets with newly acquired basket covers from Bygone Days to hide any ‘modern’ things we might need to carry.  We even made gas mask boxes (ordered from amazon) as well as wrapping our sandwiches (with wartime fillings) in paper tied with string!  This really helped us feel the part and it prepared us well for the variety of wartime characters and scenarios we were to encounter…

A nice touch is that on entry to the event you are issued with a replica Identity Card to fill in, and these are regularly checked by the Military Police throughout the day!

I am afraid to admit that the both of us fell foul of the military police (for taking unauthorised photographs!) and we found ourselves handcuffed and berated on our first train journey of the day!  Threatened with hard labour at the ash pit we managed to persuade them to release us by assuring them that we had learned our lesson (we may also have offered gin!) and we were genuinely apprehensive about taking anymore photos of them for the rest of the day!

 

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Emma finds a more friendly member of the MP on mention of gin! Photo by David Clarke

There was a lovely atmosphere at this event with characters like Sam the Smart Alec spiv and the washerwoman to encounter.  Each station had different displays, and one of our favourites was the Victory Store filled with wartime packaged goods (and rather too many mice!) –  but sadly we had forgotten our ration books!

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We were offered all kinds of dodgy stuff by this ‘smart Alec’  – we would never buy from the black market!! 

 

There were a variety of singers performing, as well as a Glenn Miller Tribute band and lots of dancers.  We also met the author Mike Hollow who has written a series of detective novels set in the Blitz.  We bought  a book each which he kindly signed ‘To the Vintage Tourists’ and we look forward to reading them (and perhaps reviewing them in a later blog).

This event was also attended by many lovely photographers who all seemed to appreciate the effort we had gone to.  It seems that quite a large number of visitors at this event don’t ‘dress up’ and so we found ourselves being photographed a lot throughout the day.  One rather surreal moment involved us taking a quick seat on a platform bench to have a mid-morning tea and eccles cake literally surrounded by photographers who took the opportunity to capture two 1940’s gals having a cuppa and a chat! (most disconcerting to try eating flaky pastry in a ‘photogenic’ way!)

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Photo by David Clarke

We had brought our own enamel mugs with us for our tea (or gin!) to give a more authentic look to our refreshment breaks!

Photos above taken by David Clarke

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Captured by Rob Shipway looking for the Spitfire… or was it the Military Police?!

Everyone that we met and spoke to were so lovely – we were often complimented on the effort we had made, and we had some fascinating conversations with visitors who shared their memories and stories of the war with us.

 

But perhaps what was most wonderful of all was climbing aboard these beautiful train carriages, hearing the hiss of steam and the whistle of the engine.  It was watching the country side roll by to the sound of the rhythmic chugging of these historic modes of transport. It was travelling in the way that people did 75 years ago in the era that we were recreating.

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At the end of the day we arrived back at Alton and reluctantly crossed back over the bridge into the 21st century – our day in the 1940’s had come to an end.

Until next time…

 

The VT’s xxx

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Link to the Watercress Line website

The next 1940’s event at the Watercress Line will be in December with their popular two day ‘Christmas Leave’ event.

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Brooklands – 1940’s Relived

Every year in May, Brooklands Museum hosts its 1940’s Relived event.  It is a popular event in the south and one of our favourite events to attend.  Here’s why we love it so much…

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There’s something very special about the Brooklands site that means the second you enter the museum, you are propelled back to the past.

Originally a racing circuit constructed in 1907, the site is full of original buildings, most notably the glorious clubhouse which remains almost unchanged since it was first built.  It oozes that Jazz-Age glamour and takes you right back to the glamorous racing days of the 1920’s and 30’s.

However, in the 1940’s Brooklands took on a very different, and very important role in the war – producing military aircraft.  Some of the most notable aeroplanes built here were the Vickers Wellington, Vickers Warwick and the Hawker Hurricane (a Hurricane is on display at the event).

And so it is this part of Brooklands history that is brought to life at the 1940’s Relived event.

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The Brooklands Hawker Hurricane 

 

Everything is provided to ensure a fun day out: dancing lessons, hair salon, vehicle displays and 1940’s singers.

But it is the shopping that is always our first priority here!

Every year there are a great selection of sellers offering fabulous 1940’s clothing and accessories, as well as a wide range of 1940’s ephemera (I’ve purchased vintage hair pins, pamphlets, magazines and even a 1940’s address book over the years).

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The Vintage Tourists shopping! Photo by Simon Burgess

 

There’s also a good range of repro stock as well for those looking for clothing that can be worn without the fuss and worry that accompanies the responsibility of wearing true vintage!

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Another of Simon Burgess’ great shots

It is also a great event to dress up for  – particularly if, like us, you favour the civilian look.  There’s an annual ‘Best Dressed’ line up (which I have been very grateful to have been chosen for on two occasions), and this gives you a chance to see all the wonderful outfits that have been put together.

 

One thing not to be missed is the fabulous Barbara Cartland room on the ground floor of the Clubhouse building.  Usually between 12.30-1.30, free portrait photographs are taken within this fabulous 1930’s setting.  It is such a beautiful room that transports you instantly back to the glamour of a bygone age.

 

(The above photos are from the free portrait shoot back in 2016 – when we both attended the event but hadn’t met each other yet!)

 

An added bonus of attending this event is that the London Bus Museum can also be found here.  Although we didn’t have time this year (as I was too busy prancing around in the marquee at ‘Best Dressed’),  there is a great ‘Blitz’ section in the museum and in previous years there has been the opportunity to take a bus ride around the local area in an old Routemaster, complete with its own vintage bus conductor!

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The quality of the visitors’ outfits, combined with the authentic back-drop of the museum makes it a favourite with photographers looking for a good vintage photograph.  This year, we were honoured to have our photographs taken by the fabulous Simon Burgess, having arranged the shoot after he caught a great moment on camera at the event last year (as my hat nearly blew off my head!).

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Simon’s first shot at Brooklands 2017

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Vintage Tourists snapped last year!

 

1940’s Relived is a great day out with quality stalls and top entertainment. Put it in your diary for next year and, if you’re there, make sure you come and say hello as this is an event we never miss!

 

Until next time…

The Vintage Tourists

xxx

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Our first vintage getaway – 1920’s & ’30’s Berlin

Having enjoyed lots of interesting day trips to various events, museums and exhibitions we decided to plan our first weekend away…

 

Our Berlin plans really go back to October 2016 when Emma bought me a copy of Jane Thynne’s ‘Black Roses’ for my birthday. Centred around an Anglo-German actress who becomes a British spy, this series of books really captured both of our imaginations and was the original inspiration to plan a trip to find ‘Clara Vine’s’ [the lead character’s] Berlin. (These books also started an obsession with Bourjour’s Soir de Paris perfume but that’s another story…..)

 

For obvious reasons the 1930’s is seen as a rather dark period in Germany’s history, and very little of the Berlin we were reading about was going to be highlighted (or even exist at all after the relentless Allied bombing of the 1940’s)

And so, in our quest to use works of literature as our inspirational ‘guide book’ we read Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ as well as another Berlin novel of his ‘Mr Norris Changes Trains‘. Here was a Berlin we could visit  – Isherwood’s original lodging house is still there on Nollendorfstrasse – and so our planned tour took on a more 1920’s rather than 1930’s theme.

 

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Trip inspiration………

We wanted to experience the Berlin of the Cabaret days (whilst also fitting in some of the more touristy sights) and so lots of research followed as we tried to find as many pre-war places and buildings that would bring the 1920’s era to life!

Here are some of our favourite finds:

Nurnberger Eck

For true vintage style accommodation we cannot recommend Pension Nurnberger Eck enough! Built in the 1920’s, this ‘Pension’ has all it’s wonderful original features (high ceilings, big double doors) and was allegedly where bohemians of Weimar Berlin met to party! With all its vintage furniture, and great Charlottenberg location we couldn’t believe our luck (and actually squealed with delight on being shown our room!).

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The fabulous Nurnberger Eck

 

Hotel Adlon

Opposite the Brandenburg Gate is the place where back in the twenties anybody

who was anybody partied – The Hotel Adlon!  Some of it’s more interesting guests include Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and the journalist and historian William Shirer.  The original building actually survived the Allied bombing only to be destroyed by a fire in the wine cellar started by Red Army soldiers in 1945.

However the current hotel building was bthumbnail_IMG_8176uilt in the design of the original and so as we sat outside enjoying a coffee on our first day we still felt a strong sense of what it would have been like in the early Twentieth Century.

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe Einstein Stammhaus

Another survivor of World War Two was a building on Kurfurstenstrasse currently housing Cafe Einstein.  It has such a varied history since being built in 1878 and was at one time the home of actress Henny Porten (mistress of Goebbels) having been requisitioned by the Nazis. Prior to that it had been a secret gambling club for Weimar Germany’s high society and had been owned by Jewish banker Georg Blumenfeld (a commemoration of Georg and his wife can be found on the pavement outside the building). It was both fascinating and moving to think of the history behind what is now a simple restaurant. – A building that encompasses so many aspects of Germany’s past.

 

Isherwood’s Berlin

The highlight of the trip had to be exploring Isherwood’s Berlin! We booked ourselves onto the 90 minute ‘Isherwood’s Neighbourhood tour’ led by Brendan Nash and couldn’t have made a better decision!  We learned so much about the history of the city as well as visiting Isherwood’s Berlin residence.  Other stops on the tour included the original building that housed the famous ‘Eldorado’ club (now a supermarket!) as well as the site of the notorious lesbian club ‘La Garcon’.  On Nash’s recommendation we stopped by (and were lucky enough to secure an outside table) at Cafe Berio – the very place where Isherwood and W H Auden would sit and observe the city.  Our visit to this district finished with gins at the Sally Bowles club – a bar with a fab vintage feel.

 

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Brenden Nash – The Isherwood Tour

 

 

Link to the Isherwood Tour

 

 

 

All the reading and research gave us the most amazing weekend in an incredible city and we can’t wait to go back ……

 

In the meantime we have a lot of visits and events coming up as the vintage season gets going… can’t wait to share them!

 

xxx