Posted in Activity, Fashion History, History, Mrs Beeton, Museum, Vintage, World War One, World War Two

Vintage Pinboard – Make & Bake – Be Inspired In 2013

Vintage Cooking 2Happy New Year to you all, I hope that 2013 brings you good health and happiness in equal measure.

I say a fond farewell to 2012 –  what an incredible year it was. During the past twelve months I have experienced the usual highs and lows of everyday life as well as a number of unexpected media opportunities which may not have come my way had I not written this blog.

I am hoping that 2013 will be full of adventure and new experiences. I cannot wait to share my news with you about one of these exciting media opportunities, a primetime television series that I have recently been involved in. However, I have to keep my ‘secret squirrel’ promise for a little while longer before all can be revealed and the series finally airs on British television.

The start of a new year is, for many, a time of new beginnings, setting resolutions and making plans for the future. This year, one of my creative aims is to improve my knitting and crocheting skills which at present can best be described as of a basic level. I began my first knitting project in December, a plain scarf for my parents’ dog. A hit I think, but not quite as much as the packet of tasty treats and squeaky ball which were also in the dog’s Christmas stocking!

Margie models her Christmas scarf. I think she was pleased with it!
Margie models her Christmas scarf. I think she was pleased with it!

Last year, I purchased a selection of vintage knitting patterns from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The pattern books contain many inspiring projects. Although, fifty or so years ago most knitters were pretty accomplished at their craft and some of the patterns do look fiendishly difficult but I like to have something to work towards.

My grandmother's 1948 Singer sewing machine.
My grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine.

Whilst home for the holidays, I took the opportunity to have a rummage in my parents’ attic and was not disappointed by my search. Amongst the assortment of heirlooms and vintage treasures, I found a real gem – my late grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine (Serial No. EE617052).  Mum told me that grandmother had ordered the machine in 1945 and due to the shortage of materials following World War Two, waited three years before taking delivery of it. Mum said that it was grandmother’s pride and joy.

Detail of my grandmother's 1948 sewing machine.
Detail of my grandmother’s 1948 sewing machine.

In 2013, I would like to bring the Singer back to life, perhaps using it to make a vintage outfit. I thought I might use it to make a copy of Christian Dior’s, 1948, New Look – similar to the outfit I wore to the first Goodwood Revival meeting in 1998. (Featured in 1950’s Britain – Part Three)  However, it will have to wait for a short bit as I am currently making a 1950s evening gown for one of my ongoing media projects and anyway, I will need to get the Singer properly serviced first.

I wanted to find-out more about Singer sewing machines. During the course of my research I found a really interesting website, Love to Know Antiques: Advice Women Can Trust  CLICK HERE. The article on Singer machines was very helpful, particularly when it came to identifying the exact production date of grandmother’s machine.

There are now a growing number of collectors and vintage enthusiasts who are using antique sewing machines for their crafting and dressmaking. Artist Sarah Harper, owner of Rowan Tree Studios, collects and uses them for teaching sewing courses at her workshop in Clovelly, Devon. CLICK HERE. The February issue of Homes & Antiques magazine (on sale in the UK, 3rd January) also includes an article on ‘Vintage Sewing Machines’, exploring why they are becoming increasingly popular and desirable to collect. CLICK HERE. So what are you waiting for, treat yourself to a secondhand sewing machine, you will be so glad you did. Many of the models can be brought for less than £100. Sarah Harper also sells and reconditions old machines so do check-out her website before you begin your search. CLICK HERE.

I discovered there is a Museum dedicated to sewing machines.  The London Sewing Machine Museum can be found on the first floor of Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company’s premises (292-312 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7AA – Tooting Bec tube stop using the London Underground) which is owned by Ray Rushton.  The Museum has over seven hundred industrial and domestic machines, many of which are incredibly rare, including one owned by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, HRH Princess Frederick of Prussia (1840-1901).  The machine was made in 1865 by a German company to a Wheeler & Wilson pattern, it had been given as a wedding present to the Princess. (Homes & Antiques, February, 2013, Sorrell, K., p.62).

The Museum is open on the first Saturday of every month, between 2pm and 5pm. The next two openings will be on Saturday 2nd February and Saturday 2nd March.  Admission to the Museum is free but donations, upon entry, towards The Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Leukaemia Research, would be much appreciated. One point I must alert you to, is that due to the fact the Museum is located on the first floor of a building, access is via approximately forty steps. Unfortunately, they do not have a lift, so access for the disabled and those with limited physical ability, is restricted.  For views of the Museum’s interior, CLICK HERE.

Judkin sewing machine. The display label reads: 'Charles Tiot Judkins was the only British exhibitor of a sewing machine in the 1851 exhibition. His machines, made in Manchester, were close based on American prototypes. This particular type of single thread chainstitch machine was presented in Ameria in 1859 by Charles Raymond. Judkins registered Raymond's patent in England in 1865 (No. 144) and this little machine is Judkin's only essay into small domestic machines and few have survived, his other wares relate to industry. Weir and several others cloned or imported Raymond machines.' Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Judkin sewing machine. The display label reads: ‘Charles Tiot Judkins was the only British exhibitor of a sewing machine in the 1851 exhibition. His machines, made in Manchester, were closely based on American prototypes. This particular type of single thread chainstitch machine was presented in Ameria in 1859 by Charles Raymond. Judkins registered Raymond’s patent in England in 1865 (No. 144) and this little machine is Judkin’s only essay into small domestic machines and few have survived, his other wares relate to industry. Weir and several others cloned or imported Raymond machines.’ Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Vintage sewing machine for a child. Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Vintage sewing machine for a child. Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke  has a wonderful collection of domestic bygones to help inspire you. This museum is the perfect day-out for social historians and vintage enthusiasts. In my opinion, Milestones has the best collection of vintage kitchenalia on display of any museum outside London. They also have a nice selection of vintage sewing machines, including models produced for children. For more information on the museum, please see my previous article, CLICK HERE.

The Comet toy sewing machine (EMG - SH.1986.122). The display label reads: 'The first 'toy' machines were small machines pour fillette made in France in the 1860s. Late in the nineteenth century the German tinplate toy industry began to produce large numbers of pressed steel cheap toys. After 1945, production of these simple pressed steel toys was restarted and gradually many of the steel parts were replaced by plastic. The Comet is a British toy of the 1950s with its pressed steel mechanism clothed in a plastic body.' Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
The Comet toy sewing machine (EMG – SH.1986.122). The display label reads: ‘The first ‘toy’ machines were small machines pour fillette made in France in the 1860s. Late in the nineteenth century the German tinplate toy industry began to produce large numbers of pressed steel cheap toys. After 1945, production of these simple pressed steel toys was restarted and gradually many of the steel parts were replaced by plastic. The Comet is a British toy of the 1950s with its pressed steel mechanism clothed in a plastic body.’ Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Further Reading

To help inspire your inner ‘creative god(dess)’ I have compiled a selection of craft projects for you to have a go at. All chosen from my own collection of vintage magazines and books. Some vintage patterns and sewing instructions tend to be quite tricky, presuming prior ability and knowledge of the craft in question. However, I have selected ones that are fairly straightforward to follow. If crafting isn’t your thing, then why not have a go at one of the vintage recipes instead.Vintage  cooking


If you do make/bake any of the items featured below I would love to see the end result, so too will other readers of Come Step Back in Time.  Please e-mail me a photograph (JPEG format), your name and a short paragraph about your experiences making/baking it – which may be good, bad or humourous. I will select the best examples to showcase in an article, here on Come Step Back in Time, in Spring 2013.  My e-mail address can be found on the ‘About Me and Media Contact’ page.  Deadline for receipt of e-mail and image, is midnight (GMT) on Friday 1st March 2013 – so you do have plenty of time to complete your chosen project. I cannot wait to see how you all get on.

From the examples showcased in the article I will select one winner to be the ‘best in show’.  The ‘best in show’ winner will receive one of my vintage, secondhand books.  I will send it to you wherever you are in the world – postage paid by myself! I have a large collection of incredible books so it will be something special, I promise. So, what are you waiting for, get creative…….

Peg-top kite diagram.
Peg-top kite diagram.

The Peg-top Kite

(The Motherhood Book, c.1932, Amalgamated Press, pp.700-701)

The best-known simple kite is the peg-top pattern.  It is of fairly small size and covered with tissue paper gummed to the frame; such a kite, a foot long, can be flown on stout thread as a line.  The frame consists of a relatively stiff wooden backbone, and a thin, flexible piece of split cane bent to a semicircle by a string arranged like a bowstring.  The centre of the bow is lashed to the top of the backbone, and strings are run from the horns of the bow to the bottom of the back-bone; these strings, however, are not too tight, as the strain is to be taken on the bowstring.

After the frame is covered, a piece of string double the length of the kite has its two ends tied to the backbone, one near each end.  This is the bridle, and the kite line is tied to it so that the upper arm of the bridle is shorter than the lower.  The rig of the kite is completed by a tail, to which convention consigns the form of a string two or three times the length of the kite, tied to the bottom of the backbone and having screws of paper tied to it at intervals; a strip of fabric, however, answers the purpose equally well, being more durable and less trouble to fix.

Home-made peg-top kites sometimes have a rigid wooden member instead of the bowstring.  This is a mistake, as it tends to prevent the horns of the bow from bending backwards under the air pressure, as they must do to give the dihedral angle effect needful for stability.

The adjustments that have to be made consist in varying the amount of tail to be carried and the point of the bridle at which the line is tied on; the kite will not fly unless these adjustments are made suitable to the speed at which the wind is travelling.

The peg-top pattern is inconvenient in large sizes, as it cannot well be taken to pieces for travelling.  A modified form of it is therefore used in which the bowstring is replaced by a straight and particularly flexible stick and the bow omitted, the frame thus consisting of two wooden members arranged in the form of a cross, with a surrounding edge of string tied in succession to the four ends of the sticks.  If this frame is covered with a light cotton fabric it can easily be arranged so that the sticks may be removed and the whole rolled up for transport.  The same adjustments as in the case of the peg-top kit are needed in order to secure for it a satisfactory stability.Finished toy rabbit.

Rabbit Soft Toy

(The Motherhood Book, c.1932, Amalgamated Press, pp.670-671)

The main part of the body and the head are cut in one, but the under part and the ears are added separately.  A quarter of a yard of cloth, 48 inches wide, is needed, together with a little pink silk material for lining the ears.

Pattern for toy rabbit.
Pattern for toy rabbit.

When cutting out, use the cloth folded with the selvedges together, and arrange the pattern, cut to the shape shown, in the positions seen.

It is necessary first to join the long straight seam of the base or under part; then take it, still folded, so that the seam runs along the top, but with the wrong side inside, and slip it between the two layers of the main body.  The latter should be so put together that the right sides face.

Stitch the edges of each layer of the base to the edges of each layer of the main part, matching edges neatly, and also drawing the curved back part of the base down to the lower edge of the main part.  Next stitch the two main parts of the body together above the inserted base portions, commencing at the front just below the head, and working around this along the top of the body to the back of the inserted base.Rabbit toy diagram

Leave a small opening in the part of this seam, however, so that the stuffing may be put in.  Turn the shape inside out, stuff it tightly with kapok;  and sew up opening.  Line each ear with silk; then make a pleat in the straight edge and sew it to the head.  Insert two eyes. [Plastic animal eyes are easily brought from a craft shop or on-line store. These modern eyes will need to be inserted before you commence stuffing the toy. If you intend making the toy to give to a child/baby then not all man-made or natural stuffing is safe. I found an interesting article on the website ‘FunkyFriendsFactory‘, about toy-making which you may find helpful when choosing materials for your rabbit. CLICK HERE.].

Knitted Bed Socks

(Woman’s Weekly, November 4th, 1911, p. 4)

Cast on eighty stitches for lady’s and ninety for gentleman’s socks.  Knit four plain rows, increasing one at each end of the rows.  Then knit ten or twelve rows (knit two, purl two) to form the width of the foot.  Begin the intakes by knitting two together twice in the centre of every row.  Do this for about eighteen or twenty rows, afterwards knit without decreasing, ten more rows, cast off, and sew up.Finished knitted bath mat

Knitted Bath Mat

(Stitchcraft, September 1947, p.9)

The original mat measures 20 by 26 inches.  It is knitted from end to end in an easy loop stitch, and can be made very quickly by even the most amateur worker.

12 ozs of thick knitting cotton are used here, but you may find the quantity you use may be slightly different, as these knitting cottons vary very much.  So we give you here the stitch you use first of all; just try a bit to make sure. Tighten loops as you knit.

Cast on 8 stitches on the largest needles you have, about size 5 will do; use the yarn double.  1st row: Work loops thus: – k. 2 border sts., * put needle into next st. without knitting it, put forefinger of left hand under point of right needle and wrap yarn over right needle point and round finger in opposite way to knitting, then round needle again, draw through stitch on left needle, put these on left needle, then knit all sts. again as 1 st.; repeat from * to last 2 sts., k. 2.

2nd row: k. 2, purl to last 2 sts., k. 2. These two rows form the pattern. Repeat them in a few times to make a piece about 2 inches.

Now measure the tension of your work over the back, and work out how many sts. you will need to cast on to get a width of 20 inches.  For example, if you have 3 sts. to an inch you will need 60 sts.  The mat you see here had just under 2 sts. to an inch, so 45 sts. were cast on.

When you have done 9 inches in pattern, work 5 sts. in centre of the work in plain stocking-stitch, keeping remainder in pattern as before, for 8 inches, then finish off with another 9 inches of pattern. Cast off.

With a length of contrasting wool, embroider ‘bath’ across the plain centre piece, then work all round the edge in buttonhole-stitch.His and Her's Scarves

Knitted Scarves

(What’s New in Knitting by Patons & Baldwins Ltd, 1958, p.24)

Tubular knitting on only 2 needles. The secret is how you can knit on one pair of needles a double fabric often used for scarves which has the appearance of a tube of stocking stitch seamed together at both ends. This fabric is easy to knit, and simply consists of one row.

Cast on double the number of stitches required for the finished width, e.g. if you are working at a tension of 8 sts. to the inch in stocking stitch (3-ply on a size 11 needle), you would need 80 sts. for a 10-inch width in ordinary stocking stitch, therefore would cast on 160 sts. for tubular knitting.

Cast on an even number of sts.

1st and every row – * K. 1, bring wool to front, slip 1 purlwise, take wool to back; repeat from * all across row.

Suggestions for scarves:

For a light-weight scarf in 2-ply, use No. 9 needles. Cast on 160 sts.

Work in tubular knitting for 46 inches. Cast off, knitting, 2 together, all across row. Fringe ends.

The ideal needle for 3-play is a size 8; 4-play a size 7, and double knitting a size 5.Make Do and Mend Coat

Make Do And Mend – Two Old Dresses into a Coat-Frock

(Make Do and Mend by The Board of Trade by The Ministry of Information, 1943, p. 25)

Here is an idea for a dark woollen dress that is worn in front and is too tight for you.  Open it from neck to hem and finish the edges neatly, turning hem in and rounding them up to the neck, unless you like to turn down the points at the neck as revers.  Then use the best part of the silk from an old printed dress or any other material you may have in a contrasting colour, and gather it in a panel down the front, fastening it under the edges of the dark material to give the effect of a Redingote worn over a dress.  This is very suitable for maternity wear.

You could use the bodice of the figured silk frock to make a blouse.  It will probably be worn under the arms, or you wouldn’t be cutting it up, but there should be ample material left over in the skirt after making the panel for the coat-frock to put in new short sleeves and a yoke to the blouse.

Edwardian home sweetmaking.
Edwardian home sweetmaking.


Tipped to be THE sweet of 2013, be on trend!

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, p. 77)

Ingredients: 10 ozs granulated sugar; 1/4 pint water; 3/4 oz powdered gelatine; 1 dessertspoonful glucose and 1/4 pint water and orange flower water mixed (4 dessertspoonfuls orange flower water is sufficient).

Method: Put the gelatine in the water and orange flower water, then dissolve it in a fairly large pan over gentle heat, and set it aside.  In another pan put the sugar, water, and glucose, dissolve in usual way, and boil to 260 degrees.  Rewarm the pan containing gelatine and pour the boiled sugar into it, beating briskly with an egg whisk; after a minute or two add the stiffly beaten white of an egg, then whip the batch till it gets white and stiff (takes about 15 minutes), leave it in pan for half an hour, then run a thin knife round the sides of pan, and turn it out on to dry sifted icing sugar.  Leave it for an hour or  for some hours, then rub it over with icing sugar, then with large scissors cut it into squares, and rub each square with icing sugar.  Leave these exposed to the air in a warm room for two or three days, then keep in a tin lined with kitchen paper.  Any kind of nuts, if ground, can be added to the batch while beating it.  Various flavours can be used, such as vanilla, rose, chocolate, strawberry, or coffee.

To Mould Chocolate Eggs

Get ready for Easter, which this year is on Sunday 31st March, 2013

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, pp. 55-6)

Have [melted chocolate] covering at same temperature as for dipping.  Pour some into the mould, and run it all round the mould to line it well, then empty out the surplus chocolate.  When almost setting, with a knife push some of the chocolate up round the edge – to form a wider rim. Then when the chocolate is quite firm and set take a very sharp knife and pare the edge of the mould quite clear, then give lightly a little jerk or squeeze to the mould each way, then turn it upside down and tap the edge on the marble, and the chocolate egg will drop out.  Fill inside of egg with toy, sweets, motto, etc. Damp round edges of shell with warm chocolate, insert a loop of ribbon or cord to hang egg by, and press the moulds together and let set.

Rich Cream Chocolates

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, pp. 64-5)

Ingredients: 1 dessertspoonful of glucose; 1 and 1/4lb granulated sugar; 1/2 oz fresh butter; Saffron [yellow] colouring; 1/2 pint good cream; small 1/2 pint cold water; vanilla flavour.

Method: Dissolve the sugar in the water in usual way, add the glucose and butter, and the cream poured in slowly, and carefully stirred all the time, until the thermometer registers 236 degrees.  Pour into a basin which has been rinsed out with cold water, and when half cold, add colour and flavour and stir with a wooden spoon until it creams.  Cover it with wax paper and a towel and leave for twenty minutes, then work it soft and mellow, and make into centres, and when these are cold and firm cover them either with chocolate, or make them into suffed fondants.

I was recently asked to create a blancmange banquet. Here are examples of some of my blancmanges.
I was recently asked to create a blancmange banquet. Here are some of the results.

Orange Blancmange 

Another hot trend for 2013 – Jelly has had its revival, now it is all about blancmange.

(Practical Cookery for All  by Anding B. et al, c.1950, p.406 – original recipe was for lemon blancmange.)

Ingredients: 1 pint milk; zest of two oranges; pinch of salt; 1  oz sugar;  1  oz cornflour;  1/2  oz custard powder.

Method: Pour about three-quarters of the milk into a saucepan, add the orange zest, salt and sugar and bring to the boil slowly.  Mix the cornflour and custard powder to a smooth paste with the remaining cold milk. Pour the boiling milk on to the mixed cornflour, stirring well.  Return to the saucepan over a low flame, and boil, stirring continuously for a few minutes – until it thickens.  Pour into a lightly oiled mould.  When set, turn out on to a table dish and serve when ready.

My version of a strawberry blancmange.
My strawberry blancmange with a vintage twist.
Another version of my crème de menthe blancmange.
My crème de menthe blancmange.

Orange Sauce for Blancmange

(Brown and Polson’s Recipe Book, c.1920, p.12)

Ingredients: 1/4 oz cornflour; 1 orange – juiced and zested; 2 ozs loaf sugar; juice of half a lemon; 1/2 pint water.

Method: Rub the sugar on the orange to absorb the zest.  Put sugar and zest into a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil slowly and boil for three minutes. Strain through muslin, return to the saucepan, and add the lemon and orange juice. Blend the cornflour with a little cold water, and add it to the liquid when boiling.  Boil for three minutes. When cold, pour round the blancmange.

My crème de menthe blancmange with antique gold (edible) cake decoration on top.
My crème de menthe blancmange gilded with antique gold (edible) cake decoration.
How to turn-out a blancmange from its mould.
How to turn-out a blancmange from its mould.

Marrow Chutney

(Practical Cookery for All  by Anding B. et al, c.1950, p.480)

Ingredients: 3lb Marrow; salt; 12 peppercorns; 1/4 oz bruised ginger; cinnamon and allspice; 1/2 lb shallots; 1/2 lb green apples; 1/2 lb sultanas; 1 1/2 pints vinegar; 8 0zs sugar.

Method: Cut up the marrow and put it into a basin.  Sprinkle two teaspoonfuls of salt over it and leave for twelve hours.  Drain well and rinse. Tie the peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon and allspice in a muslin bag. Peel the shallots and apples and chop them finely.  Place all the ingredients except sugar in a saucepan and bring them slowly to the boil.  Allow to simmer gently until almost cooked, add the sugar and boil until a syrupy consistency. Remove the bag of spices. Pour the mixture into a [sterilised] jar and cover.

Redcurrant and Cherry Jam

(French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David, 1963 [1951], p. 189)

Put 4lb of redcurrants into a pan without any water and stir them over a gentle flame until the juice comes out.  Strain through a muslin without pressing the fruit so that the juice is clear.  There should be about 2lb of juice.  For this amount stone 4lb of cherries, and make a syrup with 6 lb of sugar and 3 glasses of water; put the cherries into the syrup and let it boil gently until the syrup sets, when put on to a cold plate.  Now add the redcurrant juice, let the whole mixture boil again, and the jam is ready to put into [sterilised] pots. These jams made of mixed fruits are very much liked in France, and are often served, with fresh cream, as a dessert.

Mary Berry preparing her pineapple ice-cream in 1972.
Mary Berry preparing her pineapple ice-cream in 1972.

Pineapple Ice Cream – 1970s style

(Popular Freezer Cookery by Mary Berry, 1972, p. 94)

Ingredients: 1 medium-size fresh pineapple; juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons; 1/4 pint water; 6 0zs castor sugar; 1/2 pint double cream, lightly whipped.

Method: Cut the pineapple in half lengthways, and cut out the hard-core down the centre of each side.  Keep the pineapple shells. With a grapefruit knife or a sharply pointed spoon, scoop out all flesh and chop finely, saving the juice.  Mix the chopped pineapple, juice, and lemon juice together.  Dissolve the sugar with the water in a pan over low heat, then cool.  Add the sugar syrup to the pineapple and pour into a rigid container. To Freeze: cover and freeze until almost set then turn mixture into a bowl and whisk until broken up and light. Fold in the cream and return to container.  Cover, label and freeze until required. To Thaw: thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. To Serve: scoop out ice-cream with a metal spoon that has been dipped in boiling water. Serve in pineapple shells. Note: a blender speeds up this recipe. Put the pineapple flesh, any juice and lemon juice in a blender, switch on for 2 minutes, then add cooled sugar syrup. (Serves 6).Lyle's Golden Syrup

Russian Gingerbread

(More Everyday Dishes by Elizabeth Craig (Ed.), for Tate & Lyle, c. 1935 p. 47)

Ingredients:  1/2 lb flour; 2 ozs castor sugar; 1 oz blanched almonds; 1 egg (well beaten); 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves; 3 ozs melted butter; 2 tablespoons golden syrup; 2 ozs crystallized ginger; pinch of salt; 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice; 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger; milk.

Method: Grease a shallow baking tin. Sift flour into a basin with spice, salt and soda.  Stir in other dry ingredients and ginger finely minced.  Add syrup, egg, butter and enough milk to make a running batter. Beat till smooth. Pour into tin, dredged with flour.  Decorate with split blanched almonds.  Bake in a slow oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

Raisinet – A Preserve For Winter

(A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes by Charles E. Francatelli, 1861, pp.54 – 55)

Ingredients: 12 lbs of fruit, consisting of peeled apples, pears, plums, and blackberries, in equal proportion; 6 lbs of raw sugar; one quart of water.

Method: Bake three hours in a slack or slow oven; First, prepare the fruit, and put it in mixed layers of plums, pears, berries, apples, alternating each other, in stone jars.  Next, put the 6 lbs of sugar in a clean saucepan, with the quart of water, and stir it with a spoon on the fire till it comes to a gentle boil; remove the dirty scum from the surface of the sugar; and, after allowing it to boil for ten minutes, pour it in equal proportions into the jar or jars containing the fruits, and place them in a moderate heat to bake slowly for three hours at least.  When boiling the sugar for this purpose, remember that it is most prudent to use a saucepan capable of containing double the quantity, as sugar is very liable to boil over and waste.  When the fruit is nearly dissolved, the raisinet will be done; it must then be removed to a cool place until it has become thoroughly cold and partially set firm; the jars should then be tied down with thick paper and kept in the cellar for winter use, either for making puddings or tarts, or for spreading on bread for the children.

Good Woman’s Soup

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p.129)

Ingredients: 1 quart of white stock, 1 white-heart lettuce, 1 thick slice of cucumber (the length of which must equal the breadth, so that a square block may be cut), a little tarragon and chervil (these may be omitted when not procurable), 1 oz of butter or good dripping, the yolks of 2 eggs, 1/4 of a pint of cream or milk, salt and pepper.

Method: Wash and shred the lettuce finely, cut the block of cucumber lengthwise into thin slices, and the slices into match-like strips.  Melt the butter or dripping, and fry the vegetables for about 5 or 6 minutes, then add the stock, salt and pepper, and boil slowly until the lettuce is tender (10 to 15 minutes).  Beat the yolks of the eggs, add to them the cream or milk.  Let the soup cool slightly, then pour in the yolks and cream, and stir until the soup thickens, but it must not boil or the eggs will curdle. Take 40 minutes to prepare and is sufficient for 4 persons.

Simnel Cake

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p.575)

Ingredients: 1/2 lb of castor sugar, 6 ozs of butter, 1/2 lb of eggs (weighed in the shells), 1/2 lb of flour, 6 ozs of currants (cleaned), 2 ozs of peel – shredded; for the almond paste: 6 ozs of castor sugar, 3 ozs of ground almonds, 1 egg.

Method: Beat the butter and sugar to a cream, add each egg separately, stir in as lightly as possible the candied peel, currants and flour.  Work the sugar, ground almonds, and egg to a stiff paste, and roll out to the size of the cake-tin.  Put half the cake mixture into a lined cake-tin, add the almond paste, and lastly a second layer of cake.  Bake in a moderate oven from 1 to 1  1/4 hours.  If preferred the cake mixture can be divided into three layers and the almond paste into two. Takes 2 hours to make and bake.

Aunt Betsey’s Cake

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p. 565)

Ingredients: 5 teacupfuls of flour, 2 teacupfuls of sugar, 1/2 a cup of butter, 1 cup of golden syrup, 1 cup of water, 2 eggs, 1/2 lb of chopped raisins, 1 teaspoonful (each) of bicarbonate of soda, cloves, cinnamon, and mace.

Method: Beat the butter and sugar together; add the eggs, dissolve the soda in the water, then add the golden syrup, flour, spices and fruit, and work the mixture in the bowl.  Turn it into a greased flat square tin baking-dish and bake in a moderate oven, or if preferred in small crinkled patty-pans. Takes 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours to make and bake.

Baroness Pudding

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, pp. 436-437)

Ingredients: 6 ozs of finely chopped suet, 6 ozs of flour, 6 ozs of raisins (stoned), 1/4 pint of milk, 1/2 saltspoonful of salt.

Method: Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the milk and stir well.  Put into a well-greased basin, and boil or steam for about 3 hours.  Serve with any suitable sweet sauce, or with a little sugar. Takes about 3 and 3/4 hours to make and is sufficient for 4 persons.Vintage Cooking 4

Posted in Event, Exhibition, Fashion History, History, Motoring History, Museum, Review, Vintage

1950’s Britain – Part One

Coronation bobby pins from 1953 that I recently brought at a vintage fair.
Detail of 1953 coronation bobby pin.

In the last few months I have found myself attending a number of 1950s themed events and this has spurred me on to delve further into this incredible decade in British history. There has never been a better time to look again at 1950s Britain, a decade of choice, change and challenges. Interest in all aspects of fifties living is currently at an all time high. This is of course partly due to the fact that we are now only one week away from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and a four-day weekend. If you are attending or organising any vintage events to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, then I hope you are able to gain inspiration from my four articles.  For more information on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, please CLICK HERE .

Another royal treat which may be of particular interest to those fascinated with the life (and loves!) of Queen Victoria are her private diaries which are now available, for the first time, on-line. The complete collection of journals are kept in the Royal Archives. Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee and the digitisation of her journals seems a most fitting tribute to this extraordinary Queen.  The journals cover her childhood to her Diamond Jubilee and beyond. The date range is 1832-1901. A truly absorbing read. CLICK HERE and start browsing.

Me wearing vintage at MShed Bristol 2012.

I recently attended a 50s and 60s Vintage Weekend (24th-25th March) at the recently opened Mshed Museum in Bristol.  Mshed Museum is located on Bristol’s historic dockside in a former 1950s transit shed. The Museum tells the story of the history of Bristol and the people who helped create this splendid city.  The inspiration for the Vintage Weekend came from an exhibition then on at the Museum, ‘An Eye For Fashion: An Exhibition of British Fashion Photography by Norman Parkinson 1954-1964’ (21st January – 15th April). The exhibition was made-up of sixty original Norman Parkinson photographs featuring British fashion designers from 1954-1964. The photographs were on loan from the Angela Williams Archive Designers of British Fashion portfolio and on display in Bristol for the very first time.  Angela worked as Parkinson’s assistant during the 1960s. To compliment the photographs there was also a really lovely exhibition, ‘Bristol Fashion’, featuring 50s and 60s costumes from the Museum’s permanent collection. There were loads of vintage trade stalls too. The weather behaved itself and a fantastic time had by all.  My friend and I created our own 50s inspired outfits which went down a storm.  We were also lucky to meet the delightful Angela Williams in person. Angela passed some very favourable comments about our vintage attire. My friend and I even made it into an on-line article written by Alice Roberton for the ultimate style bible of modern-day vintage lovers, Homes & Antiques magazine. A lovely mention too for Come Step Back in Time. For article, please CLICK HERE.

My friend and I took to the historic dockside in Bristol to do a mini-fashion shoot inspired by the Norman Parkinson exhibition. Mixing fashion with an industrial background is a theme that appears in a number of photographs by Parkinson from this period.
Me on the balcony at MShed Museum. Leopard prints were all the rage in the 1950s so I decided to base my outfit around this theme. To create the look, I took an old Marks and Spencers faux-fur hat, cut-off the brim and fashioned a pillbox style hat. The brim I attached to the neck of an old black, button-through cardigan to create a stylish collar. I removed the original buttons and replaced with pearl-look ones. I borrowed a pair of white 1950s gloves from my mother-in-law. The stockings I wore were period accurate, although they tended to lose their shape as there was no Lycra in them. I wore a 1950s style girdle brought from London-based vintage shapewear specialists What Katie Did. The handbag is an original on loan from my dear friend Carolyn Hair.

The topics I will be covering in my homage to 1950s Britain include: homes; interior design; fashion and beauty; leisure activities; food and cookery as well as some of the more unusual aspects of fifties Britain that are often overlooked in articles written on the decade. I have also interviewed various members of my family about their experiences of growing-up in Britain during the 1950s. I am thankful to them for being so open and honest with their replies to my endless questions.

My mother has been an absolute hero and agreed to tackle the construction of an original 1952 blouse pattern by way of an experiment by the modern dressmaker.  The challenge was not as easy as one might expect.  I bring you her do’s and don’ts for anyone wishing to take on this challenge for themselves in a later article.

I must also give special thanks to the wonderful curatorial team at St. Barbe Museum in Lymington, Hampshire. They have allowed me to share with you some really special 1950s items held in their collection, several of which were recently  put on display for their exhibition, ‘1950’s – Having it so Good’ (17th March-28th April).  A well-curated exhibition giving an insight into every aspect of life in 1950s Britain, topics included: Modern Society Comes of Age; At Home; Design in the Home; Car Ownership; Ceramics; Clothing and Fashion; Toys and Games; Music; The Festival of Britain; The Coronation; Immigration; Suez Crisis and The War. The exhibition also included material from the period donated by members of the public, a very nice touch indeed. The end result was an exhibition that was also a collaborative project with the local community in and around Lymington.

St. Barbe Museum are also holding a number of family friendly events to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, for further information on these, please CLICK HERE. There will also be an exhibition to accompany the events, showing how the people of Lymington have celebrated Coronations and Jubilees from Queen Victoria to the present day.  On display will be items not normally seen on display. The ‘Special Mini-Exhibition: A Royal Celebration’ opens on Saturday 2nd June and runs until Saturday 30thJune.

A selection of wartime ration books on display at Swanage Museum, Dorset.


1950s Britain was a decade of considerable change. The early years were pretty tough. Food rationing remained until 4th July 1954 and imported goods were very expensive. The average Briton could not afford any of life’s little luxuries. The supposed dawn of a new age precipitated a thirst for a better way of life and a new direction for Britain. The Nation’s increased optimism was to come extent, a little premature, as the threat of a Third World War loomed, instigated by the crisis in Korea. This dangerous political situation must have never been far from the minds of politicians and general public alike.

From the inside of my mother’s Royalty in Essex book. All schoolchildren in the UK received a special copy of a book to celebrate the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

On February 6th February 1952, King George VI died and his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, succeeded him to the throne. Although her coronation did not take place until 2nd June 1953. The new Queen and her husband offered the nation hope for a brighter future. The young couple was a breath of fresh air in the royal establishment. The new modern age needed a bright, young couple at its helm to steer the country into uncharted territories.  The nation came together in celebration of this momentous occasion and the coronation was the first major event to receive international television coverage.

My mother and aunt recalled that in 1953 all schoolchildren were presented with a souvenir book to mark the coronation.  The book’s contents varied from county to county but in each instance reflected that particular county’s royal connections as well its important historical landmarks. My mother and aunt were brought-up in Essex and they were given the book Royalty in Essex. After much rummaging in the attic, my mother managed to locate her copy.

Book given to all UK school children to mark the 1953 coronation. This book belongs to my mother.

By the end of the decade the average weekly wage had doubled and income tax rates fallen. Britons with disposable incomes burning a hole in their pockets were seduced by Americanisation and consumer culture. Mass consumption was born. Previously, every penny counted but now everyone could enjoy the benefits that came with greater financial freedom. Car ownership doubled during the decade and by 1959, one in three families owned a car. The road infrastructure underwent a major overhaul and Britain’s first motorway, the Preston By-Pass (now part of the M6 in Lancashire), opened in 1958.

My family and some of their friends on a beach in Hythe, Kent. 1956.

I asked my mother and aunt about what life was like growing-up in 1950’s Britain? My aunt recalls that for her it was: ‘..a very jolly, carefree time – which as children, all appeared to be, and we were indeed very happy. Our parents were very loving and caring and always endeavoured to protect us from the ‘outside world’ and we were very fortunate to have experienced a comfortable upbringing.’

Family outing to Wannock Tea Gardens, Polegate, Sussex. 1955.

The family photo albums from the period reflect this happy truth and include lots of snapshots taken on various days out. My mother and aunt were fortunate, my granddad owned a car which meant seaside holidays, picnics in parks and visits to places of interest were commonplace. In the early 1950’s, my granddad had a second-hand, dark, powder blue, Ford Consul MKI.

My aunt and uncle standing in front of granddad’s Ford Consul MKI. Galleywood Common. 1955.

Following receipt of a bonus from the company he worked for, in 1957 granddad purchased a new, grey Ford Consul 204E (MKII – 1956). Ford Zephyrs, Zodiacs and Consuls were very popular in Britain in the 1950’s, partly due to their American design influence. The Consul launched in February 1956 and for the next six years became popular with families, who were seeking a car with style, space and comfort. Consul’s had spacious interiors with six seats – created by the column interchange; there was also a large boot. The four-cylinder Consul had a cruising speed of 65 mph and the passenger comfort was good. All in all the Consul became the perfect classic, family car of the 1950s. Another popular car during the 50s was the British-made Morris Minor, marketed as a reasonably priced car for the masses, designed by Sir Alec Issigonis.

My granddad’s brand new Ford Consul 204E MKII. Brought in 1957.
My uncle beside the brand new family car in 1957.

The Consul proved to be a bit of an embarrassment to my aunt though. None of her classmates’ parents owned such a ‘flashy car’ and she hated being picked-up from Junior School in it. The embarrassment was so profound that she begged her parents to allow her to change schools so that she could travel back and forth on the school bus. Her parents ignored the pleadings.

Family picnic on Galleywood Common. 1957. My granddad’s pride and joy, the Ford Consul can be seen in the background. My grandma wearing her high heels for the occasion of a picnic always amuses my aunt.
My family at Pevensey Castle, East Sussex. 1955.


In 1951, the South Bank of the Thames underwent a massive programme of urban regeneration to make way for the forthcoming Festival of Britain. The Festival was in part intended as a nod to the Great Exhibition of 1851, a fact that was pretty much lost in all the hoopla surrounding the event. Between its opening in May and closure in September, 8.5 million people visited the Festival. The festival director, Gerald Barry, declared the event would be a “tonic to the nation”.

All over Britain, cities and towns held their own Festival of Britain celebrations. This is the programme produced by Southampton city and shows the Festival’s red, white and blue emblem designed by Abram Games. This object is on display at Tudor House and Gardens Museum in Southampton, Hampshire.

The patriotic colours red, white and blue shown in the Festival’s motif designed by Abram Games were with a mind to catch the Festival mood. It was supposed to represent the bright new mood of optimism of Britain in 1951. The nation was given a ‘face-lift’ and there was a general ‘tidying-up’ of towns, cities and villages. War damaged buildings were restored and rubble posthumously swept from the highways, byways and high streets. The government wanted to give the rest of the world the appearance of a whole nation pulling together and recovering from adversity.

The New Towns Act had been passed in 1948, resulting in the construction of some 2,500 schools and ten New Towns within the following decade. Some of these New Towns included Stevenage, Harlow, Basildon and Crawley. However, the Festival’s own Live Architecture Exhibition at the Lansbury Site was very poorly attended, one example of how the minds of the public were diverted to the jamboree on the South Bank.  Out of the 8.5 million Festival visitors, only 86,646 attended the Live Architecture Exhibition. All the exhibits at the Live Architecture Exhibition were constructed out of materials and layouts that were the result of scientific discoveries.

Post-war land space was scarce so architects designed Tower Blocks that were functional and of simple design. This hailed the start of the ‘New Brutalism’ architectural movement of the 1950’s.  The first New Brutalist building was the Secondary School at Hunstanton (1949-54). The movement was spearheaded by two, young architects, Peter and Alison Smithson.

The Festival offered an opportunity to showcase the best of British modern design. Robin and Lucienne Day, Sir Terence Conran and Ernest Race were a few of the high-profile designers involved in the event. Ernest Race’s Antelope chair, with its rust-proofed and stove-enamelled frame, plywood seat bent into shape by steam and pressure became a design icon of the Festival. The chair had ‘molecular’ style feet, picking-up the science theme evident right across all of the exhibits and room displays. Race’s chair was mass-produced in its thousands and seen by the public everywhere at the event.

Ernest Race’s Antelope Chair designed for The Festival of Britain. This chair was produced in 1950. It is on display at Portsmouth City Museum.

The concrete plant-pots seen all over the site were designed by Maria Shepherd and became very popular in the 1960s. The Royal Festival Hall, designed by Leslie Martin and her team, was built to replace the bombed Queen’s Hall. In the Homes and Gardens Pavilion, room-settings showed furniture with braced legs, cane work, aluminium lattices, Cotswold-type walling with picture windows, flying staircases, blonde wood and lily-of-the-valley splays of light bulbs.

Despite large visitor numbers to the South Bank, criticism was levied on the Labour government for organising such an extravagant event in tough economic times. Perhaps one of the many reasons why Labour lost the 1951 General Election. One of the most enduring symbols of the 1951 Festival of Britain was the Skylon. Designed by Hidalgo Moya, Philip Powell and Felix Samuely Bank.  The structure loomed large over the South Bank. Some commentators joked that it was like austerity Britain and had, “no visible means of support”.

Skylon’s post-Festival fate has long been subject to debate. However, after the Festival, the newly elected Conservative government thought the Labour commissioned structure to be a symbol of socialism. After a great deal of wrangling, Winston Churchill ordered it to be scrapped in 1952. It was not thrown into the Thames, which had been suggested by some but was turned into scrap metal and sold. A prudent measure, considering the shortage of these materials in Britain at the time.