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Shopping South of the Thames

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posted by alias raaen99 on Sunday 9th of October 2022 06:41:09 AM

Cavendish Mews is a smart set of flats in Mayfair where flapper and modern woman, the Honourable Lettice Chetwynd has set up home after coming of age and gaining her allowance. To supplement her already generous allowance, and to break away from dependence upon her family, Lettice has established herself as a society interior designer, so her flat is decorated with a mixture of elegant antique Georgian pieces and modern Art Deco furnishings, using it as a showroom for what she can offer to her well heeled clients. Today however, on this fine summer day, we are following Lettice as she and Gerald head south-west through the London streets in Gerald’s little Morris*. Taking the Brompton Road, they drive through Belgravia and then Chelsea as Brompton Road becomes Fulham Road. They drive past the Brompton Cemetery and through the historic centre of Walham Green before going on through Fulham, finally turning south along the Fulham High Street. Passing the Hurlingham Club along the banks of the Thames they continue to go south. As Gerald drives his Morris over the Thames on Putney Bridge, Lettice glances around her. “I thought you were taking me to buy a new hat, Gerald.” “I am Lettice darling.” he replies good naturedly. “But this isn’t Bond Street. Far from it, in fact.” she counters as they reach the south side of the bridge, and she takes in a semi-circle of tall two and three storey Victorian and Edwardian brick buildings to their right and the crenelled tower of a stone church on their left. “Where are you taking me?” “For a woman who has lived in London for nearly two years, you haven’t strayed far from Mayfair, have you Lettuce Leaf?” Gerald observes with a smirk. “Don’t call me that Gerald! You know how I hate it! If you weren’t driving this car, “ scowls Lettice. “I’d hit you with my handbag.” “Think of this like your own personal tour of Putney.” “Putney?” Lettice’s eyes grow wide. “You’re taking me to a hatters in Putney?” “Don’t be such an elitist Lettuce Leaf.” Sulking in her seat, clutching her handbag with her arms folded across her chest she mutters, “That’s rich coming from you, the man who bemoans middle-class money paying for the acquisition of his frocks.” “Just sit back, relax and enjoy the view, darling.” Gerald replies breezily as he turns off the Putney High Street and into a tree lined avenue which Lettice reads as being Hazlewell Road. The pair drive in silence for a little while, Gerald concentrating on where they are going and Lettice looking at the view as Gerald suggested from her vantage point in the passenger seat alongside him. “The houses seem awfully samey here, don’t you think?” she asks as they pass double storey Edwardian villa after double storey Edwardian villa made of red brick with bay windows, set in neat gardens behind privet hedges or low brick fences. “No more than Pimlico,” Gerald observes. “Just newer is all.” Gerald’s Morris finally pulls up in front of one such Edwardian villa. Lettice looks out of her door at it. The villa looks exactly the same as all the others on that side of the street: red brick with crenelled bay windows upstairs and down to either side of a porticoed door. In fact, the portico is one of the few differences that distinguish it from its neighbours either side. It has an arched portico which matches the arch in the lunette above the white painted front door, whereas its neighbours have square porticos with crenelling that matches that along the tops of the bay windows. Two banks of chimneypots at either side of the villa rise from the steeply hipped roof of shingles and a central attic balconette with French doors is flanked by oriel windows. “Now, I want you to be good, Lettuce Leaf!” Gerald cautions his friend with a wagging finger encapsulated by his Dents driving glove**. “This is the home of Harriet Milford. Her father was a family solicitor. He died last year, leaving her an orphan. The house he left to her, but with no other real inheritance. With no income, so to speak, she has taken in lodgers.” Lettice screws up her face in horror. “Lodgers! You’ve brought me to a lodging ho…” “I said behave, Lettuce Leaf!” Gerald scolds her, arching his eyebrows. “I haven’t finished talking yet. Mr. Milford believed in education, but sadly only for boys. He wasn’t expecting to pass away before his daughter married, so without any employable skills, she’s turned her hand to what she can do.” “And how did you come to meet this, Harriet Milford?” Lettice asks, her mouth a thin red lipsticked line of disapproval with turned down ends. “She and I frequent the same haberdashers. After running into one another several times, I finally asked her what she did to buy so much ribbon and so many artificial flowers. And that was when she told me that having no real skill other than sewing, after her father died, as well as take in lodgers, she has turned her hand to millinery to make end meet.” “I hope, my dear Gerald, that you aren’t expecting me to buy a hat from her out of pity.” “Not at all, my dear. I’ve been here a number of times now, to take tea with Harriet, and I can assure you that her hat making skills rival that of Madame Gwendolyn. Already she has gained quite a reputation amongst the local ladies.” Lettice snorts dismissively at the thought of the middle-class matrons of Putney and their choices of millinery. Undeterred, Gerald continues, “Since Sadie has forbidden you to wear a hat from Selfridges to Leslie’s wedding, and I can’t say I disagree…” “My hats from Sel…” “I still haven’t finished!” Gerald interrupts his friend. “Since Sadie won’t let you wear a Selfridges hat to the wedding, and I won’t sit next to you at the wedding breakfast if you do, and you won’t go back to Madame Gwendolyn, I thought Harriet’s hat making skills would be the perfect solution. Now, come.” He puts his hand on the handle of his door and pushes it down, opening it slightly. He pauses just before getting out and turns back to his friend. “And remember to behave.” “I always behave, Gerald!” Lettice defends herself as she opens her own door and steps out onto the sunny footpath. Gerald walks around the front of the car and joins Lettice on the footpath. “Shall we?” he proffers his arm to his friend, which she accepts. They step up to the black painted wrought iron gate flanked by two capped red brick pillars. Gerald opens the gate and together they walk in and up the garden path snaking across a well clipped lawn. Standing beneath the arched portico, Lettice can hear the notes of an oboe being played through one of the oriel windows open above. “That will be Cyril.” Gerald remarks as he depresses the doorbell next to the front door. The hollow ring that resounds through the hallway within is answered by a pair of scuttling footsteps as the front door is flung open exuberantly. “Gerry darling!” gasps a young woman around Lettice’s age who throws her arms enthusiastically and perhaps a little overly familiarly around Gerald’s neck. Lettice feels a momentary pang of jealousy in her stomach as she sees Gerald return Harriet’s enthusiastic embrace in a way that she thought only she and Gerald shared. With a quick flutter of her eyelashes, she dismisses the thought, but the pang in her stomach does not go away. “Hullo Hattie darling!” He holds her at arm’s length. “My you do look well.” “I sold another two hats yesterday, so I’m tickled pink, Gerry darling!” she gushes with a girlish giggle and a proud smile. Lettice tries to force a cough. At the sound of Lettice gently clearing her throat, the spell between Gerald and Harriet is broken and Gerald quickly returns his attentions to Lettice. “Harriet, may I present my childhood chum, the Honourable Lettice Chetwynd. Lettice, Miss Harriet Milford.” Lettice takes in Harriet’s appearance from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. Looking more closely at her Lettice decides that she is actually possibly a year or two younger than she and Gerald are, with mousy brown hair cut into a soft bob. Her floral cotton frock with its drop waist and side flounces must surely be home made, yet it is obviously made well as it sits on her slender figure every bit as smartly as Lettice’s outfit, which has been expertly cut for her by Gerald. Her shoes show the wear of a few years and her stockings have been carefully mended. She looks across at Lettice with a pretty face, free of makeup. Her brown eyes are like deep pools, clear and bright, and they are framed by naturally long lashes. “How do you do, Miss Chetwynd.” Harriet says in a polite and well bred voice. “How do you do, Miss Milford.” she replies, returning Harriet’s open smile with a polite one of her own. “Tut, tut, Hattie!” Gerald says, reaching across and plucking a piece of red cotton off Harriet’s shoulder, which Lettice finds an uncomfortably intimate gesture. Holding it out in front of Harriet he continues, “You mustn’t be answering the door wearing loose threads.” He smiles cheekily. “Oh I’m busy making a new hat to replenish my stocks.” Harriet replies, blushing as she lowers her lids, and holds out her hands to accept the trailing thread of red. “Please, come this way Miss Chetwynd,” she adds, ushering Lettice and Gerald into the house. “You know the way Gerry darling.” “Gerry darling?” Lettice queries quietly with a cocked eyebrow and a mirthful smile as she slips past the blushing Gerald and follows her hostess across the threshold into the black and white tiled hallway stuffed with Edwardian vestibule furniture. “Please make yourself comfortable in here, Miss Chetwynd,” Harriet says, flinging open the first door on the left side of the hallway and indicating with an extended arm for Lettice to enter. “I’ll be like Polly and pop the kettle on. Back in a jiffy*** my dears!” And with scuttling footsteps she disappears into the gloom of the house further down the hallway. Walking into the room as she has been told, Lettice gazes around it. Noting the flouncy Edwardian settee an matching armchair by the fire she remarks, “This is obviously the parlour.” Noticing a sewing machine sitting in the bay window where it can get the best light she adds, “Or was.” It is then, as Gerald indicates with an open gesture to what must once have been a tea table, that Lettice sees several beautifully fashioned hats propped on wooden hatstands basking in the diffused light coming through the lace scrim curtains of the bay window. She gasps at the sight of them and immediately walks up to scrutinise them more closely. Two are made of straw and one of felt. The felt hat is dyed a dramatic turquoise colour and is trimmed with fine braid, garlands of ribbons and feathers dyed to match the shade of the felt. One of the straw hats is dyed a romantic shade of soft mauve, whilst the other remains its natural colour. The mauve hat’s romance is added to by a mixture of artificial flowers and clusters of ribbons woven expertly around the brim. The other hat is plainer with less decoration, yet its restrained treatment makes it every bit as elegant as the mauve hat. None of them would look out of place at Ascot or a tea party at Buckingham Palace. Lettice thumbs the may green ribbon of the plain straw hat thoughtfully. “These are exquisite, Gerald.” “I knew you’d like Hattie’s work.” Gerald sighs with satisfaction. *Morris Motors Limited was a privately owned British motor vehicle manufacturing company established in 1919. With a reputation for producing high-quality cars and a policy of cutting prices, Morris's business continued to grow and increase its share of the British market. By 1926 its production represented forty-two per cent of British car manufacturing. Amongst their more popular range was the Morris Cowley which included a four-seat tourer which was first released in 1920. **Dents is a British company that crafts luxury leather gloves, handbags, small leather goods. Dents is known for its hand cutting, sewing, and stitching techniques, which are still practised today on some limited top end products, most merchandise being purchased from third-party factories. Dents was established in Worcester in 1777 as a manufacturer of fine leather gloves by John Dent (1751–1811). It is possibly Britain's oldest existing fashion manufacturer. Dent's sons, John and William, helped the company expand throughout the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. In 1845, mechanical sewing was introduced to the company to assist craftspeople. The company has a modern factory in Warminster, Wiltshire, having been present in the town since 1937. ***The expression in a jiffy was in use as early as 1780. It is a colloquial English expression for “in a short amount of time.” The origins of jiffy are unknown, though there are theories. One suggestion is that it comes from British thieves’ slang for “lightning,” hence very fast. An early instance appears in 1780 edition of Town and Country Magazine: “Most of the limbs of the law do every thing in a jiffy”. Contrary to popular belief, fashion at the beginning of the Roaring 20s did not feature the iconic cloche hat as a commonly worn head covering. Although invented by French milliner Caroline Reboux in 1908, the cloche hat did not start to gain popularity until 1922, so even though this story is set in that year, picture hats, a hangover from the pre-war years, were still de rigueur in fashionable society and whilst Lettice is fashionable, she and many other fashionable women still wore the more romantic picture hat. Although nowhere near as wide, heavy, voluminous or as ornate as the hats worn by women between the turn of the Twentieth Century and the Great War, the picture hats of the 1920s were still wide brimmed, although they were generally made of straw or some lightweight fabric and were decorated with a more restrained touch. This rather cluttered and chaotic scene of a drawing room cum workroom may look real to you, but believe it or not, it is made up entirely with pieces from my 1:12 miniatures collection, including pieces from my childhood. Fun things to look for in this tableau include: 1:12 size miniature hats made to such exacting standards of quality and realism such as these are often far more expensive than real hats are. When you think that it would sit comfortably on the tip of your index finger, yet it could cost in excess of $150.00 or £100.00, it is an extravagance. American artists seem to have the monopoly on this skill and some of the hats that I have seen or acquired over the years are remarkable. The natural yellow straw hat with green trim and the mauve dyed straw hat with mauve and green trim were both made by the same unknown artisan in America. The aqua hat behind the two straw hats was made by an unknown British artisan. All three hats were acquired through auctions on E-Bay. The hat stands the hats rest on are all part of a larger collection I bought from an American miniature collector Marilyn Bickel. The multi coloured feathers in the earthenware vase on the table behind the hats also belonged to Marilyn Bickel. The copies of Weldon’s Dressmaker and the Lady’s World Fancy Work Book are 1:12 size miniatures made by the British miniature artisan Ken Blythe. Most of the books I own that he has made may be opened to reveal authentic printed interiors. In some cases, you can even read the words, depending upon the size of the print! I have quite a large representation of Ken Blythe’s work in my collection, but so little of his real artistry is seen because the books that he specialised in making are usually closed, sitting on shelves or closed on desks and table surfaces. In this case, the magazines are non-opening, however what might amaze you is that all Ken Blythe’s books and magazines are authentically replicated 1:12 scale miniatures of real volumes. To create something so authentic to the original in such detail and so clearly, really does make this a miniature artisan piece. Ken Blythe’s work is highly sought after by miniaturists around the world today and command high prices at auction for such tiny pieces, particularly now that he is no longer alive. I was fortunate enough to acquire pieces from Ken Blythe prior to his death about four years ago, as well as through his estate via his daughter and son-in-law. His legacy will live on with me and in my photography which I hope will please his daughter. The spools of ribbon, the tape measure, the silver sewing scissors in the shape of a stork and the box of embroidery threads I acquired from Kathleen Knight’s Dolls’ House in the United Kingdom. The table on which all these items stand is a Queen Anne lamp table which I was given for my seventh birthday. It is one of the very first miniature pieces of furniture I was ever given as a child. The sewing machine to the left of the photo, I bought from Melody Jane’s Doll House Suppliers in the United Kingdom. It is made with extreme attention to detail, complete with a painted black metal body, authentic sewing mechanisms and a worksurface “inlaid” with mother-of-pearl. The round white metal sewing tin on the sewing machine’s surface is another artisan piece I have had since I was a young teenager. If you look closely you will see it contains a black velvet pin cushion, a pair of sewing scissors, needles, threads and two thimbles. Considering this is a 1:12 artisan miniature, imagine how minute the thimbles are! This I bought from a high street shop that specialised in dolls and doll house furnishings. It does have a lid which features artificial flowers and is trimmed with braid, but I wanted to show off the contents of the tin in this image, so it does not feature. The spools of red, yellow, orange and blue cottons come from various online shops who sell dollhouse miniatures. The salon chair drawn up to the sewing machine is part of a Marie Antionette suite with pretty floral upholstery which has been made by the high-end miniatures manufacturer, Creal. Harriet’s family photos seen cluttering the mantlepiece and the bookshelf in the background are all real photos, produced to high standards in 1:12 size on photographic paper by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. The frames are almost all from Melody Jane’s Dollhouse Suppliers in the United Kingdom and are made of metal with glass in each. The porcelain clock on the mantlepiece is made by M.W. Reutter Porzellanfabrik in Germany, who specialise in making high quality porcelain miniatures. The Edwardian mantlepiece is made of moulded plaster and was acquired from Kathleen Knight’s Doll’s House in the United Kingdom. The bookshelf in the background comes from Babette’s Miniatures, who have been making miniature dolls’ furnishings since the late eighteenth century. The paintings and prints on the walls all come from Kathleen Knight’s Doll’s House in the United Kingdom.



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