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1930s Kitchen Furniture

1930s Kitchen Furniture

Our new favourite shopping destination is the flea market which takes place on the last Saturday of each month at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Edinburgh. So far, we’ve got some good deals by going along towards the end of the day (out of laziness more than drive to get a bargain, mind you).

On my first trip, I picked up The Home of To-Day: Its Choice, Planning, Equipment and Organisation. This housewives’ manual was published by the Daily Express in what looks to be the 1930s. Here’s what it presents as the desirable kitchen:

Fitted kitchen cupboards

Fitted kitchen


Small gas cooker

Large gas cooker

Family-size gas cooker

Anthracite stove

Anthracite stove

Fitted sink cupboards

Fitted sink cupboards

Kitchen sitting room

Kitchen sitting room for a maid


Well-organised dresser

Enclosed units

Enclosed units for easier cleaning

I certainly wouldn’t mind the dresser or anthracite stove.


W.I. Fashion

Bridgnorth’s charity shops always come up with the goods. Today, I bought a compilation of Home and Country for £1.25. Home and Country is the magazine that  the UK’s Women’s Institute (W.I.) started publishing in 1919.

Because you can never have enough pictures of inter-war clothing and hair…

Summer dresses

Summer outfit ideas, 1941

Ostrich skin shoe

Ostrich skin shoe, 1922

Bra and girdle

Brassiere and girdle, date unknown

Women's legs in tights

Anlaby Hosiery, World War II years

Women in overalls and aprons

Women’s overalls, date unknown

Women in felt hats

Francobarbe remodelled hats, date unknown

Women and hair clip

Lady Jayne Wave Clip, 1920s

Women in dress

Dress dyeing, date unknown

Women in swimsuit

Knitted two-piece bathing suit, date unknown

Women in 1940s dresses

Spring afternoon dresses, 1941

The Thrift – a year on

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the cottage where my grandmother grew up. The photos in that post were taken by my dad. After a failed attempt earlier this year when we nearly ended up on Ministry of Defence land, today the elder of my two nieces and I found the right path to the cottage so that we could see it for ourselves.

It wasn’t the best weather for exploring: constant rain and very muddy. Also, I had to backtrack in a big way when, after assuring my niece that no one would be about at this time of year in such bad weather (‘No, I can’t see a man behind the tree…’), we stumbled across a shoot. Fortunately, as intimidating as it is to come across several men with guns in the middle of a wood, everything of interest to them was in the opposite direction to that in which we were heading.

The front door of The Thrift was wide open, so I was able to take photos of its interior rooms. N.B. My niece stayed safely outside the building and had a working phone with her, and her mum (who’s less keen on mud) was parked less than a ten-minute walk away.

The approach to The Thrift20121229-163246.jpg

The brook which provided the cottage with water

The kitchen

The stove20121229-163425.jpg

The sitting room fireplace – I’m very surprised no one has taken it!20121229-163511.jpg


This crack runs right down the side of the building20121229-163549.jpg

The cottage was much smaller than I remembered, but then I’m at least twenty years older than the last time I was there. I was pleased that so much of it was still standing for my niece to see. She was impressed that her great-grandmother got her own water from a stream and hiked across fields to work.

Continued: From John O’Groats – July 1930

Continued: From John O’Groats – July 1930

Well, The Scottish Aeneas has done it again.

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about a postcard that I had bought for a quid that was sent from a father to a son in July 1930. The father was holidaying in John O’Groats, in the north of Scotland, and the son – whose name I could not make out – was living in the affluent New Town district of Edinburgh.

Fathers seem to have been just as economical as communicators in 1930 as they are today, as the postcard sweetly but simply says:

This is a very lovely place[;] the view to Orkney is very clear – Dad

The Scottish Aeneas has done his detective work and has made out the son’s name as Eric Crosbee. According to the Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Eric became an architect, was born on 21st June 1912, and his father was Walter Gould Crosbee, a mechanical engineer. Eric started his architectural apprenticeship in Edinburgh in March 1930, a few months before Walter sent him this postcard. Eric married Kathleen Howson Drummond and died, aged 92, on 28th June 2004. Here’s one of Eric’s sketches:

The Outlook Tower, Castlehill, Edinburgh from a sketch by Mr Eric Crosbee (from

The Scottish Aeneas has also managed to obtain a picture of Walter Crosbee’s gravestone, which can be found in Edinburgh’s Dean Cemetery. The headstone reveals that Eric’s mother, Sarah Ann Hutton Crosbee, was an artist – not surprising given Eric’s talent. It also looks like Eric had an older brother, Ronald, who seems to have followed in his father’s engineering footsteps.

Gravestone of Walter Crosbee and family. Generously provided by Charles Sale and (c) Gravestone Photographic Resource,

I had a bumper find of 1960s postcards at Edinburgh’s Omni Car Boot in January 2012, and I hope to get to bringing you these soon. Meanwhile, thank you, as always, to the Scottish Aeneas for his hard work – please do visit his blog if you’re interested in the history of Edinburgh.

From John O’Groats – July 1930

From John O’Groats – July 1930

Steptoes in the Newington area of Edinburgh is well-placed for student business, but I’m not the only person to still shop there long after their studies have finished. It sells affordable second-hand furniture – anything from early twentieth-century wardrobes to unwanted IKEA – and a good scattering of bric-a-brac. On my latest trip, I got a nest of three tables (for £9!), and couldn’t resist getting this postcard too.

For the princely sum of £1, I acquired this eighty-one year-old holiday memento. Sent from a father to a son when the former was holidaying at John O’Groats in July 1930, it carries a brief message:

This is a very lovely place[;] the view to Orkney is very clear – Dad

The son’s address is 21 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh, which is on the edge of Edinburgh’s New Town. The New Town is probably the most prestigious area of the city, so it seems fair to assume that this family was reasonably comfortably-off. Here’s what 21 Claremont Crescent looks like today (links to Google Maps).

The one thing I cannot make out is the name of the son – the addressee. Suggestions welcome! (The Scottish Aeneas, that means you!)

Oh, and the very best for 2012!

The Thrift

The Thrift

A month since I last posted. Ouch. Today’s post has been brewing for a good portion of that time, so I’m pleased to finally bring it to you.

The Thrift, October 2011 ((c) Don Collie 2011)

My dad recently sent me a photo of the house where my maternal grandmother lived during much of her childhood. As you can see, it’s dilapidated, something which both saddens and reassures me: saddens because a place which was once so central to several people’s lives has been abandoned; reassures me because, having heard my nan’s vivid accounts of life there, it is difficult to imagine it inhabited by anyone else.

My nan, her two sisters (she was the youngest) and parents lived at this house – ‘The Thrift’ – in the 194os and possibly the late 1930s. It’s  a farm worker’s cottage on the Willey Estate in Shropshire. The house has never, to my knowledge, ever had a road or track reaching it, but the apparently very rural location belies the fact that the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution – Ironbridge – is just a few miles away. My nan ended up spending most of her life in the also-nearby ex-mining town of Broseley.

Both of my maternal grandparents were great storytellers (from my child’s-eye view), and their stories were about local folklore and history, including their own early lives. My nan moved home several times growing up, her parents being farm workers whose accommodation depended on their employer, but the The Thrift was the home about which she spoke most often and fondly.
I associate The Thrift not so much with lovely countryside as with food. I don’t think I’m doing my nan a disservice when I say that food – meat in particular – was the central pillar around which the rest of her life was built. The Thrift’s larder was remembered as an endless source of dripping and gravy, and the annual killing of the family pig (not the same one!), and all the meat that resulted, was a hearty story. Rabbits were a key source of food for the family; catching them was my nan’s favourite activity, not least because of the one-on-one time it gave her with her father (with whom she had a doting, fiery relationship). Rabbit hunting gave my nan some of the hours of outdoor exercise that built up her immense appetite. She doted on a particular one of the ferrets that were used to drive the rabbits out of their warren and towards a blow to the back of the head from my great-grandad.
Nan, great-aunt, great-granny and unknown man, The Thrift, c. mid-late 1940sHere’s my nan at The Thrift (front right), along with her oldest sister (front left) and mother (standing at the back and prematurely grey from pernicious anaemia), along with an unidentified man who was most probably a boyfriend of one of the daughters – my nan and her sisters had a busy stream of them. It’s lovely to see glass and curtains at the windows, and evidence of the animal life of which my nan often spoke.
I’m not sure quite why The Thrift was allowed to fall into disrepair. Maybe it was too tricky to put an access road and mains services to it, or maybe game bird shooting has meant it’s preferable to keep this part of the Willey Estate uninhabited. I would love to buy it and renovate it (nobody tell my husband), but its placement on a country estate means that this would probably not be permitted. Still, these tough economic times can force lords to do desperate things!
Other cottages that used to stand nearby have long since fallen down altogether and are now only visible as faint rectangular markings in an aerial view. Unless I or someone else gets their act together, I guess it’s only a matter of time before The Thrift follows them.

Where to buy old stuff in Auld Reekie

Where to buy old stuff in Auld Reekie

I’ve deliberated over the idea of writing a post like this on the grounds that it could be argued to be lazy and/or superficial. However, the fact remains that one of my favourite activities is hunting round charity shops and similar in the hope of finding a gem that everyone else has missed. I’ve been doing this with my mum since I was a tiny kid (when it was for necessity rather than sheer pleasure), and even if I won the Euromillions tomorrow, I couldn’t stop myself.

So, here’s my run-down of my favourite places in Edinburgh to buy vintage and the plain old and interesting:

DebRA, 27 Marchmont Crescent

This charity shop, which aims to raise money for people with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), is small but virtually always has something I want. I suspect that its location – in the well-heeled district of Marchmont and near the even better-heeled district of the Grange – could account for its quality stock. I’ve never paid much attention to the clothes here as I’m always distracted by the range of furniture, china and curios (such as 1950s-ish miniature playing cards in their own decorative case) on offer. Having said that, this morning, there was an ex-US army overcoat in there – not something you often see around these parts. Be aware that good stuff here goes very quickly.

Barnardos, 106 Nicolson Street

I have to declare a conflict of interest as one of my friends is the assistant manager of this shop. Nevertheless, I can say in all honesty that this branch of the Barnardos charity shop chain has recently upped its game as far as its vintage stock goes, with clothes being the main thing on offer. They sometimes save up choice items for special events, so keep track of the store on its new Twitter page.

Barnardo’s bookshop, 45 South Clerk Street

Usually a good selection of old books as well as modern titles, and the source of my recently-blogged about copy of Don Quixote.

Oxfam books, 204-6 Morningside Road, Edinburgh

Immediately adjacent to the main Oxfam shop (which sells clothes and household stuff, but which I haven’t much success with as far as old things go), there is a section for aged volumes. I’ve bought a few things here that I hope to blog about at some point.

Bethany Shop, 93 Morningside Road

In my experience, Edinburgh’s Bethany Shops are all good places to get furniture. However, I slightly prefer the Morningside branch over the others I’ve been to because of the usually good range of high quality stuff on offer. If you like early twentieth-century wardrobes, this is the place to keep an eye on. 

Barnardo’s, 29-31 Deanhaugh Street

Edinburgh’s Stockbridge district has no shortage of charity shops and, being the salubrious area it is, there are often some higher-end high street labels on offer. When it comes to vintage fashion, my favourite place is this Barnardo’s store. Some of the stuff I’ve seen here definitely (in my humble opinion) outclasses what’s sold by Edinburgh’s dedicated (non-charitable) vintage fashion stores.

Courtyard Antiques, 108A Causewayside

Bypass the refurbished furniture on display in the shop overlooking Causewayside and head down the side-street into the barn-like building which holds much, much more. This definitely isn’t the place for a bargain, but there is truly beautiful furniture on offer, and a lot of the items in the barn, by virtue of not having been reconditioned, are cheaper than what’s on show in the in shop. There are also all sorts of weird and wonderful things scattered among the wardrobes and tables: I’ve previously spotted a suit of armour, a completed scrapbook which had to be several decades old, World War II-era candles, and original fifties dresses.

Dedicated vintage clothing shops are notable by their absence from the above list. I enjoy browsing these but find that, given someone’s already done all the hunting for you, it’s just not quite as much fun, plus the prices are usually higher. However, I would recommend centrally-located Herman Brown for its relatively discerning stock selection and uncluttered layout. A fuller list of Edinburgh’s dedicated vintage clothing and accessories shops is given on this blog’s right-hand menu bar (under ‘Website’).

Happy shopping!

I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (http://CMP.LY/0/jXFZkQ).

Mystery solved (or some of it)

Mystery solved (or some of it)

Today’s post – including the title – is entirely down to the work of Colin Macaulay. Colin blogs at The Scottish Aeneas, tweets at @Aeneas7c and has been busy solving the mystery of the Don Quixote volume that I blogged about a couple of days ago.

T.H. Seymour Shellard, 10th August 1933, Love Dad

The inscription in the front of the Don Quixote volume is:

T.H. Seymour Shellard, 10th August 1933, Love Dad

Colin has tracked down a family of Shellards who lived in Dublin, and one of name Thomas HS Shellard who was born in 1903 (information from So we now know a little more about the original owner of the volume.

The real puzzle came from a note which accompanied the volume:

"Don QUIXOTE: Spain's greatest novel"

 I had some real trouble transcribing this, only being able to come up with:


Spain’s greatest novel.

Given to me by Tom SHELLARD my literary mentor in my first year in xxxxxxxx in the xxxxxxxxx dept.. We talked more about literature than we did about xxxxx.

Colin made out the second illegible word as cooperage (cask-making), and the third as casks. Colin then did a search for cooperages in Dublin and found the obvious one – Guinness! This is the first illegible word, giving us the complete text:


Spain’s greatest novel.

Given to me by Tom SHELLARD my literary mentor in my first year in Guinness in the cooperage dept.. We talked more about literature than we did about casks.

So we now know that the original owner of the book, Tom Shellard, worked as a cask-maker at Guinness in Dublin.

The second puzzle for me was where the lady who (I assume) donated the book to Barnardo’s, a Mrs Houghton, fitted in. I had thought that Tom Shellard had gifted the book to Mrs Houghton but, as Colin has pointed out, it’s unlikely that a woman was working in a cooperage. Instead, Colin suggests that Mrs Houghton somehow came into possession of the book later.

The final piece of the puzzle: what is the relationship between the Mrs Houghton who gifted this book to Barnardo’s and the A.B. Houghton who illustrated this edition of Don Quixote? This we don’t know. However, as Colin has found out, Arthur Boyd (i.e. A.B.) Houghton was a British painter and illustrator who lived in the nineteenth century. Maybe Mrs Houghton was interested in the work of her namesake, as Colin suggests, and came into possession of the book that way?

So, mystery solved, as much as it may ever be. This has been one of the most enjoyable blog posts I have done so far and it is entirely thanks to the detective work of Colin Macaulay. I mentioned Colin’s blog in yesterday’s post – be sure to visit The Scottish Aeneas! Oh, and be sure to visit your local Barnardo’s bookshop – who knows what you might find…

Tom Shellard, Mrs Houghton and Don Quixote – a literary puzzle

Tom Shellard, Mrs Houghton and Don Quixote – a literary puzzle

My husband is a Don Quixote fan, so I bought him this aged edition as a gift back in 2005. I have never read the novel and possibly never will (yes, I’m a literary heathen), but would have bought this book anyway simply for the story it tells about its previous owners.

The volume (bought from Barnardo’s Bookshop on Nicolson Street, Edinburgh) came with an accompanying note:

"Don QUIXOTE: Spain's greatest novel"

 I can’t make all of this out; my partial transcription is:


Spain’s greatest novel.

Given to me by Tom SHELLARD my literary mentor in my first year in xxxxxxxx in the xxxxxxxxx dept.. We talked more about literature than we did about xxxxx.

Newpaper bookmark: Saturday, February 15, 1958

The note isn’t signed, but the name ‘Mrs Houghton’ is written in pencil inside the front of the book in the same hand as the Barnardo’s selling price, so my guess is that Mrs Houghton donated this book to Barnardo’s and was the recipient of Tom Shellard’s original gift. A torn-off piece of the Daily Telegraph newspaper dated 1958 seems to have been used as a bookmark, so maybe the gift was given around this time.

It looks like Tom Shellard was given this book – possibly by his father – in 1933, as shown by the book’s inscription:

T.H. Seymour Shellard, 10th August 1933, Love Dad

It would be lovely to be able to be able to read all of Mrs Houghton’s note, and to be sure when she received this book as a gift. However, in addition, there appears to be a real twist – this edition of Don Quixote was illustrated by an ‘A.B. Houghton’. Is there a link there, is it coincidence, or have I assembled the pieces of this story all in the wrong order (with a bit too much assumption to boot)? If anyone thinks they can solve the puzzles, I would love to hear from you.

It seems wrong to tell you all about this book without showing you just what a lovely edition it is. For sheer indulgence, here is one of the illustrations that stood out to me when I was flicking through just now:

Second killer dress of the weekend

Madonna has been cutting fine style in this thirties-inspired Vionnet dress (photo reproduced from It’s a beautiful silhouette, and the butterfly detailing and unusual choice of red-on-pale-blue colour palette stops it from looking like a museum-piece. Flattering, vintage-inspired hair, too!

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