Tag Archives: history

Vintage Writers’ Essentials from IWM Shop

This month I’m starting an online food history course with the University of Reading, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time so I’m excited to be taking the plunge. Naturally I’m preparing for it in the best way I know how, not by reading relevant texts and getting up to speed, but by buying notebooks and stationery. This week I’ve picked up a few writers’ essentials which should see me though work and study over the next few months.

The Imperial War Museum Shop is one of my favourite places to find vintage style stationery and homeware and they’ve really come up trumps with this beautiful notebook.

Writers' Essentials

This lovely large leather bound journal is similar to the notebooks soldiers will have carried with them during the first and second world wars. It is stunning, the pages are hand stitched inside the leather cover and there is a band of leather to wrap around it to keep it all together.

The natural paper is thick and speckled, so it looks really authentic and almost handmade. The notebook has a real vintage feel about it too, just having it on my desk makes me feel happy. It’s beautiful and I know when I take this out to meetings or lectures to make notes that it will turn a lot of heads.

The large leather bound journal measures 15.5cm x 11cm and costs £20. It is a real statement piece of stationery and I’m very much in love with mine.

Writers' Essentials

It’s almost impossible for me to do any work without a brew by my side, and I couldn’t resist this mug with one of my favourite non-swears on it. Blimey is something I say quite a lot (and get ribbed for). I’ve always said it, but since becoming a mum I’ve toned down my “effing and jeffing” a bit and I’m all about the blimey and the crikey these days.

Writers' Essentials

There are two different versions of the non-sweary mug, Blimey and Crikey. Either would have suited me well. These porcelain mugs are the standard size for a proper cuppa and cost £9 each – perfect for fans of retro non-swears like me!

Writers' Essentials

I’ve got a few more bits to buy before my course starts, not least my text books, but I’m loving my vintage style writers’ essentials. I always think if you’ve got nice things to work with, then work seems like less of a chore and more of a pleasure.

You can find lots more vintage and retro stationery, books and other goodies on the IWM website.

Note: I was sent these writers’ essentials in return for a review, all images and opinions are my own.

Book Review: Churchill’s Cookbook

Since I received my very first Delia cookbook when I was a teenager I’ve been addicted to cookbooks. I have a particular fondness for cookbooks with a bit of history in them. I am by nature a fairly thrifty cook, so the household manuals and farmhouse cookbooks which have been handed down through my family are fascinating and incredibly precious to me. When I got my hands on a copy of Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare, I knew I was in for an historical treat.

Published by the Imperial War Museum, Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare is a 160 page snapshot of wartime dining for the upper classes. Georgina Landemare was cook to the Churchills throughout WW2 and was engaged by Churchill’s wife Clementine as she felt she would be able to make the best out of the rations available. Georgina Landemare was an accomplished but untrained cook who was heavily influenced by her husband Paul Landemare, a distinguished French Chef at the Ritz.

Churchill's Cookbook

The Churchill’s, although subject to the constraints of the ration book where in the lucky position of having a farm on their estate at Chartwell, giving them ready access to eggs, milk, cream, chicken, pork and most vegetables. Churchill’s Cookbook doesn’t tell the every day story of the struggles of working class ration book Britain. It is a fascinating read, with a chapter devoted to setting the scene, introducing Georgina and discussing the favourite foods of the household.

The book is divided into sections; soup, fish, eggs, poultry, meat, sauces, salads, vegetables, puddings, savouries, pastry, biscuits and cake. The 250+ recipes in the book are brief and simply written. I like old recipes because they tend to work with fewer ingredients and are generally (though not always) simpler. 

I decided to try out some of the recipes myself, I liked the look of these “Bachelor’s Buttons” and I thought my son would enjoy baking them with me too. I’ve never really had much success with biscuits for some reason, I always either over or under bake them, so I put these to the test.

Churchill's Cookbook

The recipe was very straight-forward and it only took me a few minutes to whip up a batch. The recipe didn’t say when to add the vanilla essence so I added it with the egg and it didn’t say to set aside some sugar to roll them in prior to baking. I suspect during wartime they wouldn’t have just used the whole 3oz in the mixture and then rolled them liberally in another ounce or so of sugar, but that’s what I did. 

I also didn’t know what a “medium” oven was, put popped them in my oven at 200º until they were starting to brown, this took around 10 minutes. My top tip would be to get them off the baking sheet very quickly whilst they’re piping hot, otherwise they stick. They were very delicious and as light as a feather. I’d definitely bake these again.

Churchill's Cookbook

I was a little surprised at the range of rich foodstuffs in this book, especially considering it was a wartime cookbook, but I suspect the Prime Minister and his household may have had access to more than just his ration.

This book might raise a few eyebrows, with Georgina’s recipes including Cervelles Conought (curried brains), but there are some delicious sounding and fairly frugal recipes I’ll be looking to try out over the coming months.

Winston Churchill was well-known for his hearty appetite and love of food. Churchill’s Cookbook gives a fascinating insight into what he ate during the Second World War, indeed, Georgina was told by the Prime Minister on VE night that he could not have managed through the war without her. Fascinating stuff.

Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare is available from the Imperial War Museum shop and is priced at £10.

Exploring the Wrecks of Westward Ho!

We’ve been visiting the beach at Westward Ho! for many years. It’s a stunning beach, around two miles of lovely sand, popular with surfers and a great beach for collecting shells. Like most beaches on the North Devon coast its character can often be changed by the winter (and summer) storms; the fierce waves shifting the stones and sand, hiding and revealing features.

When we last visited Westward Ho! in June 2014 there was nothing of particular interest to note, it was the same as it’s always been, sandy and flat, with a bank of stones against the shore. In February 2015 it was at first glance the same. We took a stroll along the beach hoping to collect some nice shells to take back to school when I spotted some pieces of wood sticking out from the sand.

I was really curious about what they were and they seemed to be attracting attention, so we walked over to have a closer look. What we found was the ancient hull of what is thought to be a barge trading on the Bristol Channel, but has also known locally as a ‘Viking Ship’ or ‘Spanish Galleon’, we called it a ‘Pirate Ship’ because the small boy is currently obsessing about pirates.

The wreck is an oak-framed vessel which is around 25 metres long and 7 metres wide. It is thought that the wreck could be one of two boats wrecked nearby, the ‘Salisbury’ of London, lost in March 1759 on Northam Burrows or the ‘Sally’ of Bristol, which was wrecked on Northam Sands in September 1769.

This large wreck isn’t visible very often, so it was a real privilege to be able to see it. It’s usually buried deep in the sand and it might be a number of years before we get to see it again. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of it for prosperity.

Westward Ho

Westward Ho

Westward Ho

A bit further along the beach we came across another wreck, this was much smaller than the first, measuring just over 15 metres in length. The remains of the wreck were not as complete as the first. This wreck is thought to date from the late 18th or early 19th century and is likely to be a Polacca Brig, a style of sailing boat which was used to trade limestone, coal and other goods across the North Devon coast, Taw Estuary and to the Bristol Channel.

Somewhere under Westward Ho! beach lies a third wreck, but that hadn’t been revealed to us by the shifting sands. We felt incredibly lucky to have seen the two skeleton wrecks which had been uncovered over the winter months and we’re hoping to visit again later in the year to see if they are still visible or not.

Note: All images are my own, they must not be used elsewhere without my written permission.

Things to do in Manchester: GMP Museum

Manchester is a great city to live and work in and it’s equally lovely to visit. There’s so much to see and do and we’re blessed with a rich and interesting history. Manchester has a wonderful selection of award winning museums to visit, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Peoples History Museum and Manchester Museum to name just three. There are a number of smaller, less well known museums dotted around Manchester. We visited the GMP Museum in January to find out more about the history of the Greater Manchester Police.

GMP Museum

The GMP Museum in located on Newton Street on the edge of Manchester’s Northern Quarter and is just a few minutes walk from Piccadilly. The GMP Museum is open on Tuesdays and has special events and different opening times during school holidays.

The museum has six main areas and is located in an old police station, so there are lots of original features, more of which later. We were given a tour by the lovely Katie who was very knowledgeable and engaging. First off my four year old was given a special police hat to wear and a police badge to wear during the tour, he loved this and I confess I had a bit of hat envy.

GMP museum

The first room we looked at was a special exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the first world war. We found out about the fascinating history of the ‘specials’ who took the place of policemen who had left to fight in the war. This room alone is worth a visit.

We then had a look around a room which showcased all the different uniforms in the GMP over time, from the very first uniforms, to really very lovely 1960s threads, to the modern day uniforms, which admittedly are less stylish but so much more practical. We looked at truncheons and handcuffs, did you know that a ladies truncheon was much smaller than the mens’ truncheons, so most WPCs used to hit assailants with their handbags. True story!

GMP Museum

We moved on to what was probably one of my favourite rooms, it housed a replica 1960s detectives desk as well as a fairly grim collection of murder weapons, interesting information about famous policemen and a couple of infamous criminals. They also had a corner dedicated to the Strangeways Riots which I remember well. They had a cell door which had been ripped off its hinges as well as an array of home-made weapons that were found after the riots.

GMP Museum

Home-made weapons from the Strangeways Riots

We then looked at police transport, we met a huge model horse, looked at a collection of motorbikes which were used over the years including a trail bike, as well as a huge collection of model cars which have been accurately painted as little replicas, the small boy loved these, he’s obsessed with police cars.

GMP Museum

We then moved to a really special part of the museum, they’ve got the original Victorian charge office. This was such a fascinating room, the original charge desk has been worn by years of people leaning on the desk while they’re being charged with various crimes. Katie talked us through the history of the room and some of the things that went on there. She then showed us the original police cells and even locked us inside one. They had two wooden beds, but on busy weekends each cell could house up to 12 prisoners, with small children being locked up with the adults. Men and women were kept separate, but it was a very grim thought being confined in the darkness, with children who had stolen a loaf of bread locked up with an adult who might have murdered someone, and once the cell doors swung shut it was very dark and very spooky.

GMP Museum

Thankfully we managed to escape being locked up for more than a minute and we ventured upstairs to see the courtroom. This wasn’t an original feature of this particular police station, but this courtroom had been moved in its entirety from Denton. It was a beautiful room, though very imposing. It’s fantastic that they’ve managed to save the courtroom and retain it as a resource in the museum.

GMP Museum

The GMP Museum is a great resource for kids to explore and learn about the history of the police and the criminal justice system. I remember visiting with school as a child and it made a very big impression on me. The exhibits are always changing, there are plans for some refurbishment and some of the exhibits will be expanding. It was a thoroughly interesting afternoon out, we all got something from it, we all learned a great deal and had fun doing so.

Find out more about the GMP Museum on their website.