Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Did We Wear?


Herry and Piers with Patrick in the orchard at Stocks c.1955 with Danny the spaniel

For the first ten / twelve years I doubt that I paid much attention to what I was wearing. Early photos show me in shorts, and we certainly wore shorts at St Ronan's (1953-1958), though I think that we may have been allowed into long trousers as we turned twelve. I can remember my delight, though, on getting my first pair of proper football boots - made by Adidas - instead of the heavy round-toed boots that we wore in those days. But 'PT' shoes were still plain white plimsoles and we had to wear a grey felt 'squasher' hat outside in summer.

I became more interested in clothes when at Winchester (1958 - 1964) where the early fashion was for 'drain-pipe' trousers. I had mine taken in to a ridiculous 13". I can also remember getting green and black check jacket and some 'oxblood' shoes at Basticks, the best of the local high-street shops (and coincidentally owned by the family of Richard Froomberg, who would later open Grey Flannel where I bought most of my clothes from the 1980s onwards). Here too we moved from plimsoles to much coveted 'Green Flash' gym shoes.

It was at Winchester that I developed a liking for black, wearing a black sweater and a black silk knitted tie for many years. The tie even came with me to the early days at Millers.

In my late teens / early twenties I became resolutely fashionable, at least at parties, wearing Mr Fish shirts and sometimes an orange silk cravat.... but the best was a superb velvet DJ from Blades, which had straight cut velvet trousers with a silk stripe. I never saw another one like it. There is a good description of the clothes and tailors of the day in David Mlinaric's piece on the V&A website here. I also had some suits made by a tailor in Winchester - Mr Thornton - that were less successful as he didn't know how to cut good crisp shoulders. I had one tight grey suit with a double-breasted waistcoat from him and wore it on a business trip to Yugoslavia with Bill Birch Reynardson, prompting him to comment laconically 'Il faut souffrir pour etre belle'....

I would also sometimes wear a short fur coat with wide shoulders of my mother's; something that was not unusual at the time. Our friend John Rendall for instance was often seen in fur and always wore snake-skin boots.

Arriving at Millers, I affected Turnbull & Asser shirts, often in the bright colours of the day. I can remember Frank Ledwith looking disapprovingly at a brick-red shirt and saying 'You'll never get onto the Baltic (Exchange) in that' - but my suits were less flashy, coming mainly from Moss Bros, though they concealed some incredible linings. I had one black silk suit which had a canary yellow lining and to my shame, I made the mistake of wearing it at the 21 SAS passing out ceremony where, as the 'Best Recruit' I had to march up to collect the cup, turn and march back. I can still remember the looks of amazed horror on the senior officers' faces as I turned sharply after my salute, sending my coat-tails flying......

My colleagues at Millers - particularly Christopher Bird - affected suits by the likes of Douglas Hayward. However, Christopher would grow rapidly tired of his suits and more than once I was deputed to return one to the tailor, who in those days took them back with good grace, even though they had clearly had a couple of week's heavy wear!

In the 70's, at Harvestgate, I would wear polo-necked jerseys and a corduroy coat which Patrick bought for each us from Dingles of Plymouth.

I also frequented Piero di Monzi in the Fulham Road and occasionally bought his rather smart ready-made suits. They usually had hairs on them from Piero's beautiful weimaraners which lounged around the shop all day. I have a grey cashmere overcoat from those days that I still wear occasionally.

Thereafter my clothes became less fashionable but I still had my shirts made, sometimes in Japan, where the tailor at the Palace Hotel turned out some good ones. In those days the yen was nearly 1000 to the £, so they were comparatively inexpensive. Later I would have my office shirts made in India, most of which I have still. For years my suits still came from Grey Flannel, made to measure in Italy, but slowly even that pleasure was replaced by the largely stock items that I wear today.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Careers in the 60s

Setting off on a career was different in the 60s, and the concept only applied to men. When the boys left their (single-sex public) schools, one or two went to university, but most did not. Those with connections to the land went to Cirencester (like my brother Fuff) while others joined their father's businesses (Nick Duke and James Duke and Sons) or followed their father into the navy (Johnny Cooke). One started his own successful fishing business (Ian Hay and The Rod Box) and another became a restaurateur (Charlie Skipwith and Cobbetts).

School friends at Winchester were all destined either for the City, the services or one of the professions - and mostly went to university first, not to learn anything in particular, but to have a good time. Oxford was favoured because of the school's links with New College. Interestingly, absolutely no one went into the sciences, manufacturing or engineering, though one or two brave souls went into IBM.

None of the girls went to university; instead they went to finishing schools like Doina in Switzerland and Daisy Martinucci and Signorina Signorini in Florence - and some did the season. Afterwards - or instead of - finishing school, they (eg Penny Hitchcock / Cenci) went to secretarial school, the favoured one being Miss Sprules's (Miss VM Sprules and Miss Aristea Glyka) above Barclays Bank in Winchester. A few (eg Belin Wallis / Martin) went to Miss Balfour Barrow in Parchment St. Thereafter they took secretarial jobs in London, and shared flats. Publishing was a favoured job; poorly paid but socially entirely acceptable. But the idea was to get a good husband, not to work for more than the time taken to find one. 'Work' was bringing up children, looking after a husband, sometimes joining a charity or doing a part-time job for pin-money, gardening and looking after the house. Above all the family came first, and family meals were sacrosanct.

Consequently, my generation grew up with the men in some sort of career or business, while their wives stopped work as soon as they got married or in a few cases, when children came along. There was no thought of any other arrangement, and family life therefore followed the traditional pattern of our parents.

Everything began to change in the 70s and particularly in the 8os.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Miss Sprules's Secretarial Academy 1933 - 1994


Miss VM (Violetta Maria) Sprules was a teacher at one of the first secretarial schools in London and had as her student, Miss Aristea Glyka (born 1914), who had been educated on the continent and spoke both French and German. When in 1933 Miss Sprules decided to set up on her own, she invited Miss Glyka to join her and they began a secretarial college teaching typing and shorthand. The first school was in Victoria and had five pupils. During the war they evacuated to Oxford and the school had its premises first in an old rectory and then in The Carfax.

The school became too large for their Oxford premises and when the lease came up for renewal in the 1960s they decided to move to Winchester because it had a similar 'college' atmosphere. The Barclays Bank building had just been built and they moved to the second and third floors of the chambers above the bank and Ms Iris Rigg and Mrs Eileen Sealey joined them, the school remaining there before moving to Northgate in 1987 when Miss Sprules and Miss Glyka retired to Itchen Abbas, having lived as companions since 1933. Mrs Mary Wood had joined them in 1974 and on their retirement she became the school's principal. The school was sold to St James's of Kensington but bought back and Miss Glyka returned to part-time teaching until it closed in 1994. Their students went into many professions and government offices, particularly the Foreign Office and some even went into the Prime Ministers' office.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sydney Photo Album Index

Some the family's photo albums are on Flickr and this page provides an index to them

1960s - Prue's 1960s photos
1970 - Bordeaux Accompanying Charlie and Lucie to the boat to Australia
1975 - Nick's Wedding to Jay Jay at Wickham Church 7th June 1975
1975 - Harvestgate
1975 - Danegate and St Ronan's
1975 - Windlesham Manor July 1975
1975 - Holiday in France with the Martins and Hays Aug-Sept 1975
1975 - Penny and Peter Crittle at Harvestgate August 1975
1978 - March - August Mostly at Harvestgate
1980 - La Lointaigne, Roquebrune with Mel and Beatrice and the Allez's
1980 - Castell Howell - with Annie Sept 1980
1989 - Jess's Wedding

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