Monday, 26 September 2016

The MGA / VIDEO:The Sports Car Of The Year (1955-1956)

The MGA is a sports car that was produced by MG from 1955 to 1962.

The MGA replaced the MG TF 1500 Midget and represented a complete styling break from MG's earlier sports cars. Announced on 26 September 1955 the car was officially launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show. A total of 101,081 units were sold through the end of production in July 1962, the vast majority of which were exported. Only 5869 cars were sold on the home market, the lowest percentage of any British car. It was replaced by the MGB.

The MGA design dates back to 1951, when MG designer Syd Enever created a streamlined body for George Philips' TD Le Mans car. The problem with this car was the high seating position of the driver because of the limitations of using the TD chassis. A new chassis was designed with the side members further apart and the floor attached to the bottom rather than the top of the frame sections. A prototype was built and shown to the BMC chairman Leonard Lord. He turned down the idea of producing the new car as he had just signed a deal with Donald Healey to produce Austin-Healey cars two weeks before. Falling sales of the traditional MG models caused a change of heart, and the car, initially to be called the UA-series, was brought back. As it was so different from the older MG models it was called the MGA, the "first of a new line" to quote the contemporary advertising. There was also a new engine available, therefore the car did not have the originally intended XPAG unit but was fitted with the BMC corporate B-Series type allowing a lower bonnet line. The MGA convertible had no exterior door handles, however the coupe has door handles.

It was a body-on-frame design and used the straight-4 "B series" engine from the MG Magnette saloon driving the rear wheels through a 4-speed gearbox. Suspension was independent with coil springs and wishbones at the front and a rigid axle with semi-elliptic springs at the rear. Steering was by rack and pinion. The car was available with either wire-spoked or steel-disc road wheels.

MG A 1500

The 1489 cc engine fitted with twin H4 type SU Carburettors produced 68 hp (51 kW) at first, but was soon uprated to 72 hp (54 kW). Lockheed hydraulic drum brakes were used on all wheels. A coupé version was also produced, bringing the total production of standard MGAs to 58,750.

An early open car tested by British magazine The Motor in 1955 had a top speed of 97.8 mph (157.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 16.0 seconds. A fuel consumption of 26.7 miles per imperial gallon (10.6 L/100 km; 22.2 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £844 including taxes.

MG A Twin Cam

A high-performance Twin-Cam model was added for 1958. It used a high-compression (9.9:1 later 8.3:1) DOHC aluminium cylinder head version of the B-Series engine producing 108 hp (81 kW; 109 PS). Due to detonation problems, a 100 bhp (75 kW; 101 PS) low-compression version was introduced later. Four-wheel disc brakes by Dunlop were fitted, along with Dunlop peg drive knock-off steel wheels similar to wheels used on racing Jaguars, unique to the Twin-Cam and "DeLuxe" MGA 1600 and 1600 MkII roadsters. These wheels and chassis upgrades were used on a small number of the "DeLuxe" models built after Twin-Cam production came to a halt. Aside from the wheels, the only outside identifier was a "Twin-Cam" logo near the vent aside the bonnet. A careful look at the rear wheel vents would also reveal another feature unique to Twin-Cam and DeLuxe: those 4 wheel Dunlop disc brakes mentioned above.

The temperamental engine was notorious for warranty problems during the course of production, and sales dropped quickly. The engine suffered from detonation and burnt oil. Most of the problems with the Twin-Cam engine were rectified with the low-compression version, but by then the damage had been done. Many restored Twin-Cams are running more reliably today than they ever did during production. The Twin-Cam was dropped in 1960 after 2,111 (2,210 according to some) had been produced. Production ended in April 1960, but had slowed to a trickle long before.

An open car was tested by The Motor magazine in 1958 and was found to have a top speed of 113 mph (182 km/h), acceleration from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.1 seconds and a fuel consumption of 27.6 miles per imperial gallon (10.2 L/100 km; 23.0 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1,283 including taxes of £428.

Oddly, an open MGA Twin Cam (Reg. No.PMO 326)road tested by The Autocar magazine and published on 18 July 1958 only recorded a 0-60 time of 13.3secs with the Standing quarter mile of 18.6secs. The mean maximum speed was 113.5 mph, with a best of 114.0 mph. So the explanation must be that either their car was down on power, or that a mistake was made when recording the acceleration figures.

1600 and 1600 De-Luxe
MG A 1600

In May 1959 the standard cars also received an updated engine, now at 1588 cc producing 79.5 bhp (59 kW; 81 PS) . At the front disc brakes were fitted, but drums remained in the rear.

31,501 were produced in less than three years.

Externally the car is very similar to the 1500 with differences including: amber or white (depending on market) front turn indicators shared with white parking lamps, separate stop/tail and turn lamps in the rear, and 1600 badging on the boot and the cowl.

A number of 1600 De Luxe versions were produced with leftover special wheels and four-wheel disc brakes of the departed Twin-Cam, or using complete modified Twincam chassis left redundant by the discontinuance of that model. Seventy roadsters and 12 coupés were built.

A 1600 open car was tested by The Motor in 1959. It had a top speed of 96.1 mph (154.7 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.3 seconds. A fuel consumption of 29.7 miles per imperial gallon (9.5 L/100 km; 24.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £940 including taxes of £277.

Mark II and Mark II De-Luxe[edit]
MG A 1600 Mark II

The engine size was increased again to 1622 cc by increasing the bore from 75.4 mm (2.97 in) to 76.2 mm (3.00 in) for the 1961 Mark II MGA. The cylinder head was also revised with larger valves and re-engineered combustion chambers. Horsepower increased to 90 bhp. It also had a higher ratio 4:1 rear axle, which made for more relaxed high-speed driving. An inset grille and Morris Mini tail lamps appearing horizontally below the deck lid were the most obvious visual changes. 8,198 Mark II roadsters and 521 coupés were built.

Road & Track magazine reviewed the MG A 1600 Mark II in the September 1961 issue and reported an estimated top speed of 105 mph and a 0-60 acceleration of 12.8 seconds.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

"Italian Gentleman" - Sartoria "Rubinacci" - Italian & Neapolitan Tailor...

Neapolitan Tailored Jacket La Giacca Napoletana Luca Rubinacci S...

Rubinacci / Napoli / Rubinacci and the Story of Neapolitan Tailoring by Nick Foulkes.

Rubinacci in London
Bespoke Tailor on Earth
Rubinacci, the legendary Neapolitan atelier, will make you the suit of a lifetime in just one week.

By David Coggins | September 20, 2016
Photographs by Salva Lopez

From Bloomberg Pursuits

Never lie to your tailor. Armed with a tape measure, he knows your body better than you do. He sees it with almost X-ray vision, noting with clinical accuracy that your left arm is an inch longer than your right, or that your right shoulder slopes a half-inch more than your left.

I know this rule, but inside the 16th century palazzo that houses Rubinacci, the most renowned bespoke tailor in Naples, I’m standing like it’s roll call in the army. And when the tape measure goes around my waist, I try to suppress the urge to inhale. As my tailor, Andrea, reads out the circumference, in centimeters, and in Italian, I wince, thinking of all the linguine alle vongole and spaghetti con ricci di mare I’d eaten at Da Dora, a beloved, delicious seafood restaurant a short walk away.

Rubinacci suit fitting
Rolls of fabric in the Rubinacci atelier; Andrea, the head cutter, adjusts the basted jacket during the author’s first fitting.
Photographer: Salva Lopez for Bloomberg Pursuits

“Bespoke” is now a marketing buzzword, but it originally meant a bolt of wool fabric that a gentleman had ordered for a suit—it was “spoken for.” A true bespoke suit is cut entirely by hand, a process that at Rubinacci requires 54 man-hours and is based on a paper pattern cut specifically for you.

The Rubinacci family has been in the bespoke business since 1932, when Gennaro Rubinacci, an art collector with society connections, established the company, dubbing it “The London House” to remind customers of Savile Row. “Bebè,” as he was known, had a radical idea: to make unstructured, unlined jackets meant to be worn out of the office. He hired tailors to follow his direction and used English fabrics for suits and sport coats that felt entirely new to his Italian customers.

The designs took off, and his clients were some of the most stylish men in the country, including filmmaker Vittorio De Sica and Curzio Malaparte, the journalist whose modernist Capri house was featured in the Jean-Luc Godard film Le Mépris. When Bebè’s son, Mariano, took over in the early 1960s, he renamed the company Rubinacci but continued the London House style. It’s defined by its high armholes (elegant in appearance, comfortable in practice), minimal construction (for a natural fit, as opposed to the more formal British jacket), and coveted soft shoulders.

“I’ve known Mariano Rubinacci for over 30 years and have never seen the firm produce a bad suit,” says G. Bruce Boyer, men’s fashion expert and author of True Style. The company is now run by both Mariano and his son, Luca, who has kept his family’s attention on fabrics—he estimates they have 200,000 feet of vintage cloth in stock.

There are many great suitmakers in Naples—Kiton, Isaia, Cesare Attolini—but Rubinacci sets itself apart in a distinct way. The company can make a bespoke suit, at a starting price of $5,480, in about a week. It’s not something that’s advertised or promoted. Turning around a handmade suit that quickly requires the concerted attention of jacket and trouser cutters who work more than five hours a day over that week on a single suit.

For those put off by the thought of a monthslong series of fittings, this is an answer to prayer. And it’s why I’ve come to Naples, to the company’s headquarters on a secluded section of Via Filangieri, in the historic center of the city. The morning I arrive is hot and humid, yet as I walk down the Chiaia, the city’s central pedestrian street, none of the Neapolitans seem to mind. I’d already taken off my sport coat and loosened my tie, but the men here all wear suits as if the heat doesn’t affect them at all.

Up a curved cobblestone ramp is a courtyard, where the red awnings say “Rubinacci” and potted plants are set against the stone facade of the ancient building that holds the store and atelier. Inside, the shop is full of bright, colorful silk ties and pocket squares, a vivid reminder of the family’s history in textiles. Upstairs, in a high-ceilinged room with an old-world couch and mirror, are stacks of fabrics. Some are waiting to be made into shirts, but most will become suits.

The measuring process at Rubinacci is a communal activity. Andrea has been making the jackets here for more than a decade. He wears a dark brown peaked-lapel jacket that’s nattier than anything you’ll see at Pitti Uomo. Alessandra Rubinacci, the founder’s granddaughter and my consigliere, oversees the process and translates into English. At many tailors, discussions with the head cutter are very much man-to-man. Not here. Alessandra navigates me through preferred fabrics, cuts, and other design details. She’s worked here since she was 17 and is clearly in her element. “This is my family company,” she says. “Men want to look good for women, anyway.”

Andrea asks to see the jacket I arrived in—one not made by Italian tailors. He holds it up, looks at it inside and out, and measures it as well. The one he makes will be longer than this one, he clarifies, by a centimeter or two. He thinks it helps the continuity. It’s not a verdict against me or my coat, but it feels like one. The whole process makes me feel very vulnerable, like getting a sartorial audit.
Rubinacci suit fitting

The author tries on trousers, and Andrea tests the fit of the jacket as Alessandra, the founder’s granddaughter, looks on.
Photographer: Salva Lopez for Bloomberg Pursuits

Then Lino, a tall, handsome man in his 30s who specializes in trousers, steps in. He measures my waist, of course, but also my legs from top to bottom, front and back. He asks me, with grave importance, do I want cuffs? I say yes. How high will they be? Some Italians prefer a robust 6cm cuff, so tall they will not be ignored. For this suit we agree to the more traditional 3cm cuff. It’s marked in chalk so I can visualize it.

I already have a pretty good idea of what I want. Rubinacci makes a smart double-breasted suit—it’s one of Mariano’s staples, a pinstripe version worn with a knit tie—and the house has made six-button, double-breasted jackets since back in Bebè’s day. “It’s an easy, elegant look with that unmistakable Italian attitude and style that men find incredibly appealing,” says Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman.

Although Mariano dresses relatively conservatively (at least for an Italian), his son, Luca, is a study in sprezzatura—purple trousers, mixed patterns, velvet Belgian loafers, and wrists covered in string bracelets. He models the company’s suits in its advertisements around Naples, and he also turns up on GQ’s international best-dressed list and style websites such as the Sartorialist.

Andrea shows me one of the double-breasted jackets he’s working on. It’s lovely, but I tell Alessandra, who communicates to Andrea, that I want my lapels a little larger, about an inch wider. Truth be told, I have a large head, and a wide lapel helps make it look smaller. (A relationship with a tailor involves sharing uncomfortable truths—even about parts of you the suit doesn’t cover.) Andrea takes a piece of chalk and draws on the suit a new, wider, slightly rounder lapel.

Now a question of fine distinction: Where will it button? Traditionally, a double-breasted coat has two decorative buttons on top and bottom, and you use the middle two to fasten the suit, but a few men such as Luca himself have their suits made so that the jacket buttons only at the bottom. I think, Why not? I’ll do as Luca does.

Alessandra raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” she asks. I nod. Andrea takes the bolt of fabric under his arm, and he and Lino climb the set of stairs up to the atelier. The cutting is about to begin, and, like taking clippers to a beard, once you’ve made the first cut there’s no going back.

Two days later, I return for my first fitting to the same cast of characters. I’m given an espresso—this is Naples, after all. The suit is barely held together with what are called basted stitches. It has no lining, no pockets, and will be pulled apart again after I leave, then put back together with the new alterations taken into account. Andrea pulls in and then lets out the jacket from behind, so I can see how it will look at various widths.

Rubinacci suit fitting
Andrea and other craftsmen fine-tune the suit.
Photographer: Salva Lopez for Bloomberg Pursuits

But then I realize something I should already have known: I’m no Luca Rubinacci. The buttons haven’t been sewn yet, so as the tailor pins it shut where the button will be, I see that the line of the lapel falls at a steep diagonal across my body, below my waist, down to my hipbone—not near the navel, where most jackets close. It’s almost like wearing a jacket with the ease of a cardigan.

Which is fine for a Neapolitan. But for me it’s a little too expressive, too relaxed, and, well, too Italian. Alessandra seems to sense this. “That’s why we have the first fitting,” she says with a smile. Andrea pins the jacket where the new button will go, and instantly it looks more appropriate. A new chalk mark is made.

I follow Andrea upstairs from the elegant showroom to the atelier, where 20 people work around cutting tables that are specifically large enough to accommodate an unrolled bolt of fabric, the standard measure for all suits. There are large scissors and packs of cigarettes. I’m surprised by how quiet it is. Other than the local radio and some conversation, there’s hardly a sound. It hits me: There are no machines.

Over the course of the week, I frequent Café do Brasil and Caffé Mexico, local favorites. Neapolitan men live and breathe tailoring, and they share their opinions about their tailor (and those they pointedly don’t use) with ease and conviction. I meet more than one man who will buy a good bolt of fabric when he sees one and then take it to his shirtmaker. E. Marinella, a tiemaker on the Riviera di Chiaia, opens at 6:30 a.m., so men can pick one up on the way to work.
Finished Rubinacci suit

Coggins in the Rubinacci courtyard in the finished suit.
Photographer: Salva Lopez for Bloomberg Pursuits

Two days later, my suit is almost done. Rubinacci can make a suit without the second fitting, but it’s a good idea to have one. The buttons are sewn; the lapels are cut. I admire the handwork visible in the buttonholes—they stand up higher, and each stitch can be seen individually—as opposed to the uniform, flat feel of machine-made ones.

Exactly one week after arriving in Naples, I’m standing in the courtyard wearing the final product. It’s surprisingly cool, despite the heat. I thank Andrea for his work. He seems to enjoy seeing the link between his skill and a man heading out into the world, even though I may not have been as daring as a true Neapolitan such as Luca. But, as he says, “When a gentleman comes to Rubinacci, we try to discover the style he has inside.”

Bespoke suits start at $5,480, including a six-night stay at Casa Rubinacci. Call +39 081 415-793 to make an appointment.

Book of the week – Rubinacci and the Story of Neapolitan Tailoring. in
This year has seen the publication of some fine and important books. I’ve spent nine years anticipating Jonathan Frantzen’s Freedom, while others, like Proust’s Overcoat by Lorenza Foschini and The General by Jonathan Fenby rather crept up on me. However, the book of the year, in tailoring terms, is undoubtedly Rubinacci and the Story of Neapolitan Tailoring by Nick Foulkes.

As the only Neapolitan tailoring house to successfully export its bespoke services Rubinacci is the foremost tailor from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. As such the book’s principal appeal is that it illustrates the details that make Neapolitan tailoring special. These details – the breast pockets, the stitching, but most importantly the soft shoulders – are clearly captured by the excellent photography.

There’s also a good account of how the Rubinacci family rose to be one of world’s pre-eminent tailoring dynasties (the Cundeys and the Skinners on Savile Row also deserve a mention). But of equal interest is the way that Foulkes explains that there’s no such thing as Italian tailoring, there is Neapolitan tailoring and there is northern Italian tailoring – remember that Northern Italy starts at Rome.

The appeal of Neapolitan jackets is that they are built for the heat, with minimal construction. This makes them easy to wear and comfortable and gives them a relaxed look that is at odds with Savile Row’s traditional military-inspired cut. For bespoke connoisseurs there’s an unbridgeable gap between these two approaches, and the incredible vintage clothes that appear in this book make an eloquent argument in favour of the Neapolitan tailoring tradition.

Rubinacci and the Story of Neapolitan Tailoring by Nicholas Foulkes is available to buy now.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Britain in The 50s

Britain in The 50s
Through the eyes of newsreel cameras and advertising of the time, we present an affectionate look at the way we were in the 1950's: the way we dressed, the way we laughed (and cried) - even the way we holidayed. In 1950, Britain was working hard to recover from the Second World War. Yet, as the decade went on and the economic conditions improved - prompting PM MacMillan to tell people of Britain "You never had it so good" - a cascade of wonderful gadgets found their way into British homes, and families began holidaying on the beaches and promenades.

By the end of the decade booming Britain was in overdrive with 5.5 million cars on the road, the opening of the M1 and the arrival of the first Mini. The teenager had also come of age with new dance crazes and flamboyant fashions interspersed with bizzare hairstyles - anything to make them stand out in the crowd!

This programme also focuses on the events that shook the world during the decade; the death of George VI in 1952 heralding a new Queen, Elizabeth II, and her Coronation in 1953; the conquering of Everest: the first four minute mile; the last woman to be hanged in Britain; and the tragic Munich air disaster.

A vanished Britain:
Imagine a country where doors are left unlocked, children play in the street and people really do look out for each other. Fantasy? No, Britain just 50 years ago

By David Kynaston
Updated: 09:52 GMT, 31 October 2009

To many people who grew up in the Britain of half a century ago, the Fifties are a clearly and dearly remembered age.

'We walked to school, had open fires and no central heating,' recalled a woman of that generation.

'We played in the street with our friends and were safe; we climbed trees, skinned our knees and ripped our clothes, got into fights and nobody sued anybody. Sweets were a treat, not part of lunch.

'We got a clip round the ear when we had been naughty, and Mum gave us a teaspoon of malt and cod liver oil before school.
'Nuclear family': 1950s Britain is dearly remembered by many who grew up in that era

Nuclear family: 1950s Britain is dearly remembered by many who grew up in that era

'We played cards and board games and talked to each other. We were allowed to answer the phone on our birthdays as a special treat. It was an innocent time, gone for ever.'

Aldershot housewife Jill Morgan spoke for the majority of contributors to a BBC history website in 2007 when she pleaded: 'Bring back the values of the Fifties!!!'

But the playwright David Hare, a man of the same vintage, could think of nothing worse.

'Society then was so oppressive and so false, particularly sexually. Neighbours had this prurience and primness and this awful kind of policing of each other's lives. Nobody these days could imagine how dull things were and how respectful people were and how dead they were from the neck up.'

A reprise of the Fifties, he maintained, 'would represent a return only to repression, to hypocrisy and to a kind of willed, pervasive dullness which is the negation of life'.

As we'll see in this series, which continues in next week's Mail, the debate goes on.

The Fifties were 'the best of times' according to writer Ian Jack as he recalled full employment, steady material progress and a widely shared sense of certainty about life. But they were 'the worst of times' to journalist Lynn Barber, when 'the most exciting event was the advent of the Birds Eye Roast Beef Frozen Dinner For One'.

Over the entire era still hung the spectre of World War II, which had been over for a decade - although a lot of people, looking around them at the state of the country 'were buggered if they knew who had won it'.

Meat, butter, cheese, sugar and sweets were still rationed in 1953, and blitzed inner cities remained, even if many of their inhabitants had been shipped out to suburbs and new towns. War films were the staple diet of the cinema -The Dam Busters, The Cruel Sea, Reach For The Sky.

War was central in children's lives and imaginations. Theatre director Richard Eyre recalled that all the games he played were war games. 'I fired sticks and mimicked the high stutter of machine guns in the woods, and dive-bombed my friends with ear-damaging howls and flung my body into the arc of heroic death.'

It was the same on the streets of actor Ricky Tomlinson's working-class neighbourhood in Liverpool. Most of the boys on his street had wooden Tommy guns or sometimes the real thing - a relic from the war with the firing pin removed.

Airfix Spitfires, sold by Woolworths for 2s, proved to be the toy firm's most popular model, while boys' comics were full of stories of 'Braddock, Ace Pilot', 'Sergeant Allen of the Fighting 15th' and 'The Eyes that Never Closed' (about hunting German U-boats).

Wartime values were still very strong. Respectability, conformity, restraint and trust were what underpinned the Fifties.


With comprehensive schools virtually unheard of, the defining life event for most Fifties schoolchildren was the 11-plus exam to decide whether they would go to a grammar school, which took the pick of the bunch academically, or a secondary modern.

Sometimes, the successful working-class child was self-motivating. 'I didn't want to become one of the hapless ones who worked in a car factory or drove a lorry,' is how actor Terence Stamp explained what got him to grammar school.

But more often the push was external, either a teacher or a parent, usually the mother.

The Daily Mail's Lynda Lee-Potter, daughter of a Lancashire miner-turned painter/decorator married to a shoe-shop assistant, remembered how she and her parents talked of little else for a year before.

'I practised writing what we called "stories" and we did extra sums after school. My mother had an agile mathematical brain and we did mental arithmetic together.

'The dress I was to wear on exam day was washed and immaculately pressed weeks in advance. On the evening before, she filled the tin bath with hot water in front of the fire so that I didn't have to use the tiny, freezing bathroom.

'On the Saturday morning, neither of us could eat, but we had a cup of hot, sweet tea. "Give it all you've got, love," she said, and there were tears in her eyes. I was desperate to do my best and make my mother happy. She did so much for me and passing the scholarship was the one thing I could do for her.

'In the exam room, I sat down and looked at the title of the composition, which was where my greatest hopes of success rested. I still remember my feelings of hopelessness when I saw the dreary, uninspiring title - "Write a composition on the difference between an apple and an orange."

'I was heartbroken and I walked home convinced I'd failed. My mother put her arms round me and we cried in despair together. Three months later, we got the letter telling me I'd passed. It was the happiest day of my mother's life.'

There had been a degree of democratisation in the war as soldiers and civilians of all classes shared its dangers and privations.

But, in the aftermath, deference still ran deep in British society - whether towards traditional institutions, senior people in hierarchical organisations, prominent local figures (the teacher, the bank manager, the GP), older people generally or the better educated.

In the ultra-hierarchical City of London, it was still 'Mr this' and 'Mr that' in most offices. 'You may call me Ernest,' a merchant banker at Warburgs announced to a recent recruit, and the proverbial pin was heard to drop when the young man dared to do so.

When a Sunday newspaper asked readers in 1954 what sort of school the five-year-old Prince Charles should go to, a quarter declared it was none of their business or the paper's. 'Trust the Queen and Prince Philip,' implored one reader from Glebe Gardens, New Malden.

It was hard for anyone in this era to avoid - or evade - the culture of respectability and conformity. In his study at public school, the records of choice of John Ravenscroft (later Peel, the Radio 1 DJ) were Handel's Zadok The Priest from the Coronation of George VI and a recording of the King's Christmas broadcast in which he quoted from the poem At The Gate Of The Year.

The normally truculent Kingsley Amis was happy to take his editor's advice and tone down explicit references to sex in his 1955 novel That Uncertain Feeling, a sequel to Lucky Jim, for fear that libraries might ban it. ('A quick in and out' was one of the casualties.)

Few patrolled the boundaries of respectability more assiduously than 'Biddy' Johnson, all-powerful editor of Woman's Weekly. It it, she serialised Mills & Boon doctor /nurse romances, but neither thelanguage or the drink were permitted to be strong. Were the heroines even allowed to go to a pub, an exasperated author once asked, and decided it would be safer if his couple met in a milk bar.

The BBC - slow-moving, highly bureaucratic and with no appetite for taking risks or giving offence - was the embodiment of respectability. 'I want you to see yourself as an officer in a rather good regiment,' was how Robin Day was welcomed to the Radio Talks department in 1954. News bulletins remained pillars of grammatical rectitude.

Throughout society, there was a strong conformist ethos. 'The most important thing in life was to blend in and get on with everybody,' plumber's son Alan Titchmarsh reflected about his Ilkley childhood.

The novelist Barry Unsworth recalled similar feelings in Stockton-on-Tees. 'To carry an umbrella or ask for wine in a pub was to put your virility in question. Suede shoes were for "lounge-lizards". Beards were out of the question.'

Dress code was crucial, however uncomfortable it might be to wear. At the Westminster Bank, a man who wore a shirt with a soft collar instead of a stiff white one was marked down as lacking ambition and unworthy of promotion.

On the Stock Exchange, one broker recalled everyone going to work in bowler hat, short black jacket and striped trousers. If he'd worn a striped shirt, people in his office would have asked why he was still in his pyjamas.

Growing up in Bristol, Derek Robinson recalled a 'uniform' of either sports jacket and flannels or singlebreasted suit. Being measured for a first suit at Burtons remained a classic male rite of passage for the 'trainee adults' that British youth generally was in those days.

Mary Quant, just out of art college in the mid-Fifties, looked with dismay at what most women wore - 'The un-sexiness, the lack of gaiety, the formal stuffiness. I wanted clothes that were much more for being young and alive in.'

But restraint and uniformity were the order of the day, as the Indian writer Nirad Chaudhuri noted during a 1955 visit to England.

'I heard no sound,' he said as he watched crowds streaming quietly and in an orderly fashion along Oxford Street. He met 'the same silence' in pubs, restaurants and buses - a silence, a 'dreariness of public behaviour', utterly different from what he was used to in India. And when the English did speak, they were no less reserved, he found, with 'their habit of tacitness, which they call understatement'.

Yet it would be wrong to assume that Britain in the Fifties was invariably a land of carefully calibrated politeness. There were pointers to a more casual and selfish future in the emotive issue of bus queues.

A newspaper correspondent recalled 'their neat and orderly double-file formation during the war'. But not any more. 'Today they straggle and lack not only their former parade-ground precision, but also bonhomie.' A clergyman complained of queuejumpers sidling on board 'with great skill and an appearance of disinterestedness'.

Yet, helped by informally policed public spaces - by bus conductors, by park-keepers, by lavatory attendants - and by a police force that was largely admired, this was for the most part an era of trust.

'I liked my half-hour's walk through the quiet suburban streets,' children's author Jacqueline Wilson recalls about being a six-year-old in Kingston-upon-Thames, adding that it wasn't unusual for children of her age to walk to school by themselves.

Ken Blackmore, who grew up in a Cheshire village, remembers not only the front door of his home being left unlocked, but bikes generally being left untouched or unchained at the bus stop or the railway station.

It was not until about 1957 that British motorcycles were even fitted with locks or keys. John Humbach parked his 500cc Triumph outside his London house. 'I never had a chain and padlock and never knew anyone who had. The bike was never stolen and I was never worried it might be.'

That these were more lawabiding times than now is not a nostalgic fantasy. The fundamental fact was that, following a sharp upward spike in the post-war years, crime declined markedly during the first half of the Fifties. The numbers started to move up from 1955, but were strikingly low.

Notifiable offences recorded by the police were a little over half a million in 1957. Forty years later, they were almost 4.5 million. Violent crimes against the person numbered under 11,000 in 1957, and 250,000 in 1997.

It was, in short, a different world - whose trusting best was evoked by a premium-collecting Prudential insurance agent in Lincolnshire during the Fifties.

There were homes he went to in his bright yellow Austin Seven where the occupants were out at work and the key was under a brick or on a nail in the shed. 'I would let myself in and find the books and the payment which had been left out for me.

'Many times I would find also a hastily scribbled note: "Please take an extra sixpence and post these letters" and "Tell the doctor Johnnie is not so well."'

Yet, as easy-going and trusting as people were in such matters, Fifties Britain was also authoritarian, illiberal and puritanical.

School life set the tone. A tearful Jacqueline Aitken (later Wilson) was forced to eat up the fatty meat at her school dinners before going to throw up in the smelly lavatories. At his public school, comedian Peter Cook was tormented and beaten by an imperious, cricketplaying prefect called Ted Dexter, who went on to captain England.

In theory, education was becoming less Victorian. By 1957, the Ministry of Education was beginning to see its role as turning out well-rounded individuals. But on the ground, especially in secondary schools, what went on was very traditional and almost militaristic in tone.

Mick Jagger thought there was too much pen-pushing and homework at his grammar school. 'And too much petty discipline. Petty rules about uniforms and stuff.'

At Colston's School in Bristol, an independent, the list of strictly enforced rules seemed endless: 'Boys will raise their caps on meeting masters, masters' wives or ladies of the staff. No boy may have his hands in his pockets.

Private wireless sets and gramophones are forbidden. Association football is forbidden. No boy may keep in his possession a sum of money larger than two shillings.

'Only English comics are permitted. All American publications of this kind are banned. Cheap novelettes and such like reading matter are forbidden, but this prohibition does not extend to Penguins and reputable publications of the same kind.'

Discipline was invariably strict, as a series of ordinary women recalled in a Mass-Observation survey. At her girls' convent school, Dorothy Stephenson was once made to kneel for three hours on the hall floor for not having a white collar. 'I didn't have one because we couldn't afford it.'

Pamela Sinclair recalled that boys were regularly caned and girls rapped on the knuckles with a ruler at her junior school. 'Things were learnt by rote and the weekly times-tables test was a nightmare. No one questioned authority then, but it didn't mean we weren't resentful at times.'

At Rosalind Delmar's school, pupils were caned for being inside the buildings at playtime. 'Which teacher used a cane and which a rubber strap, if you could make it sting less by pulling your hand back at the moment of contact or spitting on your hand before - these were all subjects of endless discussion.'

Derek Robinson remembered how his PT master beat boys on the backside with a large wallmap of the world, rolled around the strip of wood from which it normally hung.

'He was short and stout, and the map was long, so he had to stand well back in orderto make his swing. When he got his follow-through right, he could knock a boy clean off his feet.'

Few people disagreed with corporal punishment. A poll in 1952 found that nine out of ten teachers wanted it retained. Oddly, the victims agreed. In a survey, schoolboys were just as unanimously in favour. It was swift and brief in its execution, whereas alternative punishments, such as withdrawing privileges, were seen as generating greater resentment.

Still, its frequency was starting to diminish as the Fifties went on, and this caused alarm. 'These days, masters dare not touch little Willie or mistresses cane little Mary,' complained Dr N. S. Sherrard, of Beccles, in July 1954, in an address to parents at a Suffolk secondary school. Since teachers couldn't bash the children, 'you must do it yourself in the home.'

Some of them needed no encouragement. 'From as young as I can remember, we were all beaten, bullied and victimised by our father,' recalled John Davies about his childhood in South Wales.

'For playing out in the garden without permission, he lined us up and hit out with a leather strap he had specially made. We would regularly be black and blue. He would fly into a rage at the slightest thing - dinners would end up all over the walls and we'd all get beaten.'

With his boot, the stepfather of Christine Keeler crushed the life out of a warm, living field mouse she brought home one day. Jacqueline Wilson's father Harry was not violent, but still inflicted terrible, unpredictable rages on his family.

Even the most mild-mannered tended to be remote figures, incapable of physical intimacy. 'Ours had been a typical Fifties relationship,' journalist Angela Phillips wrote in 2005 after her father's death. 'We were affectionate and respectful but - I realised as I held his hand in his final days - we had barely touched since I was a baby.

'There was no snuggling into the parental bed, no curling up on a lap and falling asleep in front of the TV. At adolescence even the good-night kiss had to stop. Distance was maintained.'

Yet things were changing. Taken as a whole, Fifties parents were significantly less old-school than the previous generation and markedly more indulgent and permissive. Post-war fathers were more willing to play with their children, take them out at weekends and make toys for them.

The idea of the 'good parent', inclined to put the needs of their children first, was taking hold. It was not uncommon for a young mother to speak of her father's strictness in her childhood and to add: 'But fathers mustn't be like that today, must they?'

A continuing attachment to the need for discipline in the home was combined with a growing distaste (apart from aminority) for punishment which went beyond a spank.

In the Fifties, parenthood was on the cusp of change. This revolution came at a price. The growing pressure to do something for the kiddies meant in practice long hours of overtime for breadwinners who, as a result, saw less of their children than they might have wished.

For mothers, it brought anxiety about the best way to bring up children - which was probably exacerbated rather than relieved by the burgeoning advice from so-called experts like Dr Spock.

That anxiety would increase with the rebellious streak that was becoming more evident in Britain's 'trainee adults'. They were turning into what we would now recognise as 'teenagers'. Their moral welfare became a pressing concern - not least in the context of the disturbingly expanding wage packets of those who had left school and were working.

In the early Fifties, the anti-social antics of 'cosh boys' and 'Teddy boys' led commentators to worry that a lack of parental control, caused by mistaken kindness and the fallacies of modern psychiatry, was turning out a generation of delinquents.

There were calls for strong action - the birch, at the very least - after a widely publicised fight took place in Kent in which gangs of 'sinister' Teds in stovepipe trousers and velvet-coloured jackets fought a battle with wooden stakes and sand-filled socks

A stalwart of the Boys' Brigade warned that dangerously soft attitudes in society were whittling away all personal responsibility for wrongdoing. 'The child comes to regard himself not as sinful, but just as "a psychological case".'



Dabitoff, Windolene, Duraglit, Brasso, Brillo, Lifebuoy, Silvikrin, Ammi-dent, Delrosa Rose Hip Syrup, Mr Therm, Toni Perms.


Hairnets, head-scarves, Ladybird T-shirts, rompers, knicker elastic, cycle clips, brogues, Start-rite (that rear view of two small children setting out on life's path), Moss Bros, crests on blazers, ties as ID.


AA patrolmen, driving gloves, Austin Cambridge, Morris Oxford, Sunbeam Talbot, indicator wings, sidecars, Raleigh, Sturmey-Archer.


I Spy, Hornby Dublo, Tri-ang, Dinky, Meccano, Scalextric, Subbuteo, Sarah Jane dolls, Plasticine, Magic Robot, cap guns.


Capstans, Player's Navy Cut, Senior Service, cigarette boxes, Dagenham Girl Pipers.


Saturday-morning cinema, Uncle Mac, Nellie the Elephant, The Laughing Policeman.


Napkin rings, butter knives, volauvents, Brown Windsor soup, sponge cakes, Garibaldis (squashed flies), Carnation, Edam, eat up your greens, Sun-Pat, Marmite sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, semolina, sucking oranges through sugar cubes, Tizer, Dandelion & Burdock, Tom Thumb drops, Sherbet Fountains, Spangles, Trebor, blackjacks, fruit salads, aniseed balls, pineapple chunks, flying saucers, traffic-light lollipops, gobstoppers. The agonising dilemma at the ice-cream van: a big one for 6d or two small ones for 3d each?

The arrival of rock 'n' roll with Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock in 1955 opened the floodgates to more adult anxiety, which rose even higher the following year after Elvis Presley entered the British Top 20 chart (itself a Fifties invention) for the first time.

While on leave from National Service, Bill Perks (later Wyman) bought a 78rpm shellac record of Heartbreak Hotel and played it with the windows open 'until it wore out'. John Lennon must have been doing something similar because his Aunt Mimi told him that Elvis was fine, 'but I don't want him for breakfast, dinner and tea'.

But the rock craze was here to stay, and with airplay limited on the starchy BBC, largely disseminated from big, coin-operated U.S. jukeboxes in that other new phenomenon of the Fifties, the coffee bar.

All this put pressure on the conventional activities of young people. Scout leaders worried about the large number of boys who left its ranks in their teens, particularly those of 'a lower calibre who will not knuckle down to discipline or accept the demands made on them'.

The same exodus took place in youth clubs. 'Packed it in when I started courting,' said a 16-year-old boy. 'Started going out with boy,' was the reason given by a 15-year-old girl. The most frequent reason, however, was simply 'boring'.

The change in young people's interests was shown when pop singer Frankie Vaughan, a supporter of youth clubs, toured many of them in 1955, judging talent contests. An observer noted with disquiet that the youngsters seemed to prefer mobbing their idol to putting on a show of their own. The girls simply wanted to kiss him.

But it was the condition of those in their later teens that concerned others in authority. Eighteen-yearolds called up for National Service, said an official report, were increasingly 'of poor physique and poor education, lacking religious knowledge, self-confidence, initiative and sense of responsibility'. Where would it all end?

Friday, 16 September 2016

Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats

This stunning book presents the intriguing stories and celebrated histories of some of the leading families of Great Britain and Ireland and the opulent residences that have defined their heritages. The history of England is inextricably linked with the stories of its leading aristocratic dynasties and the great seats they have occupied for centuries. As the current owners speak of the critical roles their ancestors have played in the nation, they bring history alive. All of these houses have survived great wars, economic upheavals, and, at times, scandal. Filled with stunning photography, this book is a remarkably intimate and lively look inside some of Britain’s stateliest houses, with the modern-day aristocrats who live in them and keep them going in high style. This book presents a tour of some of England’s finest residences, with many of the interiors shown here for the first time. It includes Blenheim Palace—seven acres under one roof, eclipsing the splendor of any of the British royal family’s residences—property of the Dukes of Marlborough; the exquisite Old Vicarage in Derbyshire, last residence of the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (née Deborah Mitford); Haddon Hall, a vast crenellated 900-year-old manor house belonging to the Dukes of Rutland that has been called the most romantic house in England; and the island paradises on Mustique and St. Lucia of the 3rd Baron Glenconner. This book is perfect for history buffs and lovers of traditional interior design and English country life.
About the Author

James Reginato is writer-at-large for Vanity Fair and a contributing editor of Sotheby’s Magazine.

Jonathan Becker is a photographer who has contributed to Vogue, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.

Viscount Linley is Hon. Chairman for Christie’s in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and India.

James Reginato is writer-at-large for Vanity Fair and a contributing editor of Sotheby’s Magazine.
The history of England and the British people is inextricably linked with the stories of its leading aristocratic dynasties and the seats they have occupied for centuries. These houses have survived great wars, economic upheavals, and at times scandal and tragedy. James Reginato, writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, will showcase several of these homes in England, Ireland, Italy, and the Carribean, and for the first times illustrate some of their private interiors—among them the exquisite Old Vicarage in Derbyshire, the last residence of the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire; Villa Cetinale in Tuscany, owned by the 7th Earl of Durham; Blenheim Palace, the home of the 11th Duke of Marlborough; Broughton Castle, home of the 21st Baron Saye and Sele; and The Grove in Oxfordshire, home of Countess Mountbatten of Burma and Lady Pamela Hicks.

  Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats

Written by James Reginato, Foreword by Viscount Linley, Photographed by Jonathan Becker

Pub Date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Category: House & Home - Decorating
Publisher: Rizzoli
Trim Size: 9-3/8 x 12-3/4
US Price: $60.00
CAN Price: $80.00
ISBN: 978-0-8478-4898-0