Britain’s finest hour is remembered in a house in Stocksfield, where homeowners Carrie and Michael Page have taken a step back in time to the 1940s – right down to the car they drive.
IT’S a case of look but don’t touch – and certainly do not eat – in Carrie Page’s kitchen cupboard in Stocksfield. For here Mrs Beeton’s cookery book nestles against ancient tins of Horlicks and Andrews’ liver salts. There’s even a 70-year-old rusty tin of “meat soup”. The label on the tin is deliberately vague but one thing is certain – it’s not likely to contain prime cuts of beef. This is wartime Britain after all and needs must.
1940s Britain was a time of austerity, rationing, fear and hardship. Defeat and occupation by Nazi Germany were very real possibilities as people were urged to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
But it was also a time of unity, stoicism and unimaginable courage in the face of adversity. It was, as Winston Churchill put it, Britain’s finest hour. And it is the spirit of this momentous era that continues to fascinate people to this day – not least Carrie and her husband Michael.
Carrie and Michael grew up together in Stocksfield, but didn’t know each other until they met on a blind date arranged by friends. They soon discovered a shared passion for history – in particular the 1940s. And when Michael popped the question, they decided to get married during a wartime weekend in Pickering, dressed in vintage 1940s clothes.
So when it came to designing their home in Stocksfield, it was inevitable that the 1940s would make its mark. On the outside their house does not look vastly different to its neighbour. But step inside and it’s another story. Here the couple have cleverly managed to combine vintage, retro style with contemporary comfort to create a home that is not only eye-catching, but cosy.
The couple moved into their home on New Ridley Road, Stocksfield, in the summer of 2010 and have transformed a blank canvas of magnolia and cream into an eclectic mix of colourful fabrics, walls, pictures and memorabilia. Each room in their house has its own distinctive style and character, underpinned by nostalgia for a lost era.
Step through the front door and the first room on the right is the living room. Here olive green wood panels and shelves create a cosy, tranquil feel alongside squishy sofas and floral William Morris wallpaper. Bright, cherry red cushions provide vivid splashes of colour and a string of multi coloured bauble style fairy lights trail along the mantelpiece, bathing the room in a warm, golden glow.
An ancient cuddly dog sits on a shelf, surrounded by books, photographs and ornaments, while a wooden duck peers around the room from under the coffee table. But perhaps the most eye-catching item in the room is the imposing grandfather clock, with a watercolour inset of Broughton Castle. “It’s been in the family for years,” said Carrie.
Family is important to Carrie who has recently taken over her Uncle Gilbert’s electrical repairs shop in Hexham and injected her own, personal style into the family business as well as her home. Wardhaughs is one of Hexham’s oldest and most traditional independent traders, selling everything from fuse wire and fairy lights to flat screen televisions. Now, thanks to Carrie, it is rocketing into the 21st century with a style make-over, new website and online shop.
The bed, which is now in the spare room, is particularly exciting because it came with a 1940’s, wartime issued sprung base, stamped with the CC41 mark, which is a very rare find.
And her eye for detail and distinct, retro style is clear not only at home but at work where vintage wirelesses and clocks, unearthed from the shop’s dusty attic, are now on display for all to see. But the shop’s collection of memorabilia is nothing in comparison to the shelves laden with historic delights at her Stocksfield cottage.
“I have inherited my father’s collecting bug,” said Carrie. “He loved model railways – in fact anything to do with the railway. He also loved history. He threw himself into the whole 1940s theme for our wedding, even getting special vintage style little round spectacles made especially for the day.”
Walk through the kitchen, with its collection of Polish pottery, over a flowered proggy mat (an Aunt Betty creation), and you come to a light, airy, sun room – a sort of second living room with a comfy throw and cushion-laden sofa, dining room table and home-made patchwork curtains. A pair of Cath Kidston wellies, waiting by the French doors leading out into the garden, provide a colourful touch. But the most dominant feature in the room is the wall-to-wall shelf, heaving with all sorts of historic bits and bobs from gas masks to oil cans.
There’s even an instruction manual, issued by the War Office to American soldiers, full of useful snippets on how to behave in Britain. American GIs are urged to try not to appear “too arrogant” while remembering that the British are ‘reserved, not rude’; and for recreation they like ‘going to something called the pub’.
Another book outlines the history of the ‘Timber Gills’ – the members of the Women’s Timber Corps who worked in woods and forests while their men were away fighting in the war. This particular branch of the Land Army is a passion for Carrie who dresses up as a Timber Gill on wartime weekends.
Carrie and Michael love to trawl antique shops and auction houses and have discovered many wonderful pieces from Victorian bedsteads to turn-of-the-century armchairs, books and photographs.
“The bed, which is now in the spare room, is particularly exciting because it came with a 1940s, wartime issued sprung base, stamped with the CC41 mark, which is very rare to find,” said Carrie.
The spare room is also home to a wardrobe, full of 1940s clothes including Carrie’s stunning wedding dress and Michael’s RAF uniforms.
“I found the dress on the internet on a specialist website,” said Carrie. “It was hard finding one the right size – they were all so tiny back then. But I was lucky and it was the perfect fit. I also had my hair pinned up in a 1940s style. I loved it! I wish I could have it like that all the time.”
Outside, in the double garage, the theme of nostalgia for a lost age continues with the couple’s collection of four Austin 7s, in varying stages of restoration and repair. One is now painted with a resplendent Wardhaughs sign, and is a regular at trade shows. The others are, as Carrie puts it, “for driving, not standing next to in a show field for hours on end.”
Carrie and Michael are members of the Scottish Austin 7 Club and love taking their vintage cars for a spin on club weekends and holidays. “The people are lovely,” said Carrie. “And of course we all love our cars.”
Carrie and Michael’s house is fascinating and undoubtedly cluttered. But this is organised clutter. Everything has its place and the overwhelming feeling is of a calm, happy, well-organised home.
Their skill in injecting warmth, character, colour and style into a home was noted by national magazine Period Living which, back in 2008, awarded them a national award for the restoration of their previous house in Stocksfield.
Carrie has also won a Country Homes and Interiors gardener of the year award. Now, just two years into the revamp of their new home, it’s inevitable that some accolade is waiting around the corner for their latest project.
Just watch this space!