Contemporary London Flats

Air Police stuff, What injuries did they have, Story timeline, How popular was Biggles, Mount Street floor plan, etc.

Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby kylie_koyote » 15 Sep 2018, 15:51

They have air mattresses by “in Australia” (at least) as well.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Frecks » 15 Sep 2018, 16:05

Yes I had forgotten about them. There seem to be plenty of options but WEJ does not give any indication of the size or layout of the flat except on a couple of occasions which really just causes more confusion.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Kismet » 15 Sep 2018, 19:30

Patricia Wentworth Anne Belinda 1928

Three rooms in London flats described here. The second two are in the same flat. Both flats belong to women.

The room was not at all like any room he had seen before. Walls, floor and ceiling, curtains woodwork and chair-covers were all of one even shade of grey – and that not the bluish grey which is called French, but the real, pure grey which comes from the equal mixture of black and white. Against this neutral background the few contrasting objects took on an added value. There were cushions of half a dozen shades of purple, from violet to cyclamen; there was a bright green clock on the mantelpiece, flanked by tall green candlesticks; on one long, bare wall there hung an etching of a black pine tree bending in the wind.



At one-thirty he found Aurora most incongruously surrounded by gimcrack gilt furniture and delicate watercolours, her massive feet firmly planted on a rose coloured Aubusson carpet.


The dining room was next door, a little white room with ebony furniture, black carpet, black curtains and a black bowl in the middle of the table, in which floated an artificial water lily, rather dirty at the edges.


There is black and white china to match the dining room.


This second flat doesn’t belong to Aurora. She has borrowed it from a friend who has gone up to Scotland. This seems to be quite a casual arrangement: 'I'm not going to be there but you can stay at my place anyway.'

I rather like the idea of a grey room with splashes of colour, but I don't think I could live in it myself.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Tracer » 16 Sep 2018, 10:40

Kismet wrote:
This is rather a dull document, but it goes through every house on Mount St, saying what the plot used to be, when it was re-developed, who the architects were etc.



That's a handsome find, Kismet - thank you!

The Patricia Wentworth flat sounds ultra-on-trend for the time. Not a decor I would like either, but after many years of living with other people's taste in design, I've known far worse.

A friend of mine moved 20 years ago from a big London flat to a country cottage, and his furniture is lovely Art Deco in yew wood and cut velvet.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Frecks » 16 Sep 2018, 11:51

I was watching a TV programme about the Victorian era last night and it was amazing what facilities the upper classes had even then. I think the early part of the 20th Century was very definitely divided into the rich and the poor with the rich having access to quite a lot of modern conveniences and the poor carrying on in the same way as the Victorians for quite a few years. The programme showed how the introduction of gas street lighting and then gas piped into houses made a big difference in the towns but in rural areas things hardly changed at all.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Kismet » 28 Sep 2018, 22:33

Murder on the Enriquette Molly Thynne 1929

Molly Thynne is an interesting novelist to look at in this thread as she descended from Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath, George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey and William Bentinck 2nd Duke of Portland on her father’s side, and was a great niece of James Macneill Whistler on her mother’s. Her father was Assistant Solicitor to His Majesty’s Customs and she was brought up in Kensington in a house where there were four family members and five members of staff (cook, parlourmaid, housemaid, under-housemaid and lady’s maid). Therefore, she is both of the same social class as Biggles and Algy and in a position to know exactly how luxury flats in the interwar period ran. The details she is giving are fascinating me.

‘I’m sorry we don’t boast a town house at present,’ he went on....’Uncle Maurice turned it into a hospital during the war, and it was so knocked about that he sold it soon after the Armistice meaning to buy another. But my aunt was dead and he had no daughter so that entertaining was not much in his line, and he got into the habit of taking a furnished house when he wanted to spend any length of time in town. I’m in rooms myself, so I can’t offer you hospitality. I’m sorry. It would have been more comfortable for you than a hotel.’


This is one explanation of what happened to the Bigglesworth town house. Biggles wasn’t going to entertain so he sold it as surplus to requirements.

The rich heir is in rooms. This very conveniently prevents him from having to offer to have a female relative to stay. I can see that being a consideration for Algy and Biggles as well.

The rich female heiress has to have a chaperone: she has agreed to live with a widowed aunt by marriage in a shared flat.

‘It’s a perfectly gorgeous flat, and I’ve got a bedroom, sitting room, an extra bedroom if I need it, and my own bathroom........There’s one (a telephone) in the hall, and I suppose we shall share the expense so that I can use it whenever I like.’


If Algy had his own bedroom, spare bedroom, sitting room and bathroom when he moved into Mount St with Biggles, then no wonder they had no difficulty in fitting Ginger and Bertie in to the flat.

I am interested that two rich women sharing a flat are going to divide the costs of the telephone, too.

More later
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Fairblue » 28 Sep 2018, 23:36

Frecks wrote:I was watching a TV programme about the Victorian era last night and it was amazing what facilities the upper classes had even then. I think the early part of the 20th Century was very definitely divided into the rich and the poor with the rich having access to quite a lot of modern conveniences and the poor carrying on in the same way as the Victorians for quite a few years. The programme showed how the introduction of gas street lighting and then gas piped into houses made a big difference in the towns but in rural areas things hardly changed at all.

There were the middle classes too. The men would have been usually Managerial level in their work, banking and manufacturing etc. Not of the aristocracy, but not working class either. They would have lived in houses in the suburbs. The houses certainly wouldn't have been mansions but they wouldn't have been a two up two down terrace either. Perhaps three or four bedrooms, with at least two reception rooms, a bathroom kitchen and scullery. Most middle class wives would have aspired to at least one servant, usually female to do most of the housework. She would have had a bed in the attic. It was a sign that they were affluent and set them apart from the working masses.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Tracer » 29 Sep 2018, 10:00

I am interested that two rich women sharing a flat are going to divide the costs of the telephone, too.


Telephones were very expensive until relatively recently. It would be an easy thing to fall out over otherwise.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Kismet » 29 Sep 2018, 15:28

I know telephones were rather a luxury when I was growing up, being positioned in a cold hall to discourage the making of a call lasting longer than a few seconds and with hideous warnings from parents about the length of call if permission to make one was requested, but I think I'd supposed that it would be different for the rich.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Kismet » 29 Sep 2018, 15:33

Murder on the Enriquette Molly Thynne 1929 part two

The luxury flats have been converted from a hotel. It’s in the vicinity of Park Lane. It has a ‘spacious white and gold vestibule, with its banks of palms and superfluity of uniformed porters and page boys,’ One of its attractions is that some rooms look out over a large garden. A balcony runs outside these rooms, accessed by French windows. There is a restaurant downstairs which residents can visit or have meals sent up to their rooms. All the flat front doors have latch keys. The staff have passkeys to all the rooms. There are two porters (our heroine says they are ‘so nice’). They have a room on the ground floor. There are no flats on the ground floor. That is given over to the restaurant, the kitchens and some of the servants’ bedrooms. There is a board in the hall giving the names of the residents. There is a fire in the hall to heat it.

I presume that the board of names has a little slider next to each name to indicate whether they are in or out, so a porter can answer questions and make decisions about whether to send deliveries straight up or to wait for a resident’s return and so on. When my eldest was at uni, there was a similar board at the bottom of each staircase for the students to indicate whether they were in or out on and it was expected that they would do so!

Lady Dalberry has decorated her flat with Chinese embroideries, heavy Jacobean furniture and a mass of heavily scented flowers in gilt pots and baskets. A silver tray sits on a table in the small hall. She has a writing table on which she keeps stamps in a little lacquer box and telegraph forms. Our heroine has her rooms decorated in fresh bright colours. A gentleman has a runner of embroidered linen lying across a high chest of drawers , on which hairbrushes and toilet articles lie. The author indicates that, despite the high quality of the items, Lady Dalberry’s decorating is somewhat incongruous. The fresh bright colours of the heroine’s room are approved of.

I’ve read descriptions of quite a lot of flats now, and it strikes me that the only common factors are that most of them have flowers in them as an important part of the decor and they have a writing desk separate from the table they eat at.


The staff perform a number of tasks, some expected, some not. They run errands for the residents, such as buying stamps, sending telegrams and posting letters. The residents ring for a page boy or a porter if they wish for the lift or an errand to be run. The page boys are in charge of the fires in the flats. A resident will leave orders concerning when they want them lit and ring to have them made up during the day. They usually indicate if they are going to be in for the evening or not. Residents telephone the porter to obtain a taxi for them before they leave their room so it is waiting by the time they walk outside. If a porter is on the front steps, then he will open the door of a stopping taxi. Although there are stairs, the residents usually use the lift, manned by a page boy. They ring for it if they want it. The lift closes at twelve. After that, the stairs have to be used.
Some people live in a flat with fewer porters but have a manservant. Then the manservant will make up the fire, call the taxi and so on.

I think this book, more than any other, has brought the level of service expected by a well off person in a flat to my attention. I know that in big country houses well stocked with servants that this was completely the norm, but that someone young and healthy who wasn’t employing servants of their own, or only a maid / man servant, and living what was thought of as a pared down lifestyle should demand someone to come and make up their fire and post their letters and press a lift button for them seems rather shocking.
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Re: Contemporary London Flats

Postby Tracer » 29 Sep 2018, 16:57

Kismet wrote:I know telephones were rather a luxury when I was growing up, being positioned in a cold hall to discourage the making of a call lasting longer than a few seconds and with hideous warnings from parents about the length of call if permission to make one was requested, but I think I'd supposed that it would be different for the rich.



But that's how the rich stay rich! :lol:

Seriously: one way to avoid arguments when home-sharing is for everyone to pay their share. Then if anyone wants to treat anyone else e.g. to a meal or theatre trip, that can be done voluntarily and out of goodwill. An alternative is to have a household-bills kitty where a certain amount is paid in every agreed time (monthly, say) and everything comes out of that. If it runs low, each person puts in an agreed sum more, and if there is a surplus, that's treat time for everyone. I've used both ways, and they work well.
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