West is best

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West is best in my books and last weekend was no exception down in Tormarton, Gloucestershire with friends.  We hopped in the car to Chipping Sodbury to forage for weekend supplies from the market.  The cooks had only one recipe in mind; game pie.

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This stall sold lovingly restored old tools.

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We found this little chap having a post ham sandwich snooze under the stall. 

Hmmm, future brides meets Strictly come dancing.....

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Loved the simplicity of the navy and white canopy and clean font of this local butcher.  Complete with sash windows and tiles from a bygone era.

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We then stumbled across the Purple Parrot shop further along the High St and things took a bizarre turn.  I promise ( after two posts of dolls houses) I didn't even know this shop existed. Gideon, the only male in the group broke loose and ran terrified.  I can't say I blamed him, but frankly he missed out, so I hope he is reading this.  A veritable cornucopia for a fantasy world I'm starting to realise some take very seriously.

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Of course doll's keep pet rabbits in hutches....

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Your dream kitchen kitchen, an AGA at an affordable price.....

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Miniature brass fire accessories....

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Knowing your scale be it 1/12 or 1/16 is essential as I soon found out....

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Dinner service anyone?

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Katie bought the Saturday papers....

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These cards took it to a new level and just about finished me off.

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I'm glad to see that husband and wife team Caz and Stu are on facebook and even dress dolls up in their own purple uniforms.

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Even going as far as the rice bucket challenge, rice not ice for dolls....get it?!!!!  It's the sort of niche and esoteric independant shopkeeping that we do well at in this country,  I laughed like a drain pipe that afternoon. It certainly beats the socks off an afternoon looking at sat navs on Amazon!

Life in Miniature

Things in miniature have always delighted and amused me.  As a child I was obsessed by Queen Mary's tower of a dolls house (displayed at Windsor castle), complete with functional plumbing and electric lights.  I was too young to appreciate it was designed by Lutyens and contained fashionable items such as scale size bound books by Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling. Spoilt doesn't even come close.  I was desperate to jump behind the glass and play, my eyes would scour every inch of detail. So it should not come as a suprise that I've recently acquired my own dolls house.  A 1950s Tudor style dolls model made by the popular toy manufacturer Triang, probably between 1949 and 1954 (from the look of the windows).  In this day and age, it might seem a bit odd for a thirty something girl to own a dolls house.  But the idealised interiors of these tiny houses were originally designed as a hobby for adults over 400 years ago.

Triang made various dolls house models which reflected various modern British architecture.  The Tudor style endured as their most popular style.  With it's mock Tudor half timbering, lead lattice windows, matching garage, there's a touch of The Good Life about it isn't there?  A slice of suburbia.  Tom and Barbara digging for self sufficiency in the garden, Jerry and Margot serving cocktails and discussing places they might never visit.  And why not? Everybody looked down on suburbia with distaste, but was it the pinnacle of modern civilisation?  Nostalgic, country cottage style houses built for the aspiring middle classes within a commutable distance to London.  With a lack of servants being made up for by all mod cons, such as bathrooms and electric lighting.  An Englishman's home is his castle and all that. These aspirations were so ingrained in our culture they filtered down to children's toys.

My dolls house might not be a patch on Queen Anne's, but it is papered with parquet flooring, has a miniature cast iron letterbox and floral curtains which is enough for me to play with.   A little slice of history and a powerful statement.

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W. Sitch & Company

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With our impending office move to Whitechapel just one week away I find myself skulking round Soho far too much.  I keep worrying.......what will I do without the Algerian Coffee House for my favourite tea or the Pilgrim's Pizza van?  All those times I worked through lunch when I could have been noshing the latest street food on Berwick St with the food bloggers. Last week I popped into W. Sitch & Company at 48 Berwick Street  hoping  they might have some reclaimed door furniture, see  below for last week's post;

http://islasimpson.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/door-furniture/

There is more brass crammed into five floors than you could ever imagine, but not of the kind I was after.   Thankfully, Laurence ( one of the Sitch brothers)  recommended other places to try.  I paused a little and remembered the advice my little brother had told me....... she who courteously asks permission to take photograph usually wins!  I explained that I wanted to feature  them on my blog out of pure admiration for the house and their artisan skills.  I couldn't believe my luck when Laurence sent me to say hello to everyone in the back workshop.  My god I was being allowed into the engine room, I'd hit the jack pot!  It turns out that World of Interiors had already beaten a path well before me................

The house and premises are largely untouched, but run very much as a working business.  The place is filthy, dark and dusty, messy and crammed with antique brass.  You can hardly see the wood for the trees it's so packed to the rafters.  It could be hellish for some, but I am in my element.  How on earth does anybody choose, I could take the lot home with me.  This is how it works; customers pick out their brass hall lantern, chandelier or candle stick and  then specify re-wiring requirements and how polished they would like the finished article to be.  The rustic look or bright as a button!  They can also make a reproductions of favourite pieces.   There are no price tags, you have to enquire about each piece, but in my opinion their artisan skills are almost priceless.  There are few workshops around today which offer this level of craftsmanship, especially in central London.  Not least with a huge pair of bellows (topped by a crown) the size of a dining room table out the back!

Laurence and his brother James are clearly proud of their heritage and passionate about the family business (started in 1776).  Their surname Sitch is so unusual they can trace it back to the 16th century when their ancestor was registered as a candle stick maker in Cripplegate.  Mind blowing!  Of course part of my affection for W. Sitch & Company  is also tied up to the Georgian house and premises on Berwick Street.   The Sitch family have occupied the mid 19th century townhouse  since 1903 but were operating in Hollen Street and around the Soho area before then.   The house was freezing cold on the day I visited, except for the warm workshop heated by the furnace.  I felt as if I might fall through the floorboards most of the time on the top floor.   Here lies the scruffy charm which is part of the character though.  The brothers are not members of the Soho Society or The Georgian Group or stuck in a period time warp.  They are just getting on with the day to day running of their well respected business which is very much in the here and now.  They have produced work for the National Trust, English Heritage, 10 Downing Street, Clarence House, Edinburgh Castle, the film "Titanic" and Merchant Ivory productions.  Visit their website here;

http://www.wsitch.co.uk/

Time Out has this to say on the shop;

http://www.timeout.com/london/shopping/w-sitch-co

Somebody has also posted up this video on You Tube using slightly irritating music.   But James' enthusiasm comes across brilliantly;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAc1qXCgDH4

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James Sitch mans the office.

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The workshopDSC03297

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This reproduction 18th century light fitting will hang in the Egyptian embassy.

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The bellows!DSC03314

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So many pairs of specs hanging up in the workshop.

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Check out the size of this Georgian brass hall lantern!

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The nuts and blots.

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James Sitch talks history with me.

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Climbing the stairs to the upper floors.DSC03370

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A snapshot into how Soho looked long ago.

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