Hello there and welcome to our third installment of Vintage Inside & Out, which helps you get to know a bit more about some of the key players on the vintage scene in Manchester. The “Inside” bit refers to their homes, as we have the envious task of capturing them on camera- a great job done by Tom Wright.
This months star of the show is Gwyneth, who has recently made a variety of television appearances based around her baking skills and runs the Manchester contingent of the Clandestine Cake Club.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Gwyneth Brock, I’m a mum of three and I also run a business called Vintage Afternoon Teas. Based from home in Altrincham, we’ve been going since 2010, growing slowly, all based on word of mouth. I host an underground vintage tea room in my home every month and deliver afternoon teas to all sorts of events, from teas for four to teas for eighty.
We also have a pop-up tea room that travels around to various events. We have a hundred place settings of vintage china and a large collection of vintage table linens, napkins and cutlery.
When I say “we”, it’s me, my family and some occasional staff when I need them. I’ve been at Trafford College since September, on their Professional Pastry Chef course, and loving it.
What changes to your home have you made in order for it to reflect you?
We’ve been in our home for nearly eight years now and we think it dates back to 1741, although we’ve never had that verified. It needs a lot of maintenance, which is the dull but necessary bit.
The decor inside very much reflects our love of a cosy and comfortable atmosphere, it has a “lived in” feel, sometimes too lived in!! It’s a total mish mash of eras, furniture and fittings wise, all picked up since Graeme and I were first living together in London.
Which piece, or room, sums up your style?
I love our dining room. It faces the front of the house which is north facing so darker, and the front door opens straight into it, but it still manages to feel cosy and a worthwhile space.
I work in here on my laptop at a 50s bureau/desk (eBay), a lot of my china is stored in a huge wooden cupboard (an old school cupboard from a Levenshulme antiques shop) and I host my underground tea parties in here at a huge long wooden dining table (Heals sale). My dad gave us the old wall clock, salvaged from a school he was working in. I have an old tea trolley (eBay) where I store yet more cake stands.
What is your favourite era and why?
Clothes-wise my favourite era is the forties and fifties, clothes for women with curves. Interiors wise I love lots of furniture including Georgian and Edwardian, but perhaps not their colour palettes.
I think I feel a strong affinity with the sixties and seventies because that’s what I grew up with and I did appreciate the modern lines of the furniture and the bright colour schemes. My mum and dad had some great pieces of furniture, some G-plan, a circular orange rug I particularly remember and some amazing curtains. Sadly we didn’t keep them.
Where does your interest come from? What or who is your inspiration?
My mum and dad had great taste and a really lovely modern house when I was growing up. My first vintage china came from my grandma Edna, I took a few cups and saucers when she became too elderly to live alone in her flat in Sale and moved in with my aunt and uncle, just to remind me of her.
Wish I’d taken her tea trolley on wheels too, it was always wheeled in when we went round for a cuppa (I’ve got one now)! Edna was quite entrepreneurial too, I like to think she would be proud of me for starting my own business, she ran a greengrocers shop for a while just up the hill from where I live now. Gran loved clothes too, she was a great seamstress, wish I was!
In terms of wearing vintage, I’ve always loved clothes and don’t mind looking a little bit different, so I started wearing vintage (second hand it was known as then) in my teens, buying it at all sorts of places including Afflecks (very different then). I wore vintage at University because it was cheap, stylish and different, Kensington Market was a favourite haunt then, and Covent Garden.
Can you give any tips in collecting, restoring or sourcing vintage items (clothes/furniture etc)
I’ll admit I’m not great at restoring things, I did strip a bookcase of three layers of paint once but it was backbreaking and I’ve never done it again! We’ve always picked up stuff when we’ve needed it, the first antique we bought was a massive chest of drawers because we desperately needed something to put all our clothes in.
We’ve always accepted offers of free things, including a set of bedroom furniture from a friend of my dad’s, they lived in a cottage so small they had to saw the wardrobe in half to get it out and we nailed it back together again in our bedroom!
My friend Kate gave me a lovely 1930’s mirror for our bedroom because she had one going spare. I’ve had china given to me since I started the business, in return for a cake of course. I’ve bought furniture and china on ebay , local markets, charity shops, antiques markets.
For clothes, I’m really fortunate to have two friends Wendy and Vicky who run the Vintage Boutique Bowdon and live nearby, they always have a stock of really good quality vintage clothes and help me out if I need something for a special occasion. I like Vintage Village Stockport and the Vintage Market in Altrincham for browsing for clothes, charity shops and online.
Tom Wright is a Manchester based Photographer who runs the Impossible Workshops in the Uk and Europe. He champions Polaroid film through the Workshops and his ethos harks back to the days when we treasured photographs, not thought of them as disposable. “Down with snapshots, Up with memories!” is his motto. He prefers to work with film when possible.
You can find out more about him at Tom Wright Photography or follow him on Twitter @un-frame
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