The Queen Mary Takes Me: A Tribute to Craig Anderson


Blogging is a fascinating phenomenon. WordPress alone is said to be home to over 80 million posts a month, with authors busy hammering out articles on pretty much anything you can possibly imagine. I follow a small collection of diverse sites, all of which I thoroughly enjoy, even if I am guilty of being a bit light on leaving comments. There is however, one blog in particular, that has affected me more than most, and I wanted to write a short tribute to it, and more specifically, it’s author.

Being a collector of inter-war design and paraphernalia, I was delighted when I first stumbled across The Queen Mary Takes Me. Written by true romantic and British expat Craig Anderson, the site chronicles his search for original items from the RMS Queen Mary Cruise Liner in its pre-war heyday. In his own words…

 “The Queen Mary has special place in my heart, I proposed to my wife on board her and since then we’ve shared many important moments on board. Since we live far away from her we have found that collecting, restoring and sharing her furniture and fittings is our way of keeping her history alive and furthering her connection to anyone who loves and appreciates ocean liners, passenger ships and the Golden Age of Travel.”

Craig & Shara Anderson

Most of the interior decor was stripped or covered over when the ship was requisitioned during the war. The exterior was painted grey, and the beautiful pieces of furniture, fabric, carpets, china, objet d’art, and general decor was stored, with some of it being sold off later. Since decommissioning in the late 1960’s, the ship has been used as a permanently moored hotel in Long Beach, California, and has in more recent years been restored back to its late 1930’s glory. Earlier refits however, had led to much of the now dated furniture, finding their way onto the market, to be ultimately scooped up by collectors like Craig.

Third Class Lounge Table “In my eyes it is hands down the best table from Third Class”.

So long as there was clear provenance, Craig would apparently collect it. Each blog post updated the reader on the latest acquisition, with numerous photos of the piece in question, detailed research, and often period shots of it (or identical items) taken while on the ship, all delivered with an enthusiasm so infectious is practically leapt of the screen. Combined together, it showcased an expanding collection of museum quality pieces that I for one, drooled over the laptop screen at. I distinctly remember my own jubilation at a post relating to a curved veneer waste paper bin, desperate to find another I scoured the internet fruitlessly, seriously pondering the possibility of dabbling in 1930’s cruise liner memorabilia.

Verandah Grill Vent Cover “art pieces in their own right”

Most bloggers are fairly erratic, with periods of inactivity often followed by a burst of posts. As such, I thought nothing of a gap in Craig’s articles, until an update was posted by his wife Shara in January 2016.

“Many people are aware that Craig Anderson was recently killed in a tragic work accident. 2015 should have been one of the best of our lives as we welcomed a baby boy to our family and we had worked hard towards some wonderful goals (on this blog, with the Queen Mary collection, and in our personal lives), instead it ended in heart break for me and our son as the person we loved the most the world was taken away.”

My limited vocabulary doesn’t even begin to provide me with the words to comment on this utterly tragic turn of events, it’s heartbreaking, he was just 33. I never met Craig, we exchanged a couple of messages, but I can’t help but feel we might of got on pretty darn well, sharing not just our appreciation of 1930’s design, but a love of classic cars (I discovered later) and similar aged children.

Earlier in this week I was researching a recently photographed house for the book I’m working on. The trail led me to the discovery that the original owner, one Captain Herbert Morgan, was a skipper with Cunard White Star. I doubt he piloted RMS Queen Mary, but who knows. I’d like to think Craig would have found this little piece of information to his liking.

I highly recommend you set aside some time to investigate the site soak up the collection, which Shara has vowed to continue with.

I wish all the best to Shara, little Thomas, and all of his family.


Beating The Blackout

Finished in a subtle grey geometric wallpaper, my home study is a calm, child-free environment in which I can focus on my various projects. It was created a couple of years ago from an unloved, seldom used dining room, and has proved to be an excellent investment of DIY graft. So proud was I, that a blog was even penned, concluding with a list of essential items that I felt would further enhance my Shangri-La. One featured ‘want’ was an original 1930’s Anglepoise lamp, the gorgeous semi-industrial design icon that revolutionised desk mounted work lighting. Having decided that one would no doubt surface at a flea fair sooner or later, I didn’t give it much more thought until recently.

Earlier in the summer I took a trip to Redditch to take some snaps for my Streamline Worcestershire book (now with its own dedicated website). It’s a fairly sizable, if somewhat unremarkable, settlement in the North of the county with a strong manufacturing history. On the itinerary was a visit to the former Danilo Cinema (now tastefully revamped as a Wetherspoons), and expeditions to a clutch of industrial buildings including a local landmark called Millsborough House.

The original Millsborough House, built 1912.

The original Millsborough House, built in 1912, was a huge office and factory complex for the well established Redditch firm Herbert Terry & Sons. Initially specialising in the manufacture of needles and fishing tackle, Terry’s quickly diversified into all manner of metal tools, clips and hooks, ultimately becoming best known for their springs. As if all this wasn’t glamorous enough, in 1934 the firm would cement their legacy by entering into a licensing agreement with Bath based designer George Cawardine to manufacture and market his new invention; the Anglepoise Lamp. This revolutionary product, that enabled the user to tailor the position, and angle the beam of light to their needs without moving the base proved to be a huge success. Numerous variations on the theme were developed into a range of lamps of differing sizes and designs for different purposes, while licences were granted to a select few overseas manufacturers.  

1937 advert

The late 1930’s was an exceptionally successful period for the firm, and in 1937 a vast new extension was added to Millsborough House. Large parts of the original factory were replaced (some had been lost during a fire in 1932) in addition to new buildings on a facing site. Apparently designed collaboratively by F.W.B. Yorke (responsible for many large scale constructions in the area) and his son F.R.S. Yorke (a prominent modernist author and architect, later behind the 1950’s expansion of Gatwick Airport), the extension bears no resemblance to the earlier Edwardian buildings whatsoever.


The immense, yet surprisingly slender modernist frontage stands on Millsborough Road. Two towers flank the central triple height section, fenestrated with banks of metal framed windows, each capped with a decorative geometric etched lintel. To the south, an adjoining manufacturing wing has a distinctly different appearance thanks to its glazing and pair of asymmetric pitched roofs. The Northern wing is the most rewarding, with three thin vertical insets, each topped with a small hexagonal window. It then drops down as it corners onto Ipsley Street following similar themes before rising back up to eventually meet the remaining original Edwardian building.

At the outbreak of war Terry’s famously marketed the lamp as a means to ‘Beat the Bogey of Blackout Lighting’, enabling the user to clearly see the task in hand without infringing on regulations after dark. As the war progressed production was altered to aid the war effort, this included the development of a smaller battery powered lamp for the RAF. These were used in a number of applications, most famously in bombers, illuminating the navigators charts and maps while on raids.

1939 advert

Post war production continued, but by the late 1970’s Millsborough House had become outdated and inefficient. The company relocated and areas of the building were demolished and altered to convert it into smaller units. Today it serves multiple businesses in different sectors, and has recently had planning permission granted to convert some of the vacant space into modern warehouse style apartments.

Having concluded it would be in extremely bad form to continue working on a book that featured the Anglepoise factory  without the benefit of my own lamp, I hit eBay. The original production of iconic ‘1227’ lamps ran until 1969 (although it’s back in production again now) encompassing subtle alterations with each generation. Early models are the most sought after, and tend to command high prices. Dating the lamps is relatively easy with various online guides including one on Anglepoises‘ own site. I personally favour the comprehensive guide on 1227, a whole site dedicated to the lamp. Having scoured the listings for a few weeks, I concluded that I was probably going to have to opt for a later generation item rather than hold out for an elusive pre-war model, and ended up buying this sexy number. It’s from the 1948-1960 period, but doesn’t really vary greatly from the original (the larger lamp holder being the most obvious difference). Illuminating it gives my study the instant ‘I’m up to my eyeballs in it and working late to meet a deadline’ look that I was after! An interior design icon that was made locally, who’d have thought.


Jumblesailing off into the blue…

There must be a million reasons to rejoice in the virtues of the British spring time, but one of my personal favorites is the return of good old fashioned boot sale. The anticipation of unearthing some genuine treasure for a few quid always gives me butterflies as the car squeaks and groans over the heavily ridged parking field. Of course 9 times out of 10 it never lives up to my expectations. We usually end up heading home glum and silent with perhaps some bananas and a blister pack of hearing aid batteries for the kids toys. Occasionally though, lady luck looks our way and we strike gold. Today was one of those days.
20160508_162717_resizedEven my 3 year old daughter was excited at the prospect of some new stuff. Her ‘Hello Kitty’ purse (containing about 27p) clutched close to her chest as she scampered off into the heaving sale. She took first blood with two Miffy the Rabbit books which dad forked out a round pound for. Then my wife unearthed a couple of small 1930s wade jugs. No chips or cracks, totally mint. “£5 for the two? Fair enough guv”. I quickly brought up the rear with a smart a-symmetric pressed pink glass tray for £1 (and a model Jaguar XJR-9 for 20p, but we’ll not go into that). 20160508_163014_resized

To be fair, there is always a selection of 1930s bits and bobs going at a decent sale. Glass, pottery, brown furniture & kitchenalia are easy to find if you keep your peepers open. Unfortunately we already have a house overflowing with the stuff, and as I don’t really ‘deal’ it’s always prudent to be a bit picky. Never the less, today my friends, I recon we done good!

…”It’s fun to shop at the YMCA”

Earlier in the week I found myself stumbling into the local YMCA shop on the way home from work. I occasionally do the charity shop rounds in the town centre when I’m in the mood. This usually results in a new paperback or the occasional bit of tat for the kids. On entering I had stocking fillers in mind.. but this was quickly put to the back of my mind when my eyes caught sight of this:

It’s a 1934 Stentorian Junior Type 38J ‘for use as a principle speaker’. Despite it’s somewhat disheveled appearance it clearly had to be mine. My wallet was swiftly unearthed from the bottom of my man-bag to close the deal.

What am I going to do with it? It’s still up for debate, but as the amplifier apparently no longer works I’m considering renovating the  veneer, replacing the fabric, carefully removing its inners and fitting a bluetooth speaker of some kind. Thus producing an attractive and useful bit of home audio. I’ve dabbled in this line before, creating a cabinet for the sky box out of a 1930 radiogram with pleasing results. For now it will probably reside in the workshop with a couple of other projects I’ll get around to in the New Year.

Lounge July 2013
Television sitting on an old radiogram hiding the sky box

Finger Off The Pulse

Tastes and fashions can be extremely baffling at times. I was recently asked to sell a second hand ‘built from flat pack’ pine dresser for my in-laws. A horrible orange knotty thing it was, with a semi traditional look that would look equally out of place in a period home as it would in an off the peg new build. I reluctantly took some photos and banged it up on ebay with a £5 start and generally low expectations. To say I was gobsmacked at the £122 final bid is a gross understatement. It was duly collected and the new owners seemed genuinely chuffed to bits with it.

small dresser1Some days later I spotted rather nice dressing table on the said same site. A marvelous curved beauty it was, probably dating from the late 40s, but possibly pre-war. On top sat a towering beveled edge mirror with two hinged side panels. Now this is just the sort of thing that I thought the vintage fashion crew would be falling over themselves to acquire. It was fairly local, so with this in mind I small dresser4put in cheeky bid, planning to pop it in my daughters room should I win. The hammer fell with my winning high bid of £3.21. I couldn’t quite believe it.. clearly my tastes are so far off what is currently in vogue that I should lock my interior design thoughts away to save embarrassment rather than blog about it. But once again I’m going against the grain! small dresser2

Dorothy loves her new dressing table. Somewhere to keep her necklaces, even if some are ‘a bit scratchy’.

Family Heirlooms

It’s not often you get the opportunity to add to your collection with pieces that have a genuine family connection, in fact it’s a first for me. As far as I’m aware, no one in my family has any particular affinity with home furnishings from the 30s and some even consider my fascination somewhat eccentric (dunno what they’re on about!). It therefor came as a huge surprise the receive an email from my uncle keen to hand down some pieces my grandparents had acquired new when they married in the 1930s.  I have fond memories of holidays spent as child staying with them in Devon. A huge garden to run around in and homemade shortbread and lemonade were always in abundance. Sadly they both died in 1990s and after 15 years in family custodianship, their old bungalow is up for sale and in need of emptying.

My Gran - Winnie Haines nee Chick, circa 1920s
My Gran – Winnie Haines nee Chick, circa 1920s

So we’ve just come back from a weekend near Sidmouth sifting for gold. The car was loaded with the usual toddler paraphernalia, so no room to bring back the gorgeous extending ‘magi-cube’ dining table and matching chairs this time. But we’ll head back with a van before completion. In the mean time I’m the proud new owner of lovely oak mounted frame-less mirror and a Grindley Cream Petal teapot. Now I’m going to spend some quality time hunting through my mums old photo albums looking for snaps in which they feature.

Grindley Cream Petal teapot
Grindley Cream Petal teapot

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