Tag Archives: 1950s

Diverse Paths Lead Diverse Folks to Rome


Rome visit typescript 001An unusual item found among the archives at Jot HQ the other day is an eighteen page Xeroxed typescript bound in cloth and illustrated with rather poor Xeroxes of various art works.  Entitled Diverse paths lead diverse folk to Rome, it narrates a fortnight’s vacation in the Eternal City during May 1955. This particular copy was presented to the author’s travelling companion, the eighty year-old ‘Nell’ Hill.

The author, who identifies himself at the end of the narrative, was M. T. Tudsbery (‘Tud’), formerly the BBC’s Civil Engineer, and the man who in 1932, with the architect George Val Meyer, was responsible for Broadcasting House, the iconic BBC HQ in Langham Place. The other companion on this trip was Alan Campbell Don (1885 – 1966), who was Dean of Westminster at the time. Nell was his cousin.

It goes without saying that for the Dean this was not his first visit to Rome. However,   for Nell the occasion was a double first —it was her debut flight and her first trip to the Italian capital. Not so unusual for someone born in 1875. What is far more astonishing is the fact that this was also Tudsbery’s first visit. It would seem that this civil engineer, who must have studied the history of architecture, had never deemed it necessary to explore a city of such amazing and significant buildings –which included one structure, the Pantheon, which had been built by Hadrian himself, and had survived totally intact.

Tudsbery’s previous lack of exposure to the wonders of Rome may go some way to explaining his childlike enthusiasm for everything he encounters–from the Colosseum and the Pantheon to the paintings of Fra Angelico, Carravagio and Raphael. In contrast, as a civil engineer he was quick to notice all the inadequacies of the various ‘modern’ buildings in the city although he also admired scale of the main railway station. Tudsbery also had a good ear for the amusing anecdote. At the Colosseum he overheard an American tourist express amazement at the extent of the bomb damage inflicted by German aircraft on this ancient building! Continue reading

Being engaged to be married, 1954 style

Engaged book 1954 cover 001In view of the coming Royal Wedding here’s a glimpse of the conventions regarding engagements that prevailed sixty three years ago. So You’re Engaged, a collection of essays by a motley crew of contributors, containing some ‘big‘ names of the time, such as the cartoonist Marc, Gilbert Harding, Godfrey Winn, John Betjeman, Constance Spry, Peter Ustinov, Elizabeth Arden, Andre Simon and Googie Withers, is undoubtably a period piece, just as today’s guides to healthy living and spiritual wellbeing will be regarded as ‘of their time’ in the future.

The first contributor was ‘What’s My Line’ radio celebrity and confirmed bachelor Gilbert Harding, who injects some clear-headed common sense into the ‘delovely and delicious ‘aspects of being engaged. It’s all very well the groom drinking in all the beauty of his future bride, Harding warns, but this is the time to notice some of her irritating habits. ‘Does she get lipstick on her teeth, comb her hair in public, let her stockings get twisted, let her nail varnish flake?’ Moreover, does the handsome fiancé ‘ talk with his pipe in his mouth, does he use a clothes brush, does he keep his shoes clean and can you bear his friends ?’

There are some wise words too from Gilbert on how to keep the marriage on an even keel. Harding cites five ‘really happy marriages ‘he has known in which the couples have alighted on a winning formula. They behave, Harding suggests, as if they are ‘still engaged’. Continue reading