Britain is bursting with retro attractions if you know where to look. From Art Nouveau gems to Fifties cafés or Sixties-style hangouts, Do Not Disturbs tells you where to head if you want to step back into a different decade.
The Art Nouveau movement reached its peak in the early 20th century and one of the best places in Britain to experience this ornate style of art and architecture is Glasgow, where the Scottish designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh put his own stamp on the style. His legacy lives on in buildings such as the Glasgow School of Art.
Another town that likes to make a song and dance about its Edwardian heritage is Grange-Over-Sands in Cumbria, which was a fashionable seaside resort at the start of the 20th century. The Edwardian Festival (http://www.grangeoversands.org/), held every June, is an excuse for locals and visitors to dress up in their finest boaters and bonnets, and take to the streets for old-fashioned entertainment, such as Punch and Judy and clog dancers.
From the outside, 7 Blythe Grove appears to be an unassuming semi-detached house on this street in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. But step through the front door of Mr Straw’s House and you will be transported back to the Twenties. Owned by the National Trust, the house was lived in by the family of a well-to-do grocer for 60 years. The thrifty Straw family threw little away, unwittingly creating a time-capsule of domestic life.
For a more glamorous take on the decade of the Charleston, flapper girls and speakeasies check out a Prohibition Party (http://www.prohibition1920s.com/). Held regularly at ‘secret locations’ in London, you’ll find gramophone DJs, cabaret acts, alcohol served in teacups and mock police raids giving a transatlantic flavour to the Roaring Twenties.
The Fifties brought a new spirit of optimism to Britain, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the thriving seaside resorts. For a dose of seaside nostalgia, head to the Thanet coast in Kent, where the historic resorts of Broadstairs and Margate keep tradition alive. In Broadstairs you can take a donkey ride on the beach, watch a Punch and Judy show and enjoy a Knickerbocker Glory in Morelli’s an ice cream parlour with a Fifties soda fountain, juke box, and pink leatherette booths. In Margate, the narrow cobbled streets are now lined with shops specialising in vintage clothing and retro homeware. Check out 20th Century Frocks at RG Scott’s antique emporium (http://www.scottsmargate.co.uk/) for a Fifties suit or prom dress. 2013 will see the relaunch of Margate’s iconic theme park, Dreamland (http://www.dreamlandmargate.com/), as the world’s first heritage theme park, featuring vintage funfair rides, slot machines and a Fifties-style milk bar.
Nothing screams Seventies like a roller disco. So if Saturday Night Fever on skates sounds like your idea of heaven, then pull on your leotard, neon leg-warmers and sweat bands and head down to the Renaissance Rooms in London’s Vauxhall (http://www.rollerdisco.com/) for one of its weekend roller-skating disco parties.
Alternatively, you could gain instant Seventies street cred by hiring a Ford Capri, the iconic car of the decade. The Capri 280 is one of a collection of classic vehicles on offer from Great Escape Cars (www.greatescapecars.co.uk) and can be rented from the company’s base near Shrewsbury. Follow the South Shropshire Vintage Trail (www.southshropshirevintage.co.uk) for a suitably retro road trip, taking in vintage shops, tearooms and the gloriously kitsch Land of Lost Content in Craven Arms (www.lolc.org.uk), an eccentric museum of memorabilia, where space hoppers jostle for space alongside old wirelesses.