Deck Chair


As the Summer swelter continues, up goes an impassioned plea “Lead me to my deck chair!!”.

The humble deck chair ….Perhaps? Or the well travelled ship’s “deck chair” – if this linen and teak could talk imagine the gossip it holds – from a Golden Era of luxury transatlantic ocean liner travel. Or the End of The Pier, seagull serenaded, fish and chips frying, spearmint rock munching of Brighton, Cromer or Southend – the World’s longest.

Called a Lawn Chair in the US, the Deck Chair has an illustrious history. It was the victim of some on board snobbery. Around the turn of the 20th century, first class passengers would typically enjoy the padded loveliness of a “Steamer” deck chair -Port Out Starboard Home – their legs raised and clad in a woolen rug, invariably sipping broth, if the climate demanded, whilst more lowly passengers would enjoy their trip on a slung hammock canvas and teak deck chair that could be positioned to follow the sun around the deck and be folded for easy stowage.


The origins of the folding chair has its history in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. More recently, patents were obtained in the 1880’s in the US and UK for the classic steamer chair. R Holman & Co of Boston (Mass) were the manufactures of the Steamer Deck Chairs that graced the deck of the SS Titanic. Of the 600 supplied only six survived – below is a shot of one.


There is some debate as to the precise origins of the more rudimentary wooden framed version. Primarily it comprises two rectangualar wooden frames, hinged, with an adjustable back piece and a single length of canvas forming the seat and backrest. Some sources  attribute it to a British inventor, Atkins, in the late 19th Century whereas others credit its design to being similar to “The Yankee Hammock Chair” as advertised in 1882.  The name “Brighton Beach Chair” also seems to predate our currently understood use of “Deck Chair”.


In my Grandmother’s house in Hertfordshire – I think it was 1976 – she had a row of Edwardian faded green canvas chairs which not only had arms and a footrest but also a large sun canopy that flapped in whatever pathetic excuse for a breeze we had that summer. I recall that the covers perished quite frequently and the local nurseryman supplied rolls of 18” wide canvass to restring your chair. The look was completed by a white parasol, two Lloyd Loom chairs – see our previous post here – Lloyd Loom Chairs – and a bentwood table covered in a circular linen tablecloth with a jug of iced lemonade and tall glasses covered in weighted net – to avoid the flies.

Similar products are still made today by people such as Southsea Deckchairs Southsea Deckchairs


Images used with grateful thanks – Southsea Dechairs and The V&A Museum

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Brompton Bicycles


I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.


It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike


Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike


BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike


BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image


Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium


The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Dualit Toaster


In the early 1990’s I needed a new toaster after burning through two in as many years. One Saturday, I strayed into the basement of Peter Jones – the well known John Lewis’ Partnership department store on the corner of London’s King’s Road and Sloane Square – to be entranced by a display of sleek shaped, heavy-duty and aluminium Dualit toasters.

Of course, I had seen these spectacular machines before but in a different context. Virtually every Central London’s sandwich bar, where the hungry faithful queued daily for a toasted ham and cheese or a BLT, had a Dualit toaster or two – but it was invariably a six slice models. It was comparatively rare to have one of these machines at home but this was the start of an era where more industrial looking objects were increasingly being used in the home.

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I thought my needs would be largely catered for by a two slice plus one slightly wider toasted sandwich compartment version of this iconic toaster – as in our featured image – how wrong was I!

Dualit was founded in 1945 by German-born inventor Max Gort-Barten CBE (1914–2003) – pictured below – its name deriving from an early product –  an electric heater named “Dual-Lite”.

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By 1952 Max had designed a commercial six-slot, manual ejector, toaster – which was a commercial success. In 1954, the Dualit factory in Picton Street, Camberwell (South East, London) – as shown below – was subject to a compulsory-purchased order – usually as a result of a railway or road expansion – which funded a new factory in Bermondsey (also South East, London) an Thames -side area that had been extensively flattened during World War II.

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In 2003, Dualit now under the control of Leslie, Max’s son and an experienced engineer, who joined the business in 1972 – moved to it’s current premises in Crawley (West Sussex) where the toasters and other items in the Dualit range – including a number of catering orientated products and coffee machines are produced. The toasters are still built by hand.

In 1999 Dualit obtained a patent for its upgraded ProHeat elements – basically a thin slab of mica with heating elements wound around it – that are protectively mounted within their toasters. Also in 1999 the company received a Millennium Award for its upgrade ProHeat element which features a more dense covering of heating wire and is entirely coated with a protective layer of mica – allowing more efficient heating and protection against knife damage when a piece of toast gets lodged in the element.

The Dualit toaster’s construction allows for very easy access for maintenance and on several occasions I have needed to re-buy the heating elements which even for a DIY-phobe like me are really easy to install.

What about my earlier purchase did I regret? Dualit are so good, they go on forever! Within a couple of years of my purchase – and then for the last twenty plus years – two slices have never been enough for a family breakfast! Time to buy a six slice perhaps?

Why not join me and add a Dualit to your essential kitchen kit! Click the following AMAZON link to buy the two slice and toaster combi, four or six slice version:

Dualit Combi 2+2 Toaster 42174 – Polished

DUALIT 4 Slice Vario AWS Toaster Polished Stainless Steel 40378

Dualit 6 Slice Toaster 60144 – Polished

Dualit ad.jpg

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Images courtesy of Dualit



Marmite is made from yeast extract – a by-product of beer brewing. It is savoury spread with a truly distinctive, rather salty, taste and is a British culinary icon.

Best, in my opinion on hot buttered toast, I am led to believe that not everyone loves Marmite.

The forerunner of Marmite as we know it today, a bottled concentrate of brewers yeast, was invented by a German scientist Justus von Liebig in the late 19th century.

In 1902, The Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in in Burton upon Trent (Staffordshire) with the yeast paste being supplied by the local Bass Brewers. By 1907, the success of Marmite prompted the construction of a second factory in South London’s Camberwell Green area.

Its name derives from the French word “Marmite”, meaning a large covered cooking pot, and since the 1920s Marmite has been sold in iconic glass jars – depicted above – that take their shape from the French pots.

So loved on the British breakfast tables, jeweler, Theo Fennell, created a sliver replacement lid for the famous yellow lid of the classic jar.


Although the precise composition is a closely guarded trade secret, Marmite has long been known for it healthy properties. Rich in Vitamin B and was used by the troops in the First World War as a supplement to combat beri-beri. Its richness Folic Acid has been used since the 1930’s for the treatment of anaemia and to this day Marmite is often taken by expectant mothers for the same reason.

In 2000, after a number of corporate incarnations and mergers, Marmite became a Unilever brand.

Would you like a jar of Marmite? You can buy a huge jar by clicking the following AMAZON link – Marmite Yeast Extract Paste in a Glass Jar , 500g

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Photos from Unilever and Theo Fennell