1950's Retro on Acton Lane

Grace Stokes discovers tea parties from by-gone times


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At Winnie Buswell, the retro interiors shop down Acton Lane, they have a reputation for antique toys and vintage prints. But now they're throwing retro tea-parties – and you're invited.

Carol Richards, who named the shop after her beloved grandmother, came up with the idea because she's such a wonderful cook. As part of the new venture, Carol fills the party venue with the shop's best china, and pretty 50s cake stands, full of home-made cakes. All you have to do is work out who you're going to invite.

One of Carol's first clients was Richard Johnson, the food critic behind the BBC series Full on Food and Kill It, Cook It, Eat It. "I'm a big fan of cupcakes" says Richard. "Cupcakes are perfect. Cupcakes are cute. And because they’re just for you, they make you feel terribly special. But I never found anywhere that got the frosting thick enough - or the sponge light enough. Until I met Carol. When my wife and I were stuck for ideas for our daughter's birthday, we decided on a tea party with cupcakes. She's still talking about it."

Tea parties were a popular way to while away the afternoons in 1950s Britain. It's just one of the reasons that Carol so loves the period. "Best friends and family wouldn’t refer to each other by their first names" she says. "It would just be 'Good morning Mrs. Buswell'. I find that quaint. So much nicer than today." Carol offers clients a huge list of cakes - from chocolate to classic Victoria sponge - and finishes them to your preference. And once the cakes have all been eaten, Carol comes and clears everything away.

Back at Winnie Buswell, it's still business as usual. And however successful the cake venture is, that won't change. After all, the shop has been in the Richards’ family for over 30 years. "It used to be an upholsterers" says Carol's husband, Perry. "Then it was a computer outlet, and finally a second-hand shop. It’s a tough area to make a living -- there isn’t much passing trade." But, thanks to Winnie Buswell, that’s all changed. In the last ten years, the 1950s time warp has brought new life to this dark corner of Acton Lane.

The shop stocks everything from an original ‘Cat In The Hat’ cushion to a renovated hot pink telephone. But it's Carols's hand-made cushions, aprons and bags that the style pages are so keen to write about. The material she uses, mainly sourced on the internet from the southern states of America, is unique, whether it's patterns or polka dots. And everything is sewn with the Winnie Buswell label. Carol and Perry are enjoying being small and independent. After 30 years, the shop looks set to stay in the family.

Grace Stokes


January 3, 2008

Note: Winnie Buswell's is now closed. 18th September 2008