Skip to main content

Henry stumped as the Empire strikes back.

Date Sent:   May 23 1925     

Sender: Doris 

Recipient: Miss P Way, “Hillside” Shawford, Nr Winchester, Hants 

Transcript: May 22 1925 

Regent Palace Hotel, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 

We had a lovely day at Wembley yesterday and caught a bus here early this morning and looked at the shops. This afternoon we went to the tower which is lovely, with fine armour of Henry VIII. We are staying at the Regent palace hotel, which is huge, over 1,000 bedrooms, fortunately ours is on the ground floor.  We are going back to Wembley on Monday evening and spending Tuesday in the exhibition.  Love from Doris 

A postcards text with two green stamps and a handwritten message

It would appear Doris was a well brought up young lady and has done the decent thing sending a post card from the lovely Tower having seen Henry VIII’s fine armour there. Sadly, however, the picture of the line of armoured figures riding across the top floor of the White Tower she chose doesn’t contain one of the monarch’s personal armours. They were on display in the gallery next door.  Nor does it seem that the romance of these bold knights swept this 1925 damsel her off her feet as Doris is obviously far more impressed by her multi -bedroomed hotel and Wembley’s worldly delights.  

Perhaps it’s not that surprising. The cloth along the back wall suggests that the display is still in the process of being mounted, while the shield-shaped label propped against the lead horse’s hoof instructs punters “Touch not Arms or Armour”. To modern eyes used to subtle case lighting, the flattened disc shaped shades with cluster of naked bulbs beneath are rather obtrusive dangling from chains at regular intervals along the gallery. 

A row of armuored manaquines in faux parade in a old looking room

The Regent Palace Hotel with its marbled entrance, Art Deco style lounges and 1028 bedrooms, sitting at the heart of London was no doubt far better lit and altogether more glamorous than William’s gloomy palace. Opened in 1915, it survived two world Wars, with only minor damage in the second, but declined thereafter and despite being designated a Grade II listed building in 2004, it closed in 2006 and was finally demolished between 2010-12. However, the V&A museum purchased its entrance lounge as a significant piece of period design preserving it for the nation.  

In Doris’s day it was still a glamorous place for the fashionable to meet and stay, unconcerned by the lack of en suite bathroom facilities. 

And after the weekend at the Regent Palace, back to the delights of Wembley and the Fellowship Brtitish Empire Exhibition.  The exhibition had opened in 1924 on a 216-acre site. It boasted “palaces”, pavilions, gardens and a lake, shops, “eateries”, an amusement park and its own transport systems. 17 million visitors attended encountering among other delights Jaffa oranges for the first time. Thanks to refrigeration, the Canadian pavilion boasted a life size sculpture of the Prince of Wales on horseback.  The re-vamped 1925 event, billed as “The Same Empire but a New Exhibition” attracted a further 10 million. Colonial one-upmanship saw the Australians display an even grander scale butter sculpture celebrating their recent Ashes defeat of England with the stumping of English batsman Jack Hobbs in the Sidney test match. Do follow in Doris’s footsteps and visit  The British Empire Exhibition.pdf (brent.gov.uk) to see the buttery batsman and his Aussie opponents. 

Poor old Henry – he never stood a chance! 

 

`