March Mad Hatters

Real life has rather got in the way of blogging for the last week, so apologies for that.  It’s also meant disorder here at Crownfolio Towers.  Yesterday, an unopened envelope turned up underneath a pile of newspapers.  It turned out to contain this.

Dorrit Dekk Mad Hatters Menu card SS Arcadia design

We bought it on eBay for no better reason than it looked rather fun, but it turned out to be by Dorrit Dekk; her signature’s on the reverse.

Dorrit Dekk menu SS Arcadia Mad Hatters Ball reverse

It’s another P&O menu, this time for the Mad Hatter’s Ball Dinner on the SS Arcadia in 1962.  The chef recommends Jellied Turtle Soup.

I, meanwhile, recommend the P&O archive.  This is something that I’ve been meaning to mention for a bit, after it suddenly appeared in amongst a Google search a few weeks ago.  There are posters, brochures, luggage labels and much more.

SS Oronsay travel brochure 1951 P&O Collection

The online selection is by no means comprehensive – there are, for example, only about 6 menu cards on show, which is about as many as we’ve got ourselves.  But it’s still much better than nothing at all.

P&O Koala luggage label from collection

And there are some truly wonderful posters in there as well.  But I’ll come back to those in the next couple of weeks, because they really do deserve their own post.

The website also has a rather useful guide to where you can see pieces from the P&O collection in museums.  I can heartily recommend a trip to the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, which houses John Piper’s Landscape of the Two Seasons, designed for the Oriana in 1960.

Mural designed by John Piper for Oriana 1960 in River and Rowing Museum

The painting is much more spectacular in real life, not least because it’s monumentally large.  But it’s a very rare reminder of the almost industrial quantities of design and and art which were produced for P&O’s liners in the late 1950s and 1960s – other than that, it really is just the menus which remind us of the style in which it was once possible to sail.

One of the many, many things I have to do this week is book a trip on Brittany Ferries; I don’t think the experience will bear much comparison with the golden days of P&O.

  • I have a D Padden P+O menu featuring a trombone with a lobster coming out of it (the 60’s were a crazy time man). Was this one of a series that she did for P+O/ anybody know more?…..

  • I think we’ve got that one somewhere too, I may even have put it up here. Both she and Daphne Padden did menus for P&O, who had a habit of commissioning interesting designers, particularly for the Oriana, which seems to have been a floating Design Council showroom in the 1950s.

    But my very unscientific survey of menus on eBay tells me that not all P&O menus were that good, as there seem to be plenty out there that are studies of wild flowers, or birds or whatever. Ruth Artmonsky is writing a book about P&O design though, so that may reveal more.

    And thankyou!

  • Ruth’s book ‘Shipboard Style: Colin Anderson of the Orient Line’ is already published (published by Artmonsky Arts).

  • Sorry about that! But yes, I think all the best people have a few around the house.

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