Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 17-18 Nov; London – Cockneys and Kings

Sat 17-Nov-56:  Went Portobello Market with Rex & Thea Reinits. Later looked unsuccessfully for Arthur Horner. Went to Victoria & Albert Museum, early night.
Sun 18-Nov-56: Went to Petticoat Lane in morning & to Hampton Court Palace in afternoon. Early night.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0120

Sat 17 Nov 56


My darling small one,

I got a nice warm letter from you this morning while I was in my jolly mood. You very wisely told me to pull my head in-a fine and dandy precept which I hope to adhere to, if possible. For my head hangs out a heck of a long way in the evening-when I’m usually just about “thinged” so perhaps I shall go to bed earlier and get my letter writing done before the birds get up. It’s only a quarter to seven now and it’s been dark for hours not that there has been any light to speak of all flaming day. At 10 a.m. all the fantastic neon advertisements in Piccadilly Circus were going full blast. I went from there down to get your letter and travel by tube up to Notting Hill Gate station where I met the Reinits and we groped our way down to Portobello Road. At noon all the stalls in the streets had lamps and electricity lights going in some small endeavour to brighten up the filmy fog which darkly leaks into every nook and cranny of the town. If the city had been flooded to a depth of 50 feet of dirty soapy water, one could see through it all is well, and would find this fog scarcely less palpable to the touch. Beer is a fascinating diversity of stuff for sale, in the shops lining the road, and on the barrows which are to be found all along the footpaths. There are a great number of fruit barrows, flower stalls and a few cloth offerings. But what everybody seems to go down to pick over is the antique stalls.

Rex (hidden) and Thea Reinits at Portobello Market, Potobello Road, London; 17 Nov 1956
Rex and Thea Reinits at Portobello Market, Potobello Road, London; 17 Nov 1956

9 p.m. Have been up to Lyons to have two cups of tea and a walk in the fresh (sic) air.

Old English and Bohemian glassware, Georgian solid silver, all kinds of brass and copper ware, rings, medallions, cameos, necklaces, lockets, gramophone records, revolvers, turkey sandwiches and Nescafe, in different Indian brasses, punch ladles, carriage lamps, old prints and pictures-fine stuff the dealers know the value of-and real junk, all flowing out of a seemingly endless cornucopia-where it all comes from-God only knows. Saw a fine set of brass poker, tongs and shovel for only 35/-. Rex Reinits snooping round for old English glasses, which he makes a thing of buying. All the activity taking place behind unreal filmy gauze of missed-a pale grey photograph pierced with holes of electric light. Fifty yards away the silhouetted moving shadows. Strange, as I recollect it, sound has disappeared-perhaps there wasn’t any-swallowed up by the fog. All very odd and engaging for a while-tending to become wearing as it continues. From there I caught a bus to Kensington and looked up an address Hotty [Lahm] had given me of an old artist cobber of the boys. Hotty’s book is sadly out of date-the Arthur Horners had been gone the last two years-as Roley’s [Pullen] address in Hotty’s collection was about 4 years old. However, I walked from there to the Victoria and Albert Museum-which has the most superb collection of fine and applied art. As usual, the quantity of exhibits is too great for short-term inspection. These items are all specialists pieces gathered and looted, from all over the world. Beautiful alters, religious carvings-church ornamentation, stained glass, wonderful furniture-the opulence of some of the exhibits is breathtaking. In the Chinese section was a Kuan-yin [Guanyin] very much like that housed in the Melbourne Gallery [National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)] but not so well displayed in the same attitude of Royal ease. A very beautiful and serene work. Many of the Gothic things had too, something of this serenity. A great deal of it spoilt by bloody noisy people and young louts. Weekend gallery sightseeing is not to be recommended for the tired and edgy.

This city is vast beyond our Australian conception. The shops and streets are never ending-you can go round and round in circles and still be always amazed at the new things you have missed. Their galleries are the same-corridors and halls without number. You seem to go on endlessly seeing something fresh. I walked from here across Oxford Street through Mayfair i.e. Grosvenor Square, where the American Embassy is surrounded by dignified 18th century houses-on the way to Berkeley Square was vastly intrigued by the sight of a bell topered commissionaire in ankle length fawn double-breasted 18th-century coat, stolidly sweeping the beastly dirt away from the front steps of the Connaught Hotel. What a place this is for traditional uniforms!

“Good night, sweet Prince and Princess, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”.

Unconfirmed location, London; 17 Nov 1956
Portobello Road
Portobello Road [Incorrectly identified as Portobello Road, yet to be confirmed]
Unidentified location, London; 17 Nov 1956 – After Portobello Rd, Wep headed to visit his old artist friend Arthur Horner who had moved threre in 1947 and had married Victoria (a fellow Aussie) in 1948. He had an old address in Kensington for them. but they were no longer there. In 1954, Arthur and Victoria lived at 2 Straford Avenue (Rd) Kensington according to the London, England Eloctoral Registers 1832-1965 on Ancestry.com. The garage shot looks like it could be taken outside 10 Jay Mews where a Pawson and Collins Ltd garage was located in a 1939 Kensington directory


Sunday 7 p.m. [18 Nov 1956]

Believed to be Petticoat Lane Market, London; 18 Nov 1956

Am settled down again for the night, to a well regulated evening of sinful cigarette smoking, letter writing, and waiting for tomorrow. Today was almost a repetition of yesterday’s behaviour pattern. Got myself down to Petticoat Lane, which is not very far from the Bank of England. The financial centre leads directly into the pretty squalid area of Aldgate-(you could compare it a bit with Newtown). This Petticoat Lane may be quite world-famous-mostly I should imagine, because of the wonderful cockney spiel that accompanies all the ardent sales advances that assaults you from every direction. I found it lacking the charm and line of the Portobello Road market. Everything in this area this morning seemed unspeakably tawdry and commonplace. I doubt whether there really was anything worthwhile on display all the dozens upon dozens of stalls. That years, if you except the “jellied eel and winkles,” emporiums of canvas and wood. And the shocking shyster who was selling a three card trick at 2/6 the packet. But such was his act-he had the crowd with him one dumbfounded and slightly aggressive type in the crowd kept questioning him and demanding to know what had happened to the King in the cards he’d bought. One more mix with the cards and the King appears again. It’d take too long to detail this-it’s not very interesting anyway-what was amusing though was that when I passed them again about an hour later-the same turn was being put on between these two. The bunny part of the act of salesmanship I suppose he was. And this circuitous way many of these Jew cockneys organise a sort of competitive sale for the most awful collection of junk. It was quite beyond me but apparently most popular with the sightseeing mob. Thousands clutter up the two or three streets which really comprise this area and you literally can’t move at times. It’s the machine gun like patter-bawdy-course (bloody this, bloody that) and at times really funny-that, I think is what stacks them in. You have some idea of how these boys can talk, when you conceive a community of stall holders, every second one of whom is like (only bawdy) [Joe (Joseph Sandow)] the gadget man from Nock and Kirbys.

After a crumby lunch (one can’t afford at this stage in the game a decent meal), I took myself off on a long series of 3 buses, way out along the Thames to Hampton Court Palace, which was originally built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later taken over by Henry the Eighth in 1529.

Henry VIII greeting visitors at Hampton Court Palace; 28 Feb 2013

The old wretch had here as Queens, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. (Pardon me if I seem to be having considerable penned trouble.) Later the Tudor half of this Palace was added to by a whacking great design by Sir Christopher Wren to the order of William and Mary. This was in 1688. This section does not follow the Tudor pattern and is more classical in-line. This part houses the State Apartments which are now open for inspection. No royalty has lived there since 1760 when George II died. The London transport handbook quotes it as “England’s most beautiful and most interesting Royal Palace”. And I believe that may well be. Each section has its own particular grace and the two are harmonised by the use of warm and homely red brickwork will stop it looked very lovely with the blue net of fog softening the contrasts and giving a slight touch of unreality to the whole. Surrounded by beautiful gardens-French and Italian sunken pools-the bare trees disappearing in rows into the final all-embracing curtain of mist. A few great black trunks, still with gold and russet leaves, punctuated artistically with sombre cypresses, and a few avenues of dark and weighty evergreens. Birds too, which seemed to be a change. It was an interesting run out there. Contrasting completely with the mornings crushing monotony of industrial habitations. After leaving a place named Roehampton, which is like a village on the end of the string from London, one goes through the edge of a natural parkland through an area of well-to-do large homes with beautiful gardens-like Pacific Highway, Gordon, Killara, etc. Only more park like.

All of which is very dully told-has effervescent as is room I sit in. If I could find someone to join me I’d get half sprung and talk to you with abandonment and roguery. You will just have to put up with my abiding but unspectacular passion for the next week-and even perhaps until I get home and lift the lid right off the pot. Don’t tell me now that old the arriving at the wrong time. I won’t have it-or will I? Anyway, lots of sweet thoughts, and very very real love for you, my darling darling girl. Another bloody fortnight to go. Although I won’t notice it after Monday when I shall be on the move. I love you Dorothy.

Really yours,


Holy Trinity Church of England, Roehampton; 18 Nov 1956
Hampton Court Palace; 18 Nov 1956
Hampton Court Palace; 28 Feb 2013
Hampton Court Palace; 18 Nov 1956
Hampton Court Palace; 28 Feb 2013

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 14-21 Oct; Cluj, Oradea, Bucharest and Vienna

Brasov Sun 14-Oct-56:  Saw the magnificent Biserica Neagu – the Black church – built 800 years ago – Driver of car missing all day – were to go on to Cluj – but didn’t.
Mon 15-Oct-56: Left at 8am for Cluj. Met an ethnologist Nicolae Dunare & went out near Oradea to a peasant potters house
Tue 16-Oct-56:   Met sculptor and two artists, discussed social realism. Returned to Bucharest arriving 1:30am. Got letters from home.
Wed 17-Oct-56: Went to Institute & talked with Baranga. Got presents, bought some records, had dinner with Charles & Victor.
Thu 18-Oct-56:  Cashed £5. Left Bucharest at 8am. Arrived Vienna about 1pm. Changed flight booking to 21 Nov. Phoned dear little Dorothy.
Fri 19-Oct-56:     Just wandered around all day – got pyjamas back from Stephanie Hotel [Hotel Stefanie]. Met Dr & Mrs Edgley & had dinner with Mrs E. at a Russian place. Was invited to stay with them!
Sat 20-Oct-56:   Went to Edgley’s and stayed. Was driven to Vienna Woods. Played Scrabble. Paid hotel, phone, rail fare. Cashed £7 & £10
Sun 21-Oct-56:  Visited art museum & large picnic park where we had lunch. Had dinner at the Balkan Grill.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0057

Romanische [Roemischer] Kaiser Hotel
Annagasse 1 Wien [ Annagasse 16]
Sat 20 Oct 56

My darling girl.

It’s about 7.30am and is a bit on the cool side. I got out of bed ¾ hour ago as I found little comfort there. Now if I was out on the front verandah at 85 I reckon I could show you a thing or two. There’s nothing much to look at here. My old machinery is getting out of practice. But my thoughts are ardent – and, I hope acceptable. As all this doesn’t help one little bit. I suppose I had best carry on with the historical & geographical aspects of this one man caravanserie. But truly, I do miss you so very much. I’m getting a bit tired of gazing at churches, & public monuments, parks, rivers, street names, traffic policemen, food shops, dress shops, German phrase books, city maps, handfuls of all sorts of currency and foreign menus. I am not tired of looking at girls or book shops, although it is my much considered opinion that the latter are of much better quality. It seems surprising how few top line sorts one sees in Europe – so far. However, talking about that is preferable to writing. The book shops here are very good – really go in for art publications with German thoroughness, but I dare say that in Paris & London I shall find them as good – probably better. I have only just realised that my last letter to you was posted from Orasul Stalin in Rumania last Sunday. God, knows when you will receive it – possibly after this one. I have been a bit too busy travelling to give you much of myself. I did get a kick out of ringing you in Sydney and even if the connection was bad, we did manage to make some real contact. It was nice to hear you sweetie, although for the life of me, I can’t remember anything much about it except the important items of date of return – seeing the Edgleys – giving you the tip off to write c/o Roley Pullen, and hearing Graham too. I bet he gave the schoolboys & the neighbours an earbashing about a telephone call from Vienna. I hope you felt I was loving you very much. Because I was. I didn’t get the address of the street too well – so went to a travel agency & with their help found the Australian Commission’s premises. Edgley was away at Linz – and was due back at 6pm Friday. About 6.30 I rang his wife – she was delighted to hear a dirty old Australian accent & insisted I catch a cab straight out, which I did & while trying to find out, with my filthy German, which house they lived in – the doctor arrived home. Only to find his youngest child, a girl of 2 ½ down with pneumonia. Mrs E wanted to dine out, so papa stayed home to look after sick child. They have invited me to stay with them for the day or two before I leave for Paris. Quite a lively couple – she is 6 months gone again – making it her 3rd. They are getting pretty sick of the climate here – but have to stay on another 12 months or so.

The Black Church in Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 13 October 1956

This rushing around is tiring and confusing – for the life of me I can’t remember where I was up to in my travels. Did I tell you about a beautiful old church in Orasul Stalin. It was over 800 years old. The stone of its exterior quite fretted away like rocks by the sea, so dark grey as to have occasioned its name of Biserica Neagra which means Black Church. It was very big and the interior all around the bottom end where the altar was placed was painted white. The towering shafts of stone appeared to radiate a purity of light – the altar itself nicely proportioned & with just the right amount of gold. It gave me rare pleasure. That white – unbelievably effective. The churches in Vienna, are even blacker in surface appearance – and more huge. But inside is all the original grey aged stone – & the effort is gloomy. The old black church had spirit – plus buoyancy. The maniacal driver managed to bash a mud guard in & that held us up for ½ day at O. Stalin. On the Monday morning we took off for Cluj at 8am. Transylvania! A country in everyone’s imagination – full of werewolves, bats, vampires and horrifying mysteries. Ruritania – with princes on sombre missions. Pine trees – dark recesses of the mountains & snow. And the whole damn place looks more like Australia than anything I have seen since I left home. It is a twin to the Monaro district. Autumnal brown grass rolling slopes, very few trees, and the Alps in the distance. Tell Price Jones to tear the word Transylvania out of his accumulated imaginings. It just ‘aint so. I am afraid I disappointed Mrs Edgley, too, with my account of it. Visited a vineyard on the way up & had a couple of quick snorts. They seem to only make white wines up here & pretty sour Riesling at that. Crumby stuff – which everyone drinks with soda water. Breaks your flaming romantic heart. To save something from the wreck you can tell Bill that the peasants do wear white trousers & white aprons – with great shaggy sheep skins coats to cover. They do carry long sticks & lead the flocks to various pastures. The only thing that was un-Australian was the complete & utter lack of fences anywhere. The peasants all live in clustered houses in the villages & at early morning set out in their carts drawn by horses or oxen for their plot which may be anywhere between one village & the next. Apparently they know their own ground backward & there is no dispute as to where one man’s lot begins & ends. The peasants give their stock (sheep or cattle) to the shepherd & he takes them all out to grass.

Believed to be at a studio for artists and sculptors in Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Unknown artist at work. believed to be at a studio for artists and sculptors in Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956

Met some artists and sculptors in Cluj. They were being very well done by. Storybook studios & apparently adequate money. Also met a director of a folk lore museum who suggested we nick out & see some peasant potters. We did so – found out, was about 35 miles out. Practically on the Hungarian border – near a town named Oradea. Quite interesting. Next day returned to Bucharest – got in about 1.30am.

Possibly taken at Wep’s final meeting with the Director of the Cultural Institute (Institutul Romin Pentru Relatiile Culturale cu Strainatea), Bucharest, Romania; 17 October 1956

Had a meeting with the director of the Institute. All very amiable. Asked what I thought about Rumania, what I didn’t like, etc. Received a present of a little bit of folk art. An old Rumanian custom I gather. Was happy to be able to reciprocate with the books. When I got back to the pub – found that more books & records had arrived. Such was the enormous weight of books – the Institute are sending them out. I hope they all arrive safely. Was explained to me that the early departure was due to the fact that it was the only booking they could get me before the Olympics.

All very pleasant – a great pity the country is so poor. Also wrote a little piece about Australian art & did a short talk for the air, this they took on tape in the hotel room. Heard it played back.

Got to Vienna about 12 noon. Where I thought to let you know immediately. Got the bright idea of ringing – not much more than a cable. To confirm our talk – I catch a BOAC plane at Zurich on 21st Nov. at 10.30pm & should arrive in Sydney on Sunday 25 at 7.20am. You can insure me for the trip if you like. I was shocked to read in a German magazine – I stumbled through it in German – of the unfortunate crash of the Vulcan Bomber as it returned to London. It is now 9am. I better dress & have some rolls & coffee.

Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956
Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956
Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956

Sunday [21 Oct 1956]. 3pm. I am sitting in a lovely park out of Vienna. In the middle is the Franzensberg Castle built by Franz Joseph early last century. The castle is set in the middle of a fine artificial lake which has no water in it. The autumn trees are beautiful colours & in the distance a group of school girls are singing. The weather is most indulgent. A mild gentle setting sun. The Edgley girl made a magnificent recovery, playing like mad in the trees behind us. We had a picnic lunch.

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna; 21 October 1956
Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna; 21 October 1956

Went to the Vienna gallery [Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)] this morning & saw many fine paintings including Tintoretto’s Susanna & the Elders, Holbein’s Jane Eyre [Jane Seymour], Vermeer’s famous Painter & model. Wonderful Titians and 14 Brueghels. Pity I am leaving in the morning but I suppose I had better move on. Paris & London will take time. I telegrammed Roley Pullen to ask him to get me some cheap accommodation – I am going in the Arlberg Express from Vienna to Paris – via Zurich. Leaves at 9.10 in the morning & arrives Paris 8am the next day. Fare is about £7-10.0 against £17.10 by plane – also I will see up to the Alps in daylight. I stayed with the Edgleys last night & tonight – they seem to be a very happy coupe with two nice little girls. The Viennese are wandering up and down the lake – Yesterday, Rob took me for a drive through the Vienna Woods.

I shall have to finish now as we are about to return to Vienna, and I want to post this letter before I leave in the morning. Lots of love my darling. Give Graham my love & a pat for Trellie. Tell him I liked receiving his letters. I hope he gets all the different stamps that are coming over. A big thing for you. XXXXX for all. Your old loving roue [?]


[Apparently Wep’s visit to Romania was cut short as the people in the Institute wanted to get him out before trouble over flowed in Hungary. Five days after leaving Romania, widespread revolt erupted in Hungary against the Soviet backed government leading to its fall from power. On November 4, the Soviets invaded, crushing the revolt, and by November 10, all resistance had ceased.]

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View from the Carpati Hotel overlooking Nicolae Titulescu, Orasul Stalin (Brasov); 14 October 1956
Primaria Brasov (Town Hall), Bulevardul Eroilor 8, Brasov, Romania; 14 October 1956 (Note the possible KGB agent in the light trenchcoat)
Looking southwest towards Biserica Catolica outside 28 Strada Muresenilor, Brasov, Romania; 14 October 1956
Piata Cuza Voda with the Catedrala Ortodoxa (Orthodox Cathedral) in the background, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Piata Cuza Voda with the Catedrala Ortodoxa (Orthodox Cathedral) in the background, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Piata Unirii, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Orthodox Cathedral, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Orthodox Cathedral, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Strada Regele Ferdinand 8, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Strada Regele Ferdinand 33, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Votivkirche (Votive Church) viewed from near Schottengasse 9, Vienna; 19 October 1956

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