Everything stops for tea...

Mary Haresign (left) and her sister Laura Hilliam ready to serve afternoon tea. Photo: SG261012-780NG
Mary Haresign (left) and her sister Laura Hilliam ready to serve afternoon tea. Photo: SG261012-780NG
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Once her hair is in ‘victory rolls’ and she’s wearing her spotty dress and floral pinny, Mary Haresign is in her element.

She’s re-living a time when there may have been hardships but people shared their troubles, usually over a cup of tea and a slice of home-made cake, served up on rather nice china – and it was probably real tea in a teapot.

Mary hankers after a time when Benny Goodman and his orchestra played the latest tunes and when families and community were important aspects of life: the 1940s in particular, although Mary has amassed an amazing collection of retro and vintage items from the 1940s right through to the 1980s to use in her new venture, the Vintage Tea Room.

Wedding planner and events organiser Mary, who lives with husband Alex in Bourne Road, Spalding, realised she could combine her interest in vintage with her day job by offering a mobile tea room service – and has involved the entire family in the venture.

Mary says her mum, Janet Hilliam, who lives in Holbeach St Johns, is willing to dress up as a “trolley dolly” when she can, and Mary’s sisters Laura Hilliam, who lives at home, and Helen Clarke of Holbeach, also take little persuasion to get dressed up in the spotty dresses and flowery pinnies and help out as waitresses when necessary, while brother Joseph Hilliam has a designer’s eye and will help set the stage at functions.

With assistance from her family, Mary is able to set up a mobile vintage tea room at any event she has helped organise and serve cakes, sandwiches and tea to anything up to 20,000 people, as she did at one show in Kent. Alternatively, clients are able to hire vintage crockery and props for their function.

When Mary is in waitress role, she does it in style, her friend Rui, who works as a hairdresser at Hedonism in Spalding, able to re-create any style Mary shows him from her collection of old magazines, such as the victory rolls she is wearing for our photographs.

She and her brother have even bought a pretty pale blue and cream 1972 Ford Landliner to use for the mobile tea room, and the plan is to work on it over the winter for use next year.

The van was an impulse buy, but the vintage collection has been amassed with purpose, Mary and Alex attending antiques fairs to source items. They now have all kinds of pretty crockery, such as cups, saucers, tea plates and teapots, bunting, props such as old suitcases, an old record player and vinyl records, radios, magazines, tea tins and jars, as well as 1977 crates from a family business, D & G Haresign, run by Alex’s father and uncle.

Mary says: “My collection of stuff does keep growing and it has become a bit of an obsession really. I am just pleased the family is involved with it – and my long-suffering husband does the fetching and carrying and gets dragged around antique fairs.

“We call ourselves a mobile tea shop and we can do outside events. We will decorate the venue with bunting and old props, depending on what the event is, and I have a big marquee and tables and chairs for festivals and exhibitions. I have done a couple of wedding shows promoting the crockery and prop hire side of it.

“Wedding planning is something I really enjoy and combining the vintage with the weddings and the events bring it all together. People enjoy the experience, it’s different, and people sit down and talk around the tables. It brings a bit of civilisation.

“I have just grown up liking old things and liking the philosophy of the era, the make do and mend, re-cycling. I know it was a tough time, 
but they always found time 
to sit down and have a cup of tea.”