By Alex Matthews
A history fanatic has spent a decade turning back the clocks in his home to give himself the perfect 1940s experience.
Ben Sansom, 38, admits he is ‘obsessed’ with the wartime decade and has spent the past 10 years replicating the era inside his home.
He has transformed his two-up two-down cottage in Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, which he bought newly-renovated, into a shining example of 40s living.
His attention to detail is such that schoolchildren get guided tours as part of their history curriculum and pensioners who come to visit get ‘lost in their memories’ sat on his sofa.
Ben, an airline steward, fell in love with the 40s as a teenager and made it his goal to live as close to the period as possible.
In his pursuit of vintage wallpaper, carpets, kitchen stove, packaging and even toilet, Ben has splashed out ‘over £10,000’.
But now his project is finally complete, he feels it is worth every penny.
Ben said: “I love going back in time. I couldn’t live a completely modern life.
“It wonderful the house is finally complete and I’m so happy. There isn’t anything more I could do to it.
“I’ve just had my outdoor toilet properly fitted and that was the last piece that needed doing.
“It’s been quite a challenge finding all the pieces over the years. You have to make do with what you can sometimes – it’s a bit like the war attitude in that respect.
“Lots of it comes from car boot sales or even having people donate pieces to me. I’ve even found pieces in skips when out walking the dog.
“But when I started collecting 25 years ago a lot of it was considered old junk, where as now its classed as vintage and so it’s expensive.
“To get 40s wallpaper can cost you £100 a roll now. You have to get it from Sweden. The stove cost £2000 and I had to have it restored properly. There aren’t many people in the country who can do it.
“I’m not sure how much I’ve spent over the 10 years, but it’s certainly into five figures. I always put money towards the house.”
Ben admits that some pieces in the house would more likely have been in a stylish central London apartment than a rural Cambridgeshire cottage.
But despite the added luxuries, life in the 40s can be difficult.
However, Ben argues it is worth it for the simplicity and charm the lifestyle brings.
He said: “Living like this might not be to everyone’s tastes but I love it. It has a real romantic attraction to it.
“The other day there was a power cut. Other people in the street were lost, but I just turned on my gas lamps and cooked on the fire and it was no problem at all.
“It is a hard way to live. I might spend a day doing lots of 40s jobs, like sweeping the chimney flue. I can’t do that two days before I go back to work though, or my hands are still covered in soot.
“But despite the chores life just seems so much simpler. It’s charming to cook dinner and make tea on the stove, and put records on the gramophone.
“I love the music. I have records by Vera Lynn, Ann Skelton, Glenn Miller, you name it.”
Ben has tried to live in the 40s ever since he was a teenager.
He grew up with his grandma telling him stories of being in London for the air raids and his grandfather driving ambulances during the Blitz.
His grandma had worked at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square before moving to Cambridgeshire, and it was after he saw a film about London during the war he became fascinated with the 40s.
He said: “I grew up with my mum singing music from that time and found lots of history out from grandma.
“Then when I was nine I saw the film ‘Hope and Glory’. It was an autobiography of the director’s childhood growing up in London in World War Two. I fell in love with it.
“I’ve essentially tried to reproduce his house from the film.
“Since seeing that film I was obsessed with the 40s. I dressed like a young man from the 40s in my teens.
“My classmates thought I was strange, but I could practically teach the GCSE history class, so that was great.”
Ben says part of the joy of having the house is sharing this passion for the decade with others.
He invites history tour groups, schoolchildren and people in retirement homes to come and see his set up.
He said: “I love showing people around. I have up to 70 schoolchildren at a time come to see how people lived nearly 80 years ago.
“Some older people have come as well, who are now in their 80s and 90s and so they remember what it was like.
“They will just sit on the sofa, go completely silent before reminiscing about it.
“It’s lovely to see those reactions.”
Due to his job and the demands of modern life, Ben admits to having one or two more modern pieces of technology to help him out.
However, he sees some crossovers between his favourite decade and today, so he doesn’t mind being surrounded by the 21st Century.
Ben said: “There are one or two mod cons hidden away. You can’t do anything without email nowadays, so I do have an iPad. But I can hide it very easily.
“I actually don’t mind the modern world too much. I think younger people look great nowadays.
“A lot of the haircuts that are in fashion are very 40s. I approve of that.”