Discover John Norris Wood

The Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden have many artists under their remit of ‘North Essex’ and one of the more unexpected ones is John Norris Wood. A naturalist and teacher at the Royal College of Art, he was an influential figure in keeping nature and drawing part of the art syllabus at the college.

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Born in London on 29 November 1930, son of Lucy and Wilfrid Burton Wood, John grew up in Shalford Green, near Braintree, Essex. Educated at Bryanston School, being influenced by the art master, Charles Handley-Read.

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 John Norris Wood – Night Flight

At the age of 16, when he was introduced to Edward Bawden: ‘Edward phoned me up saying his wife Charlotte Bawden had been to see some pictures I’d been exhibiting in Braintree and that he would like me to come and visit him if I would care to. So I did, and it was all very amazing. There were so many things in his house designed by him, from fabrics to furniture to masses of pictures, of course, and I was enchanted. So I first came to know about the College when I was far, far too young to go there [through] Edward saying he taught at the Royal College and telling me about it.’

Bawden was impressed by John’s proficiency as a draughtsman, gave him some lessons, and allowed him to use his studio whenever he wanted – the anecdote goes – as long as he didn’t speak.

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 John Norris Wood – Country Garden Butterflies 

He studied at Goldsmiths’ College School of Art, under Clive Gardiner and teachers who included Sam Rabin, Adrian Ryan and Betty Swanwick and then went on to the Royal College of Art, where his teachers included Edward Ardizzone, John Minton and, most significantly, Edward Bawden; while there he won a silver medal for zoological drawing.

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 John Norris Wood – The Desire of the Moth for the Lamp 

In 1962 John married Julie, the daughter of Richard Guyatt, in 1962 and they led a blissfully happy, if unconventional, family life at his small nature reserve in East Sussex.

In 1971 Robin Darwin, rector of the Royal College of Art, asked John Norris Wood to found the Natural History and Illustration and Ecological Studies course there.

During the late 1950s he spent periods at the East Anglian School of Painting and Design at Benton End, Hadleigh, Suffolk. Wood taught at Goldsmiths’ 1956-1968, Cambridge School of Art 1959-1970 and Hornsey College of Art and in 1971 he returned to the Royal College of Art becoming a Fellow in 1980. In 1962 Wood married the designer, Julie Corsellis Grant, daughter of designer, Richard Guyatt and they lived at Garretts, Shalford, Essex and had two children.

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 John Norris Wood – Stamps

Wood became a freelance artist and illustrator, working for a variety of book and magazine publishers in Britain and America. His series for children, ‘Nature Hide and Seek’, which he wrote and co-illustrated with Kevin Dean, was designated best children’s books of the year by the US Association for the Advancement of Science also writing and broadcasting for television on a number of natural history subjects. Wood has exhibited widely in London and the provinces, and also internationally. His solo shows include those at the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden 2001, the Chappel Galleries, Colchester 2002 and the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge 2004. A member of the Society of Wildlife Artists in 1997 and also a member of the Society of Authors and the Thomas Hardy Society. He latterly lived Wadhurst, East Sussex and he died 17 October 2015.

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 John Norris Wood – An Alphabet in Praise of Frogs & Toads

The Cat Rug

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 Bedroom in Place House, Great Bardfield, 1962.

I don’t think anyone would be shocked that I buy a lot of books, maybe ten a week. But in my latest purchases I had a copy of the House & Garden’s Book of Interiors, edited by Robert Harling in 1962. One of the small pictures was credited as a bedroom of Place House, Great Bardfield – the home of John Aldridge.

While John was a painter his wife Lucy made rugs. The design for the rug is in the Fry Gallery collection of works as it was painted by John. Lucy also exhibited her rugs at the Great Bardfield Artists Exhibitions but like many of the women who were wives, they got no credit.

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 John Aldridge – Rug Design, 1939

As sitting hand-knotting a rug takes some time, she made an ideal subject for an oil painting.

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 John Aldridge – Lucie Weaving A Rug, The Fry Gallery, c1960.

Twa Corbies

Here are two poems read and drawn as an interesting collaboration of artists as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951. The drawings were used to make a series of scenes for a short film, the spoken or sung content added over this. 

In this clip there are two poems. Twa Corbies narrated by John Laurie and illustrated by Michael Rothenstein and Spring and Winter (Shakespeare) sung by Peter Pears to music by Thomas Arne and illustrated by Mervyn Peake.

Both of these poems are available to be seen on the BFI for free. Here is the link.

 Michael Rothenstein – A Still from Twa Corbies, 1951

 Michael Rothenstein – A Still from Twa Corbies, 1951

Olga Lehmann, Boxed In

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 Olga Lehmann – Bristol Aircraft Company: Underground Factory at Corsham

Brunel’s cutting of the Box Railway Tunnel, beside the village of Corsham, revealed a rich seam of high quality stone beneath the hills in 1838. Intense quarrying followed, leaving a network of quarries with worked-out chambers and air shafts, including Spring Quarry. The entrance for Spring Quarry was beside the East entrance of Box Tunnel.

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In December 1940 four quarries were requisitioned by the Ministry, including Spring Quarry, to the south of the Box Tunnel. It covers a vast 3,300,000 square foot area (or 76 acres).

The quarry was adapted to use as an underground aircraft factory in the early 1940s. The place underground was a little dreary, with the walls that could be painted, coloured in standard military shades. To brighten the place up, a series of murals were commissioned.

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 Olga Lehmann – Mural design for the Canteen in the Censorship Division.
Left: Admiralty, Ministry of Information and Home Security, Centre: Health & Censorship. Right: Min of Works, Buildings, Foreign Office & War Office. A Skit of government departments, hence the red tape.

 Olga Lehmann – Mural Design Detail

The murals in Spring Quarry were painted by Olga Lehmann (assisted by Gilbert Wood). They show a number of themed scenes, including a racecourse, a fairground, sporting scenes and cartoon-like depictions of primitive cultures. The majority of the murals are in a mess hall, although there are isolated examples in outer rooms and corridors.

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 Photo of Lehmann painting a mural at the Wardens’ Club, St Pancras ARP headquarters in London, 21st August 1940.

The rest of these photos are from the Spring Quarry / Corsham Underground centre.

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Great Bardfield in Brighton

This post is not really connected in the typical way my articles are, but just points to a curious link between the Bardfield Artists being on Brighton Pier. I have also included a photograph by Edwin Smith – All of these artists are represented by the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden.

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 Edward Bawden – Brighton Pier (Proof), 1958

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 Edward Bawden – Brighton Pier, 1958

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 John Aldridge – 

Palace Pier, Brighton, East Sussex, 1950

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 Walter Hoyle – Brighton Pier

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 Edward Bawden – Snowstorm in Brighton, 1956

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 Edwin Smith – Palace Pier, Brighton, 1952

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Edward Bawden – London Playground, Brighton

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 Edward Bawden – A Blow on the Pier.

Edwin Smith’s Cats

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These drawings are from the 1946 book ‘A Clowder of Cats’ an anthology of literature containing cats. The illustrations are by Edwin Smith. He was famous as a photographer and his almost annual contributions to The Saturday Book. Smith was the husband of Olive Cook, a Cedric Morris pupil and she was one of the founding members of the Fry Gallery in 1987, but together they wrote many books on cottages and stately homes.

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While internationally acclaimed as a photographer, with contributions in some forty books across the world, Smith passionately wished to be recognised as an artist, and engraved, drew or painted every day, but with limited recognition during his lifetime. He was self-taught, his training being as an architect although he hardly practised before being drawn into photography.

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He shared a love of the countryside, and of crafts and traditions within it, and his photography sits comfortably within the neo-romantic tradition, as was demonstrated by his inclusion in the Barbican Art Gallery exhibition on this subject in 1987 after his death in 1971. You can see more of his work here: at the Fry Gallery Page on Smith.

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Eric Ravilious Underground

In the short time that Eric Ravilious was of working age he produced a massive amount of work for such a young man. He died while serving as an official British War Artist when the aircraft he was aboard crashed off Iceland. He was 39 years old.

At the time of Ravilious’s death there were various projects underway that the war disrupted. As manufacturing was halted, these commissions were put on hold while the country had to economise.

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 Eric Ravilious – Design for London Underground Plate, 1939.

One of the projects Ravilious had started was for a commemorative plate for the ‘New Works Programme’ of 1935-40 that London Transport had begun.

It was an ambitious extension of the Northern and Bakerloo lines northwards, and the Central line both east and westwards. Although the engineering work was well advanced by the outbreak of war, the project had to be abandoned and was only partly realised in the post-war years. Thus the commemorative plate designed by Ravilious was never produced.

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The early Underground train lines, originally owned by several private companies, were brought together under the ‘Underground’ brand in the early 20th century and eventually merged along with the sub-surface lines and bus services in 1933 to form London Transport under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board (L.P.T.B.).

The ‘New Works Programme’ was to develop many aspects of the public transport services run by the L.P.T.B. and the suburban rail services of the Great Western Railway and London and North Eastern Railway.

The investment was largely backed by government assistance as well as by the issuing of financial bonds and was estimated to cost £42,286,000 in 1936 (approximately £2.59 billion today).

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Of the four vignettes Ravilious chose, three were of construction and one was of the predicted Grand Opening, with a tube train and swash bunting along the platform.

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One of the vignettes of construction show men being lowered in buckets into the tube shaft. These were likely non-station locations where the soil was excavated out and the steel and concrete lowered in, like the workers. It was a typical practice in mining.

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 Men in a small-scale drop lift.

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Another of the pictures shows workers putting up the frames for the tube tunnels and station platforms. The wiring being bunched on the sides of the tunnel.

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The two workers pictured here are bolting the rivets of the metal into place. The image when manufactured, would have been a black and white transfer and the colour would have been a translucent enamel paint.

The three heraldic devices show the county badges of Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex.

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 Middlesex Heraldry

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 Buckinghamshire Heraldry

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 Hertfordshire Heraldry

The plate would have been one of the last commissions of Frank Pick, chief executive of the London Passenger Transport Board. Pick, who retired in 1940 and died the next year, had worked for the Underground since 1906.

Pick had become publicity officer responsible for marketing and it was at this time that, working with the company’s general manager Albert Stanley, he began developing the strong corporate identity and visual style for which the London Underground later became famous, including the introduction of the ‘Underground’ brand.

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One of Pick’s responsibilities was to increase passenger numbers, and he believed that the best way to do so was by encouraging increased patronage of the company’s services outside peak hours. He commissioned posters which promoted the Underground’s trains and London Transport buses as a means of reaching the countryside around London and attractions within the city. Throughout Pick’s career his over-riding passion was for architecture and design, and his adventurous approach and choice of collaborators is famous.

Ravilious had other work planned for London Transport, some posters and wood engravings. During his lifetime he did see some of his work used, a set of his wood-engravings were used for the covers of the Country Walks books in 1936.

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 1936 cover to Country Walks, 3rd Series with a Ravilious Design of Two Cows.

The Country Walk books were by Charles White and printed for London Transport to show people the possibilities of using the Underground and Bus network. Inside they had maps and planned walks showing how to get to the locations using London Transport.

Each of the three volumes had a wood engraving by Ravilious on the cover. The second volume had a Mill, the third featured the Two Cows wood-engraving.

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 A print from the original woodblock with Two Cows to the left, and Hull’s Mill, Castle Hedingham to the right. 1935.

The two images were engraved on the same block of wood and printed together as one proof. On the left a cow and a bull in a field, separated by a stone wall; on the right a horse standing next to a mill stream, with watermill (based on Hull’s Mill, Castle Hedingham, near Great Bardfeild) in the background.

Below is the original drawing for Two Cows, reversed in design as a woodblock always prints backwards.

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Cows, preliminary study for a woodcut, 1935.

The pencil design is remarkable for another reason: part of the design was turned into a watercolour featuring two Cows in the same pose.

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Cows, The Fry Gallery, 1935.

The book Away We Go by Oliver Green and Alan Powers, documents more of the other work that both Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden did for London Transport, mostly their designs for press adverts.

Ravilious Engravings by Jeremy Greenwood, The Wood Lea Press, 2008.
Moving Metropolis by Sheila Taylor and Oliver Green, Laurence King, 2001.
Ravilious and Wedgwood by Robert Harling, Dalrymple Press, 1986

Rothenstein into Pop Art.

Michael Rothenstein was born in 1908 in Hampstead, London and the youngest of four children of Sir William Rothenstein and Alice Knewstub. His brother John became a director for the Tate Gallery and had connections with the Bloomsbury Set.

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 Howard Coster’s photo of John Rothenstein; Sir William Rothenstein; Michael Rothenstein (standing), National Portrait Gallery, 1939. 

Michael was homeschooled and studied art at Chelsea Polytechnic

and later at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (1924-27). His mother was American and his father British, the family home was also a social and happy one.

If we accept the frequent probability of children’s rebelling against the lives and pursuits of their parents – or at least their parental environment – Michael Rothenstein’s early years might well have destroyed any burgeoning of a creative disposition. But as a child and as a young man, he actively enjoyed the not affluent but very comfortable style of an artist’s household in which Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis, Edward Burra, Stanley Spencer, David Jones, Edwin Lutyens or the young Henry Moore were received and he often rubbed shoulders at supper or tea parties with Walter de la Mare, Barnett Freedman or Robert Graves.

Affected by lingering depression due to myxoedema, he did little art making during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Despite this, he had

his first one-man show at the Warren Gallery, London in 1931.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Three Women by the Sea, Jerwood Gallery, 1938.

His work and style of the late 30s and early 40s was part of the neo-romantic water-colourist set that artists like Thomas Hennell, Claude Muncaster, Eric Ravilious and Paul Nash had been championing for a decade. These watercolours are best showcased by the work he created for the Recording Britain project.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Kilburn Church from the South, V&A, 1940. (Recording Britain) 

In 1941 Rothenstein moved to Great Bardfield, staying first at ‘Place House’, where John Aldridge also lived, before moving to ‘Ethel House’. As his style progressed away from the Recording Britain project he could be more abstract and free with his artworks, moving to Great Bardfield gave him a community of artists and a resource of subjects to work with. He started a long association with the Redfern Gallery, with his first show in 1942.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Autumn, 1947.

The community of Great Bardfield in the 1940s had Rothenstein in contact with artists like John Aldridge, Edward Bawden and Kenneth Rowntree. Bawden moved to the village in 1925 and Rowntree in 1939. Following Rothenstein over the next decade would be George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas and textile artist Marianne Straub. The village would go on to hold events and make it one of the artistic centres for East Anglia alongside Colchester and its School of Art.

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 Cover of the Great Bardfield Artists 1957-58 Exhibition Catalogue (Design by Walter Hoyle)

During 1945 he submitted a lithograph for the Schools Prints series, ‘Timber Felling’, it was the fifth print of the first series and is one of his most recognisable works. He also illustrated the Sussex volume of Visions of England in 1947.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Timber Felling, 1945. (Schools Prints SP5)

In 1948 Rothenstein would learn about lithographic printing with the two sisters, Frances Byng-Stamper and Caroline Byng-Lucas whom had set up Millers Press in Lewes, East Sussex. Their express purpose was to revitalise the art of lithography in the French style, art-lithography having become unfashionable in early twentieth century Britain and seen as the tool of a ‘commercial artist’.

Together with new lithographs, over the next few years Rothenstein would print many monotype experiments at his home in Great Bardfield.

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 Michael Rothenstein – The Cockerel, From my collection, 1950.

In the 1950s he embraced printmaking over painting working in every area of the medium. In 1952 he travelled to Paris to the ‘Atelier 17′ studio to work with Stanley William Hayter – the surrealist print-maker; under his influence it is credited that Rothenstein started his bold experiments in printmaking. The prints he produced were modern and colourful and very chunky mixing woodcuts with screen-prints or etchings. In this form of work he had discovered his true style making the farmyards and fields of Great Bardfield into lively prints.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Quarry (White Cliff), V&A, 1955.

The first stages of the printmaking revival started with the boom in book sales and publishing from 1900. As publishers looked for more artistic illustrators the medium jumped into the art world with limited edition framed prints becoming more popular into the 1930s. Lithography, lino and the woodcut were the springboard in the 40s and 50s for large scale limited edition images that could be presented as art in multiable copies; with a painting you only have one sale, with a print you have many. Rothenstein, with his ongoing experiments into printmaking, found himself with a younger set of artists pushing the boundaries of printmaking and riding the British wave of Pop Art.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Horse and Sunrise, From my collection, 1974.

Horse and Sunrise is made with wood timbers bolted together in a frame like metal type is in a letterpress. The centre is made of two more woodblocks of (1) the sky and land, and (2) the green hill top shading. The horse is a screen-print layer

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 Michael Rothenstein – Sunrise at 36,000 ft, From my collection, 1973

Sunrise at 36,000 ft is a woodcut with multiable pieces of wood bolted together and a colour intaglio print with multi-colour shading, blending and intaglio details. In the 60s Rothenstein started to construct box pieces made from found items. Painted or covered with his prints they blurred the perceptions of painting, sculpture and printmaking.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Sun Box II, 1975.

The works that set Rothenstein into becoming a Pop Artist are mostly the ones with screen-print overlays, like in the Marilyn Monroe print.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Marilyn I, From my collection, 1978

The fundamentals of Pop Art are using ‘found objects’ to make major commercial artworks. Like Warhol and Lichtenstein, he blew-up the size of pictures from newspapers and bolted them with real items in his boxes.

Michael Rothenstein, for instance, has applied boundless energy to extending the range of the relief process of wood and lino, sometimes combining them with screenprint and photo-screen.  

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 Michael Rothenstein – Crash Box I, 1973

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 Michael Rothenstein, Crash Box Assemblage, Tate, London, 1974

In 1936 he married his first wife, the artist, Betty Fitzgerald, who was later known as Duffy Ayers, and the couple had two children. In 1956 he divorced Duffy and in 1958 married Diana Arnold-Forster. Not long after the 1958 Great Bardfield summer exhibition the couple moved to the nearby village of Stisted, Essex.

Rothenstein was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1977 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1984. His works are held in international collections.

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 Michael Rothenstein – Black Mast, Dalmatian Sea, From my collection, 1958.

Obituary: Michael Rothenstein by Bryan Robertson, The Independent, 1993
Printmaking in Britain by Richard T. Godfrey, 0714818380, 1978.

Olive Cook and Edwin Smith

Olive Muriel Cook was born in Cambridge on 20 February 1912, the daughter of Arthur Cook, a librarian at the University Library for 56 years, and his wife, a dressmaker for Robert Sayle (John Lewis Partnership). She was educated at the Perse School before gaining a scholarship to Newnham College in 1931, where she read Modern Languages. She obtained her MA in 1942.

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 Olive Cook – I Am the Ancient Apple Queen, The Fry Gallery

Her first job was that of art editor for Chatto and Windus, followed by supervisor of publications at the National Gallery (1936-1945), where she worked with Kenneth Clark and Arnold Palmer. She met and became friends with official war artists including Eric Ravilious, Thomas Hennell and Stanley Spencer, and it was during this time that she met Edwin Smith, whom she married in 1954. In 1945 she left the National Gallery to devote herself to her own writing and painting and she and Smith started to write and illustrate articles for The Saturday Book edited by Leonard Russell, to which they both contributed annually until Edwin’s death.

She took a two week painting course at Sir Cedric Morris’s Benton End school in Hadleigh Much. She is now one of his forgotten pupils of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. The other prominent artists of the school are Lucy Harwood, Lucian Freud, Maggi Hambling, David Kentish, Bettina Shaw-Lawrence, Lucy Harwood, Joan Warburton, Glyn Morgan, Valerie Thornton and top legal scholar Bernard Brown.

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 Olive Cook – Portrait of Michael Rothenstein Reading – The Fry Gallery, 1947.

She wrote ‘Suffolk’ in 1948, ‘Cambridgeshire: Aspects of a County, 1953’, and children’s books illustrated by George Adams in 1954. That same year saw the publication of ‘English Cottages and Farmhouses’ with text by Cook and photographs by Smith, their first major work for Thames and Hudson. After their marriage they lived in Hampstead where they had a large circle of artist and writer friends. More joint books followed including ‘English Abbeys and Priories’, ‘British Churches’, ‘The Wonders of Italy’, ‘The English House Through Seven Centuries’.

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 Olive Cook – In The Garden, from my collection.

They moved to Saffron Walden in 1962, where Olive Cook pursued her passion for the preservation of the countryside, her book ‘The Stansted Affair’ presenting the case against the development of the airport (1967). They purchased the Coach House in 1967, remodelled and decorated it in their own inimitable way (see photos in Series 9). Sadly, Smith died of cancer at the early age of 59, leaving Cook devastated. However, a woman of great spirit, she rallied and continued to further the reputation of her beloved husband, producing ‘Edwin Smith: Photographs 1935-1971’ in 1984, and continually promoting his work through exhibitions and in books of others, such as Lucy Archer’s ‘Architecture in Britain and Ireland 600-1500’.

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Her own writing also continued: she wrote the libretto for ‘The Slit Goose Feather’ composed by Christopher Brown, ‘Tryphema Pruss’, illustrated by Walter Hoyle, as well as the introduction for his ‘To Sicily with Edward Bawden’. And, in the 1980s she along with Iris Weaver was instrumental in establishing the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, writing biographical sketches of the artists of the North West Essex Collection deposited there.

Olive Cook had an enormous capacity for friendship, as the hundreds of cards in her papers attest, and although she had no children herself, she was clearly a great favourite with those of her many friends. Right up to the end of her long life, messages came pouring in. She died on 2 May 2002, aged 90.

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  Olive Cook – Edwin Smith with Flowers and Ducks, National Portrait Gallery, 1954.

Edwin George Herbert Smith was born on 15 May 1912 in Canonbury, London, the only child of Edwin Stanley Smith a clerk and his wife Lily Beatrice. After leaving elementary school he was educated at the Northern Polytechnic, transferring to the architectural school at the age of sixteen. He then won a scholarship to the Architectural Association, but for financial reasons gave up his course and worked as an architectural draughtsman for several years, most notably for Raymond Myerscough-Walker. >From 1935 he became a free lance photographer, though painting remained his first love, working briefly for Vogue as a fashion photographer, but mostly concentrating on the mining community of Ashington in Northumberland, the docks of Newcastle, and circuses and fair grounds around London.

In 1935 Smith married Rosemary Ansell, daughter of Henry Ansell, a confectioner. Their son Martin was born in 1941, but the marriage ended in divorce two years later. By this time Smith was living with Olive Cook, whom he married in 1954. Smith was also a writer, producing photographic handbooks, including ‘All the Photo Tricks’ (1940), for Focal Press. But he is best known for his photographs of architecture and landscapes, both of Britain and Europe. His books include: ‘English Parish Churches’ (1952), ‘English Cottages and Farmhouses’ (1954), ‘The English House Through Seven Centuries’ (1968), ‘England’ (1971) ‘Pompeii and Herculanaeum’ (1960) ‘Rome: From its Foundation to the Present’ (1971). Many were collaborations between him and Cook: his photographs, her text.

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In addition to his photographic output (60,00 negatives are now at RIBA), Smith was also a prolific artist. When at home, not a day went by without him drawing or painting. Throughout his life Smith produced water and oil paintings, drawings, linocuts and woodcuts. And in later years at Saffron Walden, he drew up architectural plans for local properties. It was only after his death that exhibitions of Smith’s work appeared.

He became ill in the spring of 1971, but his cancer was not diagnosed until a few weeks before his death on 29 December. There is a poignant account in one of his notebooks written by Olive and addressed to him three months after he died, recounting in detail his last day.

Cook inherited Smith’s estate on his death, 29 December 1971, and towards the end of her life deposited his huge photograph collection of some 60,000 negatives at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) along with their letters to each other. The remainder of his papers became part of her archive at Newnham. 

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 Olive Cook – Nude and Iris in the Garden, from my collection.

Text sourced from Janus Cambridge Archives. https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F2911%2FPP%20Cook

Bridge End Gardens

Every time I go to Saffron Walden I walk past the Fry Gallery and into Bridge End Gardens. 

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My Father was born around the corner and I remember being taken to the gardens as a child. My father’s memories of the gardens were quite different from today. During WW2 they had been dug up and used to grow vegetables in the Dig For Victory campaign. They were somewhat restored but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the work was put into making them into somewhere you would want to go.

Lately they have added a visitors centre and in that is a large plaque with illustrations by Christopher Brown, below are some details of his illustrations of the garden sections and photos of mine. 

The drawn plan is by Christopher Brown who studied at the Royal College of Art where he first met, then later assisted, Edward Bawden. Christopher made his first trip to Saffron Walden to visit Bawden in 1979. Over the course of subsequent visits they sometimes walked through the Garden, which was in a sorry state at the time. Returning to the town for this commission, Christopher believes Bawden would appreciate the restoration work.

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Bridge End Gardens were built on fields on the edge of Saffron Walden and covers an area of 2.7 hectares (7 acres). The area was set out as gardens from around 1828 by Atkinson Francis Gibson and his wife Elizabeth.

From 1838, his son Francis Gibson – who was interested in horticulture and had also completed a garden design for his sister – began creating a new garden with the help of a local nurseryman William Chater. The hedge maze was planted around 1870, by which stage the garden was under the management of a local agent and was used as a venue for shows by the Saffron Walden horticultural society.

The site opened to the public in 1902 and the borough council took over responsibility for its management from 1918, designating it as a ‘public pleasure ground’.


In 1987, the garden was listed with English Heritage. In the same year, the maze was replanted and the kitchen garden cleared. Between 2002–2006 the garden was restored back to the 1870 plan. The kitchen garden reopened between 2009 and 2011. 

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This statue I find covered with feathers or flowers, some local person is always decorating him in various organic items.

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Wikipedia – Bridge End Gardens.