Kenneth Rowntree Churches and Chapels


 Kenneth Rowntree – Ethel House, Great Bardfield, 1942

In a previous post I featured the work of Walter Hoyle and his drawing of Little Saling Church in Bardfield Saling. In researching that I found the lovely paintings by Kenneth Rowntree below. The image above is Ethel House, Great Bardfield, where his friend Michael Rothenstein lived.

Rowntree trained at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford, and then at the Slade in London. In 1939 he married the architect Diana Buckley. They associated with many of the modernist emigr architects in London at that time, and a strong architectural sense can often be felt in Rowntree’s work. He was a Quaker, and during the war became part of the ‘Recording Britain’ project, in which everyday life in wartime Britain was captured by a range of artists. When Diana became pregnant in 1941 they wished to move out of London, and Eric and Tirzah Ravilious found them a suitable house in Great Bardfield, close to the Bawdens’ home. Local churches provided a strong inspiration for much of his work here, but he also worked in London, Kent and Wales.


 Kenneth Rowntree – SS Peter and Paul, Little Saling, Essex, 1942


 Kenneth Rowntree – Interior of SS Peter and Paul, Little Saling, Essex, 1942


 Kenneth Rowntree – The Organ Loft, SS Peter and Paul, Little Saling, 1942

And here are two bonus pictures of nearby church in North End, again, inside and out.


 Kenneth Rowntree – Exterior, Black Chapel North End, Nr. Dunmow, 1942


 Kenneth Rowntree – Interior, Black Chapel, North End, near Dunmow, Essex, 1942

Bardfield and the Beeb


 Walter Hoyle – May, 1963

The BBC Book of the Countryside came out in 1963 and was edited by Arthur Phillips. It featured illustrations from the Great Bardfield artists Walter Hoyle and Sheila Robinson. There are also illustrations from John Nash and Ralph Thompson. It is a book packed with beautiful illustrations that is so often overlooked due to the title.  

A while ago I bought all six of the Walter Hoyle original ink illustrations from the book. I got them because they have illustrations made while Hoyle was in the Bardfield area and it’s important to see an artist while they are riding a creative peak.


 Walter Hoyle – January, 1963

Walter Hoyle is in danger of being one of the forgotten Great Bardfield artists due to the lack of information on him. He was born in Rishton, Lancashire in July 1922. Hoyle’s artistic education started at the Beckenham School of Art in 1938,

I persuaded my local art school to accept me, and presented as evidence of my serious intent, a series of drawings much influenced by Walt Disney.

From Beckenham, Hoyle gained a place as a student at the Royal College of Art from 1940-42 and again from 1947-48 after serving in the Second World War. During Hoyle’s time at the RCA one of his tutors was Edward Bawden, who encouraged him to develop watercolours and printmaking.

It was 1940, the phoney war was about to end and the college was evacuated from London to Ambleside in the Lake District, famous for poets rather than artists. It was here that I was first introduced to printmaking – lithography – by a friend called Thistlethwaite, a fellow student from Oswaldtwistle (although these names are true, I mention them only because I like the sound they make). He prepared a litho stone for me with a beautiful finely ground surface and instructed me how to draw in line and wash. †

In 1948, During the RCA Diploma show a visitor was so impressed by Hoyle’s work that he was offered seven months’ work in the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul. Hoyle accepted, the work he saw there made a strong impression. Italian art and architecture also influenced him at that time.

Early in 1951 when Bawden was commissioned by the Festival of Britain to produce a mural for the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion on the South Bank, it was Hoyle that he chose to assist him on account of his great talent. During that summer Bawden invited Hoyle on a holiday to Sicily.

Edward asked to see my watercolours. He looked very carefully and quizzed me about them, and in general was complimentary and encouraging. I felt I had passed some kind of examination.

It was this holiday together that Hoyle would scribe into a limited edition booklet of 10 in 1990 and into a book in 1998 – “To Sicily with Edward Bawden” a limited edition of 350 copies with a forward by Olive Cook.


 Geoffrey Ireland – Walter Hoyle at home in Great Bardfield c1955


 Walter Hoyle – March, 1963

March I think is Hill Farm in Great Sampford, Essex.

The BBC Book of the Countryside features articles by different nature writers and journalists from the BBC from farming to wildlife. It comes from The Countryside radio show.

Selected from over five hundred scripts and sixty-seven hours of broadcasting, this anthology depicts life and activity in the British countryside as seen through the eyes of some of the contributors to the BBC’s monthly Countryside programme during the past eleven years. 

C. Gordon Glover, whose narrative sets the scene for each chapter, lives in an Essex village and the changing face of the countryside from month to month is portrayed as he sees it, from his kitchen window — from the bridge over the village

Claude Gordon Glover was a BBC Radio Broadcaster (you can hear him present an edition of The Countryside here) and he lived in Arkesden, a few miles West of Saffron Walden. He was also for a time, the lover of Barbara Pym. His broadcasts consist of a Betjeman like prose over classical music and the song of birdsong likely to be heard that month. Below is a selection of October.

October: Lovely October of the half-way days, the wayward pause between the certainties of summer and winter – the one is well over, the other not yet begun. For the countryman everywhere this is the month of the great tidying up – the sweeping, the burning, the cleaning, the digging, the transference upon dry days of apples from tree to store. The suns of summer have done their work, the land has given forth and the harvest is home. 


 Walter Hoyle – November, 1963

Above is a picture for November by Hoyle and in the background is Bardfield Saling church. It is always good to prove that pictures are relevant to artists lives and the history of Great Bardfield. Curiously enough, the artist Celia Hart suggested that the guy might be a self portrait of Walter himself. 

The photograph below was taken by John Piper in the late 40s or early 50s when he was working on the Shell Guides and just finished three of the Murray’s Guidebooks with John Betjeman. 


John Piper – Photograph of St. Peter & St. Paul’s church, Bardfield Saling, c1950

A poem for May:
A branch of May I have bought you
And at your door we shall stand
It is but a spout but it’s well spread about
By the words of our Lord’s hand. 

Fair Maids look out of your window so high
To view the May-Bush fair,
it was cut down so late last night
To take the fresh morning air.


 Walter Hoyle – September, 1963

In 1969 Walter Hoyle illustrated the ‘Women’s Institute book of Party Recipes’. This series of little illustrations are some of his best in my opinion.

They form a curious set of mixed media works that I believe to have been printed by Hoyle in lithograph then sent off to the book printers to be mass-printed, with the look of being a lithograph, but without it being so. Clearly the book was designed to be cheaply printed, for one it is spiral bound – but this is rather helpful in a cookery book. The other indicator of cheapness is that it has a very limited colour palette of orange, red and black. It was printed by Novello & Co Ltd, who mostly make sheet-music scores.

Below is an illustration from the cookery book of a man picking apples in an orchard and, above is almost the same drawing made four years later for the BBC Book of the Countryside by Walter Hoyle in 1963. As the WI book illustration have been drawn on to printing plate the image would have been reversed – so the ladder, man and fruit crate are a mirror image to the figures below. I know the picture from the Countryside book isn’t mirrored as it came from an ink drawing and I own those drawings.


† Printmaking Today, Volume 7, 1998. page 9-10.
♠ To Sicily with Edward Bawden, Previous Parrot Press, 1998.
The Great Bardfield Exhibition by Gerald Marks, Realism, August – September, 1955–/22

Dunkirk in Art

In this post I look at the artworks of events at Dunkirk in 1940. Some would have been sketched or observed on the day, others were painted with eye-witness reports and photographs. Many were finished in a studio in the weeks and months after.

On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded France and the Low Countries, pushing the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), along with French and Belgian troops, back to the French port of Dunkirk. A huge rescue, Operation ‘Dynamo’, was organised by the Royal Navy to get the troops off the beaches and back to Britain. 

‘Dynamo’ began on 26 May. Strong defences were established around Dunkirk, and the Royal Air Force sent all available aircraft to protect the evacuation. Over 800 naval vessels of all shapes and sizes helped to transport troops across the English Channel. The last British troops were evacuated on 3 June, with French forces covering their escape. Churchill and his advisers had expected that it would be possible to rescue only 20,000 to 30,000 men, but in all 338,000 troops, a third of them French, were rescued. Ninety thousand remained to be taken prisoner and the BEF left behind the bulk of its tanks and heavy guns. All resistance in Dunkirk ended at 9.30am on 4 June.

When I saw the Richard Eurich picture below, the sea was so well painted it looked like glass. It was at an exhibition in the Queens House, Greenwich. It is a fantastic picture that viewed in a book or on the internet doesn’t comprehend. It was also used by the Navy as its Christmas card for 1940.


 Richard Eurich – Withdrawal from Dunkirk, 1940


 Charles Cundall – The Withdrawal from Dunkirk, 1940


 John Spencer-Churchill – Dunkirk from the Bray Dunes, 1940

Below is a painting by Wilkinson who to my eye is the master of painting seascapes. He has a wonderful repertoire of boats and the lighting in this painting is a marvel. Though beautiful, it also shows the hellish chaos of the day.


 Norman Wilkinson – The Little Ships at Dunkirk, 1940

The Little Ships at Dunkirk: June 1940, by Norman Wilkinson. The gently shelving beaches meant that large warships could only pick up soldiers from the town’s East Mole, a sea wall which extended into deep water, or send their boats on the beaches to collect them. To speed up the process, the British Admiralty appealed to the owners of small boats for help. These became known as the ‘little ships’.


 Newspaper with the small announcement under ‘War Artists’.

On Thursday, 7th March, 1940, three days before his 37th birthday, it was announced in the British papers that Edward Bawden and Barnett Freeman were to become Official War Artists on behalf of the British War Office.

In the first days of April, Ardizzone (Edward) and Bawden took rooms for a while in the hotel Commerce in Arras, fussed over by a shared batman. They enjoyed the local wine and hospitality, before being billeted separately. Arras was dour, small and grey, It was also the GHQ for the British Army in France.

Arras in France is just over fifty miles away on a map, from April to May the retreat to Dunkirk was rapid and not an inspiring start for a war artist. In this short time Bawden said he was passed from regiments and groups rapidly as none of them wanted the alien burden of an artist to deal with, but being on the move a lot may have prepared his sketching style ready for Dunkirk where rapid copy was needed.

On his way to Dunkirk, Bawden has rolled up his paintings in a cylindrical tin which he clutched under his arm.

Approaching the port, he ditched all his equipment except his art materials (what would the Germans have done with them?) Marching into the town, they ran the gauntlet of ragged French soldiers jeering them. It discomforted him, as did the looters sweeping like locusts through abandoned houses.


 Edward Bawden – Dunkirk: Embarkation of Wounded, May 1940


 Edward Bawden – Dunkirk – The New World, 1940


 Edward Bawden – Boys Serving Coffee, Dunkirk, 1940.

He reached the quayside in the company of a Canadian major, and they watched with dismay the frantic self-preservation of a group of British generals on the Dunkirk quayside, the swagger sticks pointing at likely boats bound for England. He turned to the major, with a wry smile. ‘Rats always go first’ he said.


 Edward Bawden – Dunkirk – Embarkation of Wounded, 1940


 Edward Bawden – The Quay at Dunkirk, 1940.

In the watercolour above, notice the fires along the jetty. The men in the foreground descending into a air-raid shelter and the bomb craters on the ground. The air raid shelter is likely to be the same one below, but in the chaos who could tell.


 Edward Bawden – The Entrance to an Air Raid Shelter, Dunkirk, 1940


 Edward Bawden – In an Air Raid Shelter, Dunkirk: Bombs are dropping, 1940

The Sketchbook War by Richard Knott, 2013 978-0752489230
Imperial War Museum – Dunkirk

A New Booklet – Ravilious

In the books section there is the new free PDF booklet Writings on Ravilious. You can also download the Bawden booklet “Life in An English Village”.

The de Lank Quarry Cornwall

One of the nicer parts of my researches into the histories of Edward Bawden and John Nash is looking at the works they created on holiday together. As artists visiting a place together it seems they would look at a subject (the bridge at Ironbridge) and wonder around to get a perspective that pleased them both. Here with the Quarry I would imagine they had less opportunity to wander about, as it was then and is still now, a working Quarry. This has given a forced subject and view. I find it interesting how they both have translated it into a painting.


On five occasions we shared a painting expedition in Wales, on the Gower Peninsula & again near Haverfordwest at Littlehaven; in Cornwall during a cold wet spell of misery in the De Lank Quarry at Blisland; at Dunwich in Suffolk & in Shropshire at Ironbridge. †

Located near Blisland, not far from Bodmin, the De Lank Granite Quarry was a particularly engaging subject for Bawden as, ‘unlike many granite quarries on or near the moors it is still being actively worked, & for that reason retains an interest that others have lost

The forced perspective of where it was safe to paint gives an interesting view to how both Nash and Bawden worked. I like mostly the blash pressure and fuel tank behind the workers hut on the crane.


 Edward Bawden – The De Lank quarry no.2 , 1960


 John Nash – The De Lank Quarry, Cornwall, 1960


 John Nash – The De Lank Quarry at Blisland, Cornwall , 1960

The paintings below likely were made on the same trip, Sharp Tor was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1960 and The De Lank River, De Lank Quarry No 2 and The Engine House all exhibited in the 1961 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The last two – likely worked upon in Bawden’s studio – are sad gloomy images.


 Edward Bawden – Sharp Tor, Cornwall, 1960


 Edward Bawden – The De Lank River, Cornwall, 1960


 Edward Bawden – The Engine House, Cornwall, 1960

Edward Bawden to John Rothenstein, 24th April, 1979.
Letter from Edward Bawden, 12 July 1961

The Portrait Painter


 John Aldridge – Stubble Field, Thaxted, 1968

Unlike the artists of St Ives, the Bardfield Group didn’t really end up copying each other’s works and styles. Each of them all having a different artistic technique already before moving to the village. 

John Aldridge painted realistic landscapes, no surrealism and little abstraction, his masterfulness coming in the detail of light sources and a limited palette of colour. Despite the landscapes and garden paintings here are a collection of his portrait paintings. What is more interesting about them is how the people are woven together in their history with each other.

As an artist, he was self-taught and his paintings have a freshness that some of his contemporaries had to work hard to regain after. †


 John Aldridge – Portrait of Cedric Morris c1928


 John Aldridge – Portrait of Lucy Brown, 1930


 John Aldridge – Portrait of Laura Riding, 1933


 John Aldridge – Portrait of Lucy Aldridge c1950


 John Aldridge – Portrait of Robert Graves, 1968

In 1968 when Robert Graves asked Aldridge to paint him.

Robert Graves wanted a portrait of himself, he declared that as a landscape painter Aldridge was the right person to interpret his craggy features

Graves wrote to Karl Gay at the time, ‘he found my face an interesting landscape’.


 John Aldridge – Self Portrait, 1946

Country Life – Volume 193 – p55, 1999
Robert Graves and Paul O’Prey – Between Moon and Moon: Selected Correspondence – p300, 1990

You are the Quarry

The painting series by Bawden named as ‘Pengwern’ is really in ‘Dyserth’ in Wales. The limestone quarry is in the hills above Dyserth in Denbighshire and it was closed in the 1980s.

Bawden’s paintings capture a curious geometry in the landscape with the sides of the quarry looking like large pieces of flint. Paintings two and three are the same view so are interesting to compare. At this time Bawden would start the paintings off with a drawing and then finish them in the hotel or at his Saffron Walden studio.


Edward Bawden – Quarry at Pengwern I, Llanrwst, 1977


Edward Bawden – Quarry at Pengwern II, Llanrwst, 1977


Edward Bawden – Quarry at Pengwern III, Llanrwst, 1977

Life in an English Village: Discovered (A PDF Download)

Here is something I have been promising for some time, it is a booklet looking at the King Penguin book illustrated by Edward Bawden ‘Life in an English Village’.

Due to the volume of information and the way it needed to be referenced I have made it into a booklet for tablets and computers rather than one of my normal blog posts.

You can view and download it free as a PDF by following the this link. 


Move to the country

I thought this was an interesting bit of Great Bardfield history, of what could have been. Below is a letter from Edward Bawden to the typographer and book designer John Lewis and what’s interesting is Bawden is suggesting a house for him to live in. 

There are two options, one is for them to have a long term rental of Town House in Great Bardfield (around four houses from Brick House) and then a beautiful house called Arundels in Bardfield Saling.


 Arundels, Bardfield Saling.

What is rather lovely is Bawden has drawn out a map in the letter and is honest about how much work it will need to repair it. 

The curious thing about his letter is that it comes at a time when Edward was encouraging people like Walter Hoyle and other Royal College of Art staff to move to Great Bardfield. It is letters like this that show how Bawden was trying to cement an artistic community in Essex. In the end Lewis moved to Meadow Cottage, Great Bealings, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, to be near W S Cowell Ltd, Ipswich, where he was a printer.


 Edward Bawden – Letter to John Lewis, c1947.

Gt Bardfield Now & Then

The print and the studies used in this post are by John Aldridge for the Festival of Britain, 1951 lithographs distributed by the Artists’ International Association and Lyons Tea-houses. The series featured prints from Edwin La Dell, Keith Vaughan and Shelia Robinson. The artists all chose different views and ideas but Aldridge used views of Great Bardfield.


 John Aldridge – Studies for the Great Bardfield Print, 1950

The process of the print is rather interesting, I like the study doodles for the print made out by Aldridge using different colourways and grids. Below is the final gouache he would have sent off to the prints to transcribe into a lithograph (note it is backwards). It looks like he was using a bit of the wax resist effect that Bawden was so keen on.


 John Aldridge – Study for the Great Bardfield Print, 1950

The final print I think is a bit of a disappointment, the texture to the edges of the print have been lost and it’s a very scrappy looking thing with cut and pencil makings that have made it into the lithography. The yellow slashed edging would have been black ink that has been made into a negative with the photo-lithographic technique, it only works for the text areas. The painting above has more vigour – the lack of colour used means the absence of red, the buildings look faded and without blue the sky is apocalyptic like a John Martin painting.


 John Aldridge – Great Bardfield, 1951

Using the painting as a guide I am showing how the village looks now compared to John Aldridge’s paintings in 1950 using Google street view.


 John Aldridge – Pant Place, 1950

Named after the river Pant in Bardfield, the house today has had its door moved and replaced with a rosebush. The railings have also been lost as has the stylised garden for something simpler to deal with. There is a driveway now as the motorcar rules the roads today.


 Pant Plant, Great Bardfield today.


 John Aldridge – Crown Street, 1950

Crown Street has only changed with the prevalence of the dreadful curse of the UK, the UPVC Window. The shop has gone and now is a house front.


 Crown Street today.


 John Aldridge – Brook Street, 1950

Brook Street today too is so similar it might not look to have changed to a time traveller. The railings around the island in the centre of the village and War memorial have gone, maybe they should come back.

The house to the left of the picture is Buck House, home to Stanley Clifford-Smith, one of the most unusual Great Bardfield artists. Thanks to a Fry Art Gallery booklet by Olive Cook he was written out of Great Bardfield history and was considered less important than he was. It was a myth started in 1988 and perpetuated until quite recently with the writing of Under Moon Light by his son Silas Clifford Smith highlighting his role in the Great Bardfield exhibitions in Bardfield’s 1950s.


 Brook Street today.


 John Aldridge – Northampton House, 1950

The Gardens of Northampton House have been sold off to make an estate called ‘Northampton Meadow’ though it looked to be a rather lovely garden it makes me wonder – in an age without the television and with less transport were gardens the main entertainment and way to show off to your neighbours?


 Northampton Meadow today, a 1990s estate.