A Year at Bridge End Garden

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I go to Bridge End Gardens most times when I go to Saffron Walden. Normally to read, but sometimes it is just nice to see what is changing. Here are a series of pictures I have taken. Below is a photograph of the sundial and my father as a child standing beside it.

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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.

The wallpaper designs of Edward Bawden.

Mainstream British wallpaper design regressed dramatically between the wars, bogged down in a sea of ‘porridge’. But the artist Edward Bawden made a valiant attempt to redeem the medium. ‡

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 Roy Hammans photo of Edward Bawden’s Saffron Walden House for the Fry Gallery.

Bawden, studied at the Cambridge School of Art (1919–1921), then moved on to the Royal College of Art. It was here where he studied alongside Eric Ravilious and both were tutored by Paul Nash.

Nash’s connections to Harold Curwen meant that in 1928 when the Curwen Press published ‘A Specimen Book of Curwen Pattern Papers’ — (It was a book of patterned papers for bookbinding and shop wrap and boxes)… Bawden’s work was included alongside Ravilious, Enid Marx, Paul Nash and Althea Willoughby.

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 A Sample book covered in the Pattern Papers with ‘A Specimen Book of Curwen Pattern Papers’ behind, 1928

After his time at the RCA Bawden started to experiment with wallpaper designs. In his book ‘Edward Bawden and His Circle’ Malcolm Yorke describes the lino process:

After drawing the design in a soft pencil on thin paper it could be laid face down on a whitened sheet of lino and the design transferred by rubbing with a spoon. Cutting with a Japanese knife then began from the middle towards the edges, the knife becoming a drawing instrument as the hand became more skilled. Compared to cutting end-grain boxwood for wood-engraving, warmed lino sliced like butter.

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 Edward Bawden – Bird Nest and Ivy Leaves, 1924

The first known work was never produced industrially, and exists only as a trial print called ‘Bird Nest and Ivy Leaves’ from 1924. Other designs by Bawden followed:

His approach to wallpaper was very much that of a graphic artist. Initially he used lino-printing to produce his own designs, but from 1926 the Curwen Press produced his patterns in the form of colour lithographs.

 Edward Bawden – Ashlar, 1930

It was these designs from 1926 – 1933 that were produced in lithograph by the Curwen Press. Unlike most modern wallpapers, printed on long rolls of paper, the Curwen Press printed these wallpapers as sheets, in sizes up to about 34 x 22 ins. Very few of these sheets survive unused. The reason for printing in sheet form was that the lithographic machines could not support the long rolls of paper. The traditional way of printing wallpapers being to screen print the design or print direct onto the blank role from the woodblock.

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 Edward Bawden – Sahara, 1928

The wallpapers printed by the Curwen Press were known as the Plaistow Wallpapers, as the press was based in Plaistow Place, London. With them being printed, “Paul Nash introduced Bawden to Elspeth Little and her ‘Modern Textiles’ shop in Beauchamp Place for a sales outlet, but his royalties over six years and sales of 507 sheets came to a miserly £2. 0s. Lod.” Soon after other shops started to sell them, including: Heals, Fortnum & Mason and Gordon Russell’s furniture shop.

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 Plaistow Wallpaper Advert.

Façade sold a total of 3,899 sheets. While ‘Façade’ might be thought just a neutral title, is it possible that it could have been in the artist’s mind because of the popularity around that time of William Walton’s musical suites of that name, based on Edith Sitwell’s poems. Frederick Ashton’s ballet of Faade was premiered in 1931.

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 Edward Bawden – Façade, 1933

Bawden’s approach of comic and country images was a shift in British wallpaper design. Some of them form geometric beautiful patterns and others make your walls into giant linocut pictures as you can see from Bawden’s own home.

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 Edward Bawden – Rose & Lace, 1938

In the 1930’s Bawden was given the chance to print wallpapers by the Roll and not sheets! This range was called the ‘Bardfield Wallpapers’, after the Great Bardfield artist community, these wallpapers where a range by Cole and Son, with designs by Bawden and John Aldridge. The designs were originally developed in 1939, but commercial production was interrupted by the war. The early versions were printed direct from the wood and lino blocks. Some of the designs were exhibited that year at The Little Gallery off Sloane Square in London, but they were not produced commercially until 1946, after the War.

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 Edward Bawden – Knole Park, 1929

Although the designs were popular, and some were featured in the Festival of Britain in 1951, they were produced in limited quantities to order, and were relatively expensive.

Bawden’s best-known design, Woodpigeon (1927), featured vignettes of birds and church spires emerging through windows in a “wallpaper” of leafy trees. Similarly, in Knole Park (1929) with primitive rural vignettes. These were initially lino-printed [sic] but the blocks were acquired by Cole & Sons in 1946. † 

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 Edward Bawden – Wood Pigeon, 1927

List of Edward Bawden Wallpapers by Year:

1924 — Bird Nest and Ivy Leaves – Curwen Press
1926 –  Fruit and Napkin – Curwen Press
1927  Deer and Leaf – Curwen Press
1927  Pigeon and Clock Tower – Curwen Press
1927  Tree and Cow – Curwen Press
1928  Sahara  – Curwen Press
1928  Mermaid (and Whale)Curwen Press
1928 – Waves Curwen Press
1929  – Knole Park Design – Curwen Press
1929  Lagoon – Curwen Press
1929  – Riviera – Curwen Press
1929 – Conservatory  – Curwen Press
1930 – Waves and Fish Curwen Press
1930 – Leaf or Seaweed – Curwen Press
1933 – Ashlar Plaistow Wallpapers
1933 Node Plaistow Wallpapers
1933 Façade Plaistow Wallpapers
1933 – SalverPlaistow Wallpapers
1938  – Flute – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938  – Waffle / Grid / Cross – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938 
Grid & Cross  – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938Stone Ivy – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938  – Grass & Swan – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938  – Rose & Lace – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938  –  Ogee (Gothic)  – Bardfield Wallpapers
1938 Trellis (Periwinkle) – Bardfield Wallpapers
1946  – Quatrefoil  – Cole and Son
1950’s  – Swan & Grass
1956 –
Abstract Linear Design – for Sandersons

Malcolm Yorke – Edward Bawden and his Circle  p.54
Lesley Jackson – Twentieth Century Pattern Design  p.74