Some time ago I was asked the location of Essex Farmyard print by John Aldridge. This lithograph was made for the Society of Painter-Printmakers and exhibited as number 27 in the catalogue for the 1948 exhibition. The key to the identification was finding a painting of the same view while writing a post-script for Lucie’s book. It was a painting from 1939 of Grove Farm, Farmyard, Oxen End, Little Bardfield.
John Aldridge – The Grove Farmyard, 1939
The oil painting above was exhibited at Leicester Galleries, 1940, as with the watercolour study below you cans see the farmyard and the sheds, when printed the image is reversed and that’s why the print is a mirror image.
John Aldridge – (The Grove Farmyard) Essex Farmyard, 1948
Below is a photograph of the house today and part of the farmyard. This is from the local historical society:
Grove Farm was owned by the Adams family who owned other properties in Oxen End. An accident with a steam engine cable severely damaged Mr Adams’ legs. They built a bungalow and then sold Grove House.
The Crossman-Adams family owned the property as well as Crossman House in Braintree. Some of the family still live in Great Bardfield.
In 1969 Mrs Tennant of the Tennant brewery family owned Grove Farm.
Grove Farm, from Google Maps.
This is a drawing in the Fry Gallery collection, likely from 1939 when Aldridge was studying for the painting.
Before and After Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Lucie Aldridge with a postscript by Robjn Cantus. The limited edition hardback is one of 50 copies that are signed and numbered with dust-jacket. The paperback is in a run of 250 copies. This is the pre-order. You will get the book on the release day 16th August 2021.
“It will have to wait until I’m dead or Laura will shoot me,” Lucie Aldridge wrote of her autobiography, referring to Robert Graves’s long-term mistress and muse Laura Riding. A painter and rug weaver, Lucie Aldridge settled in the Essex village of Great Bardfield in 1933 with her husband, the painter John Aldridge. Also living there at that time were Eric Ravilious and his wife Tirzah Garwood who were cohabiting with Charlotte and Edward Bawden. When Tirzah and John had an affair it tarnished the Aldridge’s marriage forever, something Garwood didn’t acknowledge in her biography Long Live Great Bardfield.
This is Lucie’s newly discovered autobiography, with a detailed biographical postscript by Robjn Cantus. The memoirs were written at the suggestion of the editor of Time magazine, T. S. Matthews. They describe her unorthodox childhood in Cambridgeshire, the involvement of her family in Women’s Suffrage, her marriage during the First World War, and her experiences at Art School in London in the 1920s. A beautiful woman, she posed for several artists. She also observed the post-War era of the Bright Young Things and the painters she knew, including Robert Bevan, Cedric Morris and Stanley Spencer. Through John Aldridge she came to know Robert Graves when he was living in Deià with Riding, and provides a fascinating account of her visits there while Graves was in self-imposed exile after writing Goodbye to All That. During these visits she also met and wrote about poets and artists such as Norman Cameron and Len Lye.
After Lucie’s death in 1974 the memoir was lost, but it recently surfaced in an American university archive. This is its first publication with her text illustrated with linocuts by Edward Bawden. The postscript covers the other artists of Great Bardfield and their friends.
After being postponed due to the Covid pandemic the book is released on the 16th August. It has been printed in a limited edition of 50 hardback copies and 250 paperbacks.
If you are interested in the author giving talks on the book please email.
Most people have in their mind and idea of a David Hockney painting but I was surprised when I encountered his early work. Before his unique style came in he was imitating artists that had come before him with help from his tutors.
At Bradford College of Art he was taught perspective and painting by Derek Stafford and printmaking by Norman Stevens (1937-88). Other students at the college were Derek Boshier, Pauline Boty, Norman Stevens, David Oxtoby and John Loker. Hockney hitchhiked to London and toured the galleries absorbing new art and styles. In 1957 he got into the Royal College of Art and the rest is history.
David Hockney – Bolton Junction, Eccleshill, 1956
David Hockney – Bolton Junction, Eccleshill, 1956
David Hockney – Moorside Road, Fagley, 1956
David Hockney – The Village Street, Kirton, near Felixstowe, Suffolk, 1957
When it comes to the battlegrounds of the First World War, most people are sheparded to the memorials and graveyards to focus on the horror of it all. But in this post I would like to look at two of the buildings, lost and invisible in the landscape today, that found themselves in the middle of a war-zone. Our visual link to them today are the images of shelled buildings in the middle-east, but like Canute and the tide, nothing can stop war, even your home.
Château de Thiepval
The village in Thiepval was part of the Somme region that was one of the main battlegrounds in the war. The German forces had set up in the château as a headquarters. Any of the buildings in the villages were subject to the same fate of random shelling from each side. The Battle of Thiepval Ridge was the first large offensive of the Reserve Army. In two days 12,500 men had been killed.
It’s why towns like Ypres were reduced to rubble. A curious piece I found on the effect of the countryside of the war was:
As for the wood of Thiepval, it is no longer worthy of the name of wood; rather, it is a collection of broken and ragged trunks. Revue Française d’ornithologie, 1928
The château was the home of three generations of Roch de Wasservas.
The effect of the Somme on the artist Percy Smith was that he sketched discreetly the carnage and while on leave back in Canada he produced his famous set of prints ‘The Dance of Death’.
Percy Smith – Thiepval château, 1917
Chateau et Contalmaison
A similar fate to that of château de Thiepval happened to Contalmaison. When it was bombed out the Advanced Dressing Station used the cellars of the château as a station. From what I can understand the house was sold around 1880 and after some years it was turned into a hotel.
Both the châteaus ended up having the rubble removed and their lands became the sites of burial grounds. The grounds of Thiepval was the site of the Thiepval Memorial, about 200 years from where the house stood.
This post was inspired by the buying of a book. It was the Contemporary Art Society 1949 annual review with the Chairman’s report, accounts, recent acquisitions and plans, all rather dry, however… Inside was a membership card for Gigi Richter. Issued on October 20th, 1949 it was just before she married and became Gigi Crompton. She was a picture restorer and botanist. Friend of many artists including Henry Moore who designed her sister-in-law’s grave.
Gigi Richter (1922-2020), christened Irmingard Emma Antonia, was the daughter of the American art historian, Dr George Martin Richter (1875-1942), and his wife, Amely, Baroness Zündt von Kentzingen from Munich. She was the godchild of Thomas Mann.
She went to school in England from 1929. She studied art in Berlin in 1936 and at Westminster Art School, London, 1938-9. She sheltered from the war in America working as an apprenticeship as a picture restorer under Sheldon Keck at the Brooklyn Museum, 1940-2, later working there as a laboratory assistant in 1944.
After the war she returned to Britain and then married David “Buzzy” Crompton in 1949 and at the suggestion of David’s sister Catherine (lover of Graham Greene) they settled in Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, on part of Catherine and her husbands estate.
and she worked as a restorer for the London Gallery in Brook St in 1947. She cleaned Gwen John’s Girl with a Cat for the Tate Gallery in 1947/8, and other works for the National Gallery. She then worked part-time as a freelance conservator at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1958-62. She became interested in botany and was trained by her gardener, then going on to study and learn about local plants in Cambridgeshire.
In the 1960s the couple moved to Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire. From 1972 until 1986 she was employed on the Eastern England Rare Plant survey and developed the methodology on which all subsequent rare plant surveys have been based. This led to further research into historical records, culminating in the Cambridgeshire Flora catalogue, published online. Her many papers included studies of the Devil’s Dyke, Lakenheath Warren and Wicken Fen, in East Anglia.
Roland Penrose – Le Grand Jour, 1938
Richter sold Roland Penrose’s Le Grand Jour to the Tate in 1964 and gave the Fitzwilliam Museum Paul Klee’s gouache ‘Gartenkunst’ in 2016, a present to her from Roland Penrose in 1945/6.
Last week I bought English Cottage Gardens by Hyams Edward with photographs by Edwin Smith. It is one of the large format hardback books that one can still get cheaply on amazon and other shops. I found mine is a box outside a book shop for one pound. It is full of Smith’s lavish photographs of times past. I think what I like about his garden photographs is the lack of man made things in them. I am thinking of wall fountains and urns, these are just simple gardens bursting with plantation.
Christopher Cornford was born in Cambridge in 1917. He was the son of Francis Cornford, and his wife Frances Cornford (née Darwin). Through his mother he was a great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. Educated at Stowe School and the Leys School, Cambridge he went on to attended Chelsea College of Art from 1934, gaining an Art Teacher’s Diploma in 1937 and became a visiting tutor there and at Morley College from 1937-9.
In the very political climate of the Thirties, Cornford become an activist; like his brother John he joined the British Communist Party and marched through London, demonstrated against Mosley and was beaten up by Blackshirts. John Cornford made his way to Spain at the start of the Civil war in 1936, joined the Republicans, and was killed by the Fascists on his 21st birthday; this tragedy made an indelible mark on the younger brother, who although he left the Communist Party was thereafter totally committed to activity for a better state of society.
Cornford served in the Royal Artillery during WWII. Cornford’s took up his first important teaching post in 1947 at Newcastle University School of Art. He was there for several years before leaving to teach Drawing at the Cambridge School of Architecture and at the Technical College. In 1962 he left for the Royal College of Art in London until his retirement in 1979.
He worked as an illustrator for many authors but he had an ongoing collaboration with Iris Murdoch, illustrating four of her novels, A World Child (1975), The Three Arrows & The Servants (1970), The Black Prince (1973),and The Unicorn (1963).
During his tenure of office as Head of the Department of Humanities at the Royal College of Art between 1962 and 1979, he was – for a professor – unusually sympathetic to the student revolts of the period. His particular concern was to encourage his students to take up ‘art therapy’ when they left college, teaching art to people in institutions, particularly hospitals.
Spring House, Cambridge.
When he retired he moved into Spring House, designed by Colin St. John Wilson and Mary J Long in 1965, in Cambridge. Considered to be a brustalist masterpiece.
From 1984 Cornford taught a popular study group at the University of the Third Age at Cambridge under the title ‘Image and Meaning’.
When he retired to Cambridge with his wife Lucy, intending to paint and write, Cornford became involved again in teaching and in politics. In 1980 American cruise missiles were being based near Cambridge – at Molesworth, Alconbury, Lakenheath and Mildenhall – and Cambridge CND needed a chairman. Cornford was the ideal choice. He managed to combine his great diplomatic gifts with his wisdom and charm in guiding the organisation, which grew to a membership of well over a thousand and flourished. He was always ready to support protests, to design posters for the Peace movement or the Green Party, and he contributed regularly to the CND monthly newsletter.
A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Broughton House Gallery in 1995, then together with that of his aunt, Gwen Raverat, in 2004.
This essay comes from the Shell Guide to England, 1970. The Shell book I actually found for free in a shipping trunk. Inside are many starchy pieces of text on the English landscape and it gets a little dry at times. I guess even when it was published the essays were written to the wrong market, being more historical than artistic and most people would know a great deal of it. However, the most entertaining essay in the book is by Barbara Jones who uses all of her wisdom from her Follies & Grottoes books to give a brief account of the history of follies for the layman and where you might find some exciting examples. My copy of Follies & Grottoes is well read, it is exlibris of Laurence Whistler and found for a fiver. The illustrations here come from the two editions of it.
Barbara Jones – Follies & Grottoes, 1953 and enlarged in 1974.
The English love to break down the natural scene. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the areas of natural heath and scrub left untouched by medieval husbandry were vigorously taken in hand and built upon, gardened, afforested and landscaped, most of England was arranged by man. In the nineteenth century the whole country was netted over with railways, and the cities grew; but, in fact, the scene was not altered very much. In this century we have come to accept that scene as natural, as the country”. We in our turn are trying to break it down, with motorways, industrial sites and new cities.
At all times since the end of the Tudor wars there have been English landowners, with anything from a ducal estate to a suburban front garden, who have not been content with other people’s ideas of breakdown, with the ordinary thing. Even if they have been able to commission idiosyncratic houses from great architects, they have still wanted something more, something wilder. The results of these impulses are scattered all over the country, and are called by the other English “follies”.
Follies take many forms. We may discount at once the follies in name alone, houses of which neighbours disapproved, or houses built too far from water, or with too little money to finish them, and also various clumps and belts of trees (the word was corrupted from feuillée). And the ordinary garden house, temple or gazebo does not qualify either. The element of eccentricity is essential; follies are fantastic, a little crazy in desire or design. Architecture is building for shelter; follies are building for building, a purer art. Towers and obelisks build upwards; labyrinths and tunnels build down. Other follies are aggregates of unlikely materials, abstractions of shells and minerals, bark and branches, nearer sculpture than architecture, the desire to amass solids in space.
The earliest folly I have found is Freston Tower in Suffolk, built in the middle of the sixteenth century, a brick tower on the banks of the River Orwell, near Ipswich. At the end of the century Rushton Triangular Lodge was built in Northamptonshire by Sir Thomas Tresham. Everything is in threes: the plan is triangular, each wall three times three times three feet, three sets of three-by-three triangles on top of the walls; three floors; three windows each side on each floor; trefoils and triangular pinnacles. Ten miles away at Lyveden is the shell of Tresham’s house, extending the arithmetic of three to five, seven and nine. More follies and conceits, and some tunnels, were built in the next century, mostly surviving only in visitors’ accounts of them, though there is a sinister temple of bark nailed over wood at Exton’ Park in Rutland, and there are fine grotto rooms of stone and shells at Skipton in Yorkshire and at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire.
In the eighteenth century follies became fashionable as well as eccentric; a nobleman’s estate positively needed one. Towers, tunnels, and grottoes continued in production, and all sorts of new follies were invented – sham castles and ruins, hermitages, labyrinths, obelisks, and eye-catchers. In the nineteenth century fewer follies were built, and those more by the rich than the noble, but druid circles were invented, and some superb folly gardens were laid out, with a curiosity round every corner. Late in the century fantastic gardening with broken china, slag, shells, flint, glass, coal, and coral became fashionable for the poor as well as for the rich. Only two or three dozen follies have been built in the twentieth century, but the little gardens continue, with gnomes added to the older materials.
The commonest sort of folly, and the easiest to find, is that which is built upwards. There are a great many ordinary little ones, but there are also some magnificent towers, built to commemorate great happenings or to command great prospects. There is a nice triangular one in London, in Castlewood Park at Shooters Hill, 64 feet high, built in 1784 to the memory of Sir William James and to “Record the Conquest of the CASTLE OF SEVERNDROGG on the COAST of MALABAR which fell to his Superior Valour and able Conduct on the 2nd Day of April MDCCLV”. In the nineteenth century it was used for select parties, and now it is a tea shop. Another triangular folly is Haldon Belvedere, near Exeter, built by an ex-Governor of Madras, with a floor made of marble from Hyderabad, and really exquisite plaster work. At Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire is Hoober Stand, 1748, a superb 100-foot soot-stained golden tower on a triangular plan, its sides tapering to a hexagonal lantern. It was built by Thomas, Marquis of Rockingham, in honour of George II. Nearby is Keppel’s Pillar, built by the 2nd Marquis in 1782 to commemorate the British Fleet at Ushant. It soars up, supporting nothing, an amazing 150 feet. Also nearby is the Needle’s Eye, a tall stone pyramid pierced by an ogival arch and crowned by a lovely urn, built, the story goes, for a crack whip to drive through after he had boasted that he could drive a coach and horses through the eye of a needle. At Wentworth Castle there are more conceits.
Many follies have good stories attached: you may be told that the builder is buried under the floor because he quarrelled with the parson, or is there standing on his head, or with his favourite horse under him. One man seems to have deserved all the stories: Mad Jack Fuller, who built a Needle, a Mausoleum, a Tower, a Rotunda, and an Observatory at Brightling in Sussex, and at Dallington a neat cone called the Sugar Loaf, to justify a night-time statement that he could see Dallington church spire from his dining-room window. In daylight this statement proved wrong, but he made a sham spire just over the skyline, to be right for his next dinner-party. Attached to his pyramid tomb is the most persistent of all the legends: that he is sit at table inside, with a bottle and a bird before him.
At Tong in Shropshire are some pyramids with no legends at all, perhaps because the builder George Durant said exactly what everything was for – and imagination could invent nothing stranger. “Quaint buildings, monuments with hieroglyphs, and inscriptions alike to deceased friends, eternity, and favourite animals – were then to be found on every path of the demesne”, says an old local guidebook.
Pyramidal gate-piers are carved as though bound with heavy ropes, and such objects as lamps and snails are carved in panels on the walls. A gazebo called The Pulpit has animals and snakes. On a nearby farm there is also an Egyptian Aviary, a pyramidal hen-house labelled AB OVO. Durant was one of the few gentlemen of his time who not only longed to have a hermit in the grounds to show to visitors, but achieved a very contented one, for a gentleman who had fallen on hard times lived in a cave at Tong until he died in 1822. The contemporary terms for the employment of hermits were usually much alike: a cave (or a rustic hermitage of roots, branches and knotty wood) was provided, and a hermit was advertised for, to serve a period of seven years, living secluded, with hair long, and nails unclipped, never speaking, with good food sent down from the house daily. But it seems that few people are even mock hermits by nature, or few people know how to employ one kindly. One gentleman was forced to use a wax image; and there are many records of early failure – the hermit went away, or he was found drinking in the village and dismissed. One known success, however, was the Hermit Finch, whose Sanctuary lies down in the woods of the park at Burley on the Hill in Rutland, preserved with most remarkable and imaginative rustic architecture and furniture, a pebble-and-knuckle-bone floor, and even the hermit’s sacking bed.
The desire to dig downwards is rarer than the desire to build up. It is also much more expensive; so the tunnellers had to be very rich or very determined. The 5th Duke of Portland’s underground rooms at Welbeck are the most famous mole-works. The Duke was said to speak willingly only to the men who dug the tunnels. Most excavations have an air of sadness. Many have walls of bare earth, or lined with cement, or strung along with a handful of cockle shells. But they were highly esteemed the last century, for the Catacombs at High Beech in Epping Forest were a pleasure resort. They are a wild descent into the dark earth of huge blocks of masonry said to have come from Chelmsford gaol, hidden under the garden. As well as the plain tunnels of compulsive digging, there are excavations of great beauty in the form of grottoes, where the surface has been decorated with glittering minerals, exotic shells, fossils, tufa – all the natural objects that became commonly wonderful in the eighteenth century. I have referred to the shell rooms at Skipton and Woburn; in both of these there is contemporary architecture with an overlay of shells. In the eighteenth century this style continued in fashion, greatly refined, culminating in the exquisite Shell House made by the 2nd Duchess of Richmond at Goodwood in Sussex. True grottoes, though not always underground, look like caves under the sea, spar and shells arranged in waves and stalactites. We have the name of Josiah Lane as builder, with his son, of a series of superb grottoes – at St Giles House, Cranborne, in Dorset, Fonthill in Wiltshire, St Anne’s Hill and Pain’s Hill in Surrey, amongst others. The two-roomed grotto at Wimborne St Giles is in the park and is shown with the house; it has been restored and is probably the finest shellwork of this sort that we have, a wonderful composition of surfaces and colours, the insides of shells gleaming against the duller backs, small shells offsetting large.
At Stourhead in Wiltshire the National Trust owns a famous grotto, large and formal, built round one of the headwaters of the Stour, with fine statues of a nymph and a river-god. The walk round the lake runs through the grotto, a green, cool melancholy contrast to the splendid Capability Brown landscaping. Another remarkable grotto was built by Thomas Goldney in his garden on top of Clifton gorge at Bristol, with a cascade leaping from an urn held by Neptune, echoes from the wild water, a Lions’ Den and fine shells. All these grottoes are professional work, and look it, but by the beginning of the nineteenth century only amateur grotto-builders remained. The fashion spread wide; most towns, especially those by the seaside, have a bit of shellwork somewhere. There is a big one at Margate, probably made by two brothers called Bowles in an existing excavation. It was lost to sight for about thirty years, and found again in 1834 or 1835 by a schoolmaster’s son digging a duckpond. There is almost no fantastic origin that has not been claimed for it – Cretans, Druids, even Tibetans, are supposed to have built it, and the simple amateur shellwork has been interpreted in a hundred gnostic symbols: we are a romantic-minded race. Druids were very fashionable in the first quarter of the century; there is a good sham Circle on the Yorkshire moors near Masham, a real prehistoric temple moved from Jersey to a back garden in Henley-on-Thames, and a Druids’ Table among the bone grottoes and bone-lined caves at Banwell on Mendip in Somerset, elaborated during the years after 1824 by the Bishop of Bath and Wells over and down some mine-shafts and two natural caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Ancient animal bones were ready on the floor, and the Bishop made the most of them.
Back to the eighteenth century, and back above ground. The Middle Ages and the Barons’ Wars became very modish, and Gothic architecture was admired again, not often for gentlemen’s houses, in spite of Walpole at Strawberry Hill, but certainly for follies. Suddenly hundreds of gentlemen wanted to see the ruins of a Gothic castle crumbling at a suitable distance from the house. A few of them had real ones; the others plunged into the fun of building fakes. Some of the sham castles were ruinous in design, like that at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire; some rapidly became so through being knocked up in a hurry or on the cheap; and some were built very crisp and new like Sanderson Miller’s Sham Castle outside Bath, a façade rising about forty feet on a hill-top, flat as a piece of scenery, which indeed it is, a wall without a room. Some castles were in fact made of painted canvas on wooden frames, so great was the scramble to get them up. Some were rich with Gothic detail, trefoils and quatrefoils, and castellations and arrow slits, but often reproduced on an absurdly large scale as there was no need to consider the strength of the wall, and defence could become decoration. Others were so ungothic that they could not be called castles; they were curious spiky constructions, often of flint, that were given names used for no other architecture, like eye-catcher, terminal, conceit, or vista-closer. Many of them were undoubtedly designed by eager amateurs of the arts, and put up by the estate workers; but a timid amateur could find plenty of help in the dozens of books on the Picturesque or the Grotesque that were published, with illustrations, plans, elevations and dimensions of every variety of hut, retreat, cascade, bathhouse, mosque and pagoda, from trifles made with Rude Branches to enormous Mauresque Pavilions beyond the Do-It-Yourself of all but the greatest estates.
Some people, having built one folly, went on. Hawkstone in Shropshire was an estate with many fine follies. The hermitage, with mock hermit, and an ornamental windmill have disappeared, but half a dozen survive, including a marvellous labyrinth that rises to the sunlight on top of a rocky bluff. Stourhead has a Rustic Convent, St Peter’s Pump, and Alfred’s Tower, as well as the grotto, and West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire has a Mausoleum, St Crispin’s Cottages – built to look like a church from the house – a Sham Lodge, and caves, now with son et lumière, Today, the folly impulse is concentrated in the small gardens, the miniature model villages that have succeeded the real ones of the rich, and a continuing tradition of topiary, we still have such gardens as the breath-taking solid geometry clipped from yew at Levens in Westmorland, that has been clipped since 1689. And there is a new one in Wolverhampton that has privet topiary of sixteen Scotch terriers, two cats and a rat.
The Empire Exhibition in 1938 took place in Glasgow. It was a chance for the British public to see goods from all over the empire, but also for large corporations to show their wears and how they were making life for the everyman better. Constructed on a large site, the centre of attention was the white tower in the poster below, the Thomas Tait Tower. This massive metal clad building was built for the exhibition and (unlike the Eiffel Tower) it was deconstructed after in July 1939.
The tower was 91 metres tall and was placed on top of Ibrox Hill in Bellahouston Park. It has three viewing platforms and was clad in metal panels and looks more like a building from Thunderbirds than something in real life.
We cannot try to erect buildings in the old, medieval style of architecture, where there are certain structural features which necessitate modern treatment and modern requirements with big spacing which the old medieval architecture would not allow us to carry out. – Thomas Tait
The tower aside, exhibition was a celebration of modernist design as the photos below show. I don’t think there has been a concentration of so many art deco buildings before or since. If you took the words off the building you could mistake it for Hollywood.
Below is a list of exhibition spaces from the map, most were white deco buildings. Also on the site were full sized Scottish homes from the crofts and cottages found in the countryside to baronial houses.
Tait also designed houses, here is one in Silver End, Essex. The whole village was built for the staff of the Crittal window factory. Taits design was for one of the management’s houses rather than the workers.