Wednesday 23 December 2009

Bluebell Farm, 1996

This is L2013, Bluebell Farm, in the Lilliput Lane collection of country cottages which was available from 1996-99. Lilliput Lane Ltd was the creation of David Tate (1945-) who combined his natural artistic talents with practical production skills picked up in the army and a passion for vernacular architecture to launch in 1982 a company devoted to making detailed models of country cottages for general sale.

It started as a small family business based in the outbuildings of a Georgian mansion just outside Penrith. Fourteen models were initially on offer but thereafter the number rapidly increased as the popularity of the range grew.

Each one was very carefully researched and packed with detail to reflect the vernacular style and materials traditonally used in different parts of the country. Often, the models are based on a real building, in this case Tang House Farm at High Birstwith in North Yorkshire (photo below by Claire Scott)

Using moulds made from a hand-crafted master, the models are cast in Amorphite plaster and then painted by hand. The Lilliput range has been highly successful worldwide with its most ardent followers to be found amongst the 50,000 strong Collectors Club. It has turned the rural heritage into marketable form with mass appeal.

Friday 18 December 2009

Clarice Cliff, 1930s

Even Clarice Cliff (1899-1972),who took the pottery world by storm from the late 1920s with her bold and colourful art deco designs, could not avoid traditional imagery of the countryside.

This is her Farmhouse pattern - with thatched roof inevitably - which made its first appearance in 1931. It's on the conical bowl shape that Cliff introduced in 1929, one of a series of new designs that were brought in as the stock of the old Newport Pottery - which had been taken over by Wilkinson's and which Cliff used for her early output - ran down.

The base of the bowl bears the name of Wilkinson Ltd, the firm in Middleport near Stoke that Clarice Cliff joined as a decorator in 1916. Here her creative talent in hand-painting of pottery was spotted and nurtured by Colley Shorter, one of the firm's directors and, ultimately, her husband. Also there is the brand-name Bizarre which Cliff used in the early period of 1928-1935 to give her ware a distinctive cachet. This bowl therefore dates from between 1931 and 1935, the heyday of Clarice Cliff output.

A hierarchy of three groups of workers, most of them female, decorated the ware: the outliners who drew the pattern, the enamellers who painted in the colours, and the banders who applied the bright colourful rings.

When production resumed after the Second World War, Clarice Cliff took more of a back seat. On the death of Colley Shorter in 1963, she sold the Wilkinson firm to Midwinter.

Thursday 10 December 2009

'Cottage Ware' tea sets, 1940s

Kitsch is probably the word that would now most immediately come to mind here. But there is a lot of cottage ware still around from a variety of makers which suggests that it must have been widely popular at the time. It's those cosy cultural associations of the thatched cottage working their magic again. This set was made by Price Bros (Burslem) Ltd, a firm that began in 1896 and continued after 1962 as Price and Kensington Potteries Ltd. The design, number 845007, was registered in 1945.

This was a present for your auntie in the era of post-war austerity, with the old design imagery of the '30s still holding sway before '50s fashion found its feet. There is no sign of these sets actually having been used so I suspect they went into the glass cabinet in the front room, for show, which helps to explain why so many have survived.

The other set in this genre is by the Keele Street Pottery of Stoke whose origins go back to 1915. After being closed during World War Two, production resumed in 1946 and cottage ware was added to the range shortly after. As a way of rebuilding the nation's finances, there was much emphasis at the time on the export trade and the connection here of tea drinking with rustic imagery from the old country found much customer interest overseas.

Friday 4 December 2009

Shell Guide to the Roads of Britain, 1965

This straight stetch of the A15 in Lincolnshire sits on top of the original Roman road, Ermine Street, which linked London to York. It is one in a series of four poster advertisements that Shell produced on a roads theme, using paintings commissioned from David Gentleman(1930-). The other three are the Berkshire Ridgeway, Sewston Lane and Corrieyairack Pass.

They were used as eye catching full-colour advertisements in up-market magazines such as Country Life. They are subtle in approach, with a low key and almost subliminal message at the bottom: 'Go Well-Go Shell. The Key to the Countryside'.

This is very much in a tradition of Shell advertising going back to the 1920s in which commissioned works from known or up and coming artists were combined with catchy slogans to identify the product with the joys of exploring the countryside by motor car, and wed the company name to heritage and landscape and everything the nation held dear. The campaign took published form with the Shell County Guides series, beginning with John Betjemain's Cornwall in 1934 and running on through to the 1980s.

David Gentleman, painter of the Ermine Street image above, is one of the most successful commercial artists and illustrators of his generation with a portfolio embracing the whole spectrum from postage stamps to campaign posters and from murals to bookjackets. He married the daughter of George Ewart Evans (1909-88), the famed recorder of East Anglian oral tradition whose many works include Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay (1956), and has a close connection with rural Suffolk. His father, Tom Gentleman (1882-1966)was also a commercial artist and included some Shell advertising material amongst his commissions as well as an inclusion in the School Prints series (see earlier post).

Stubble burning is shown in process just off to the right of the road. This operation became steadily more controversial for the hazard it posed to buildings, flora and fauna, and road users, and was finally banned in 1993.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Shell Chemicals, enamelled sign, 1960s

The design of the Shell 'pecten' logo on this sign dates it to the early 1960s. Shell's involvement in petrochemicals goes back to the late 1920s and by the 1950s it was investing heavily in the agricultural side. The Second World War emergency had fast-tracked development of new pesticides, such as the chlorinated hydrocarbon DDT, and powerful selective herbicides such as the phenoxyacetic compound 2,4-D. Shell offered DDT in dust, liquid and wettable powder form for control of leaf-eating insects and 2,4-D under the name Shell D 50 for control of weeds in cereals and grassland. By 1962, the company was one of the key players in the 33-member Association of British Manufacturers of Agricultural Chemicals with a total annual output between them worth £14 million using 75 chemicals to produce 566 approved products.

In the 1950s, Shell Chemicals Ltd produced a delightful booklet Farm Weeds. An Aid to their Recognition with pages of colour plates reproduced from watercolours by Doris R.Thompson.

In his Foreword, J.Hunt, Manager of the Agricultural Development Department of Shell Chemicals Ltd, wrote 'The control of weeds by chemicals has been one of the outstanding features of progress in farming methods during recent years, but the successful use of chemicals depends, in part, on accurate and early recognition of the weeds to be treated, while they are still in the early stages of growth'.

It was something of a 50s golden age for the industry. The atmosphere began to change with the publication in 1962 of Silent Spring by the American Rachel Carson in which she laid the foundations of the modern environmental movement by questioning the long term impact on health and ecology of organochlorine insecticides and the arsenical compounds present in synthetic pesticides. In the UK, the Agricultural Research Council's 1964 Report of the Research Committee on Toxic Chemicals called amongst other things for the development of more selective and safer pesticides of limited persistence; for new toxicological and biological studies in birds and wild life; and for an evaluation of the toxicological significance of the presence of pesticides in human body tissue. DDT was banned for most purposes in the US in 1972, in the UK in 1984, and is now barred from agricultural use worldwide by the Stockholm Convention.

Friday 13 November 2009

Odams enamelled advertising sign, 1930s

This firm was started by James Odams in 1855 and was based in the Silvertown area of the east London docklands. It was one of many springing up at the time on a rising agricultural market for manufactured fertiliser. In particular, the production of superphosphate was accelerating as the science of the day demonstrated the beneficial effects on crop yields. It involved mixing animal bones, subsequently replaced largely by imported mineral phosphate, with sulphuric acid in a process that was both acrid and hazardous. Dockside locations were common because here the raw materials were readily available - the slaughterhouses for imported cattle for example. By the outbreak of the First World War, the industry in this country was producing getting on for 2 million tons of superphospahte annually.

There were other forms of manufactured fertiliser that Odams were involved with and made connections between urban life, manufacturing industry and the countryside. Sulphate of ammonia, a source of nitrogen for farmers when turned into granular form, was made from the waste products of town gasworks. Basic slag, a residue from steelworks, was high in phosphate and when ground into a powder was recommended for use on grassland.

This sign dates from the 1930s and was made by Wildman & Meguyer (1933) Ltd of Birmingham. Odams were take over by Fisons in 1937 during a period of consolidation of the industry into the hands of a few major conglomerates.

An advertisement from 1935.

Permanent pasture near Scarborough, Yorks, being treated with 3 cwts per acre of Fisons No.1 Granulated Fertiliser in 1953.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Representing Rurality

A one-day conference arising from this project, entitled Representing Rurality: Culture & the Countryside in the Twentieth Century, was held at the Museum of English Rural Life on November 4th 2009. It was attended by 22 museum professionals and 27 academics and research students drawn from around the country (+ one delegate from Belgium).

The programme:
The Collecting 20thc Rural Culture Project
Dr Roy Brigden, Keeper, Museum of English Rural Life

Collecting Twentieth Century Landscape
Professor David Matless, Professor of Cultural Geography, University of Nottingham

Treasuring Things of the Least: Village Museums in England in the 1920s and 1930s
Bridget Yates, Research student, University of Gloucestershire

Printing for victory: Abram Games and Grow your own food
Paul Stiff, Reader, Dept of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading

Little Red Tractors
Dr Clare Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Sheffield

Running Wild and Ridden: Observation and re-presentation of native ponies and their wild habitats in the work of Allen W.Seaby (1867-1953)
Jenny Kendrick, Research student, children’s literature, Roehampton University, London

England itself: The Inn and the Interwar Countryside
Dr Stella Moss, St John’s College, University of Oxford

An alternative view: The South Downs in the mid-twentieth century as seen on aerial photographs
Edward Carpenter, English Heritage

Short insights into a variety of cultures of the countryside in East Anglia
Dr Veronica Sekules, Head of Education & Research, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia.

A discussion at the end was led by a panel comprising Professor John Sheail, Dr Paul Brassley and chaired by Professor Alun Howkins.

Given that much of the project to date has been looking at the twentieth century countryside from within the context of an urban society, one of the lines of discussion that recurred during the day was whether there was in rural areas something that could still be identified as an indigenous culture - with a sense of its own difference and separateness but otherwise largely hidden from view to outsiders – which this project should seek out and record.

There was also some debate about how artefact collections within rural and social history museums generally could be promoted more widely as a research resource amongst the academic community. Proposals were suggested for following this up through a session at the international conference Rural History 2010 to be held in Brighton.

Friday 30 October 2009

Caravans and the countryside

The twentieth century countryside, and particularly its main roads in holiday time, would not be complete without the caravan. As far back as 1907, the Caravan Club was founded in London to bring together those with a common interest in caravanning - primarily the horse drawn version at that date - as a pastime. By the 1930s, when these 'Minic' clockwork toys were first introduced by Triang, the motor car and caravan was on its way to becoming part of the scenery. In our version, the caravan itself is still tinplate and the same as the original but the car has been upgraded to plastic, indicating a date of about 1950.

Caravan Club membership numbers of 1,300 in 1937 had risen to over 4,000 ten years later and in 1952 the Duke of Edinburgh became Patron. Nowadays, membership stands at over 350,000.

As numbers of caravanners grew, so did tensions between the freedom to enjoy the countryside and efforts to protect areas of scenic beauty. The aerial images below are of Leysdown in Kent in 1960 and Thornwick Bay in Yorkshire in 1966.

Friday 23 October 2009

Youth Hostels

The Youth Hostel Association is one of those important stakeholder groups of the twentieth century operating at the interface between town and country. So we have been picking up some YHA ephemera. Youth hostelling was a German idea. The first hostel was opened in 1909 by a Westphalian schoolteacher, Richard Schirrmann, who was convinced of the spiritual need for young people to enjoy healthy exercise in the open air away from the drabness of city life. He planned a chain of hostels, or 'Jugendherbergen', each a day's walk through the countryside from the next.

The Youth Hostel Association of Great Britain was formed in 1930 along very similar lines. This membership card from 1947 and 48 lists the objects of the Association as 'To help all, but especially young people, to a greater knowledge, care and love of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels.'

It shows that the holder, Grace Pett a young south London schoolteacher, stayed at hostels in Derbyshire, Cornwall and Scotland.

The Association grew rapidly. Twelve hostels were opened in the first year and there were 297 by 1939. In 1950 membership topped 250,000.

The eighteenth century Houghton Mill near Huntingdon was converted into Youth Hostel accommodation in 1934 and was one of the first hostels in the Cambridge Regional Group. Access to the men's dormitory was up two flights of ladders and water for washing had to be gathered in buckets from the River Ouse below. During the Second War, when there was a scarcity of resident wardens, Vera Watson kept the hostel open at weekends by cycling the fifteen miles out from Cambridge each Friday and returning on Monday mornings. The mill ceased to be a hostel in 1983.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Two Land Rover models

The story of the Land Rover has come up before - how it was introduced in 1948 as a general purpose agricultural vehicle and subseqently morphed into a urban style icon - because of what it says about the wider cultural tentacles of the countryside in the second half of the century.

These two model sets illustrate that process of transformation. Both are by Corgi Toys, a brand launched by the Mettoy Company in 1956, and both comprise Land Rover and horse trailer combinations with Pony Club transfers. The Pony Club, an umbrella organisation for young riders, dates back to 1929 but its membership really took off during the 1950s and had reached over 31,000, spread through 255 UK branches, by 1962.

The first set is one that was introduced in 1968 with a short wheel base Land Rover, canvas top, normal livery and sandard wheels. This is still identifiably a farm vehicle.

The other one dates from 1979 and incorporates some significant differences. Now it is a long wheelbase Land Rover with flashy metallic colouring, big chunky wheels and a definitely non-agricultural roof accessory.

The journey towards the Chelsea tractor had begun.

Friday 9 October 2009

Oak sideboard/dresser c.1905

This fine piece, made by the firm of Shapland & Petter of Barnstaple, was acquired a few months back and has now gone on display. It represents the point at the beginning of the twentieth century when the Arts and Crafts style, with its focus on craftsmanship and rural romanticism, chimed with the fashionable tastes of a burgeoning urban middle class. Through a re-working of the farmhouse dresser of old came a piece of urban chic for the Edwardian villa.

Shapland & Petter were in a leading group of makers that maintained their commitment to quality and craftsmanship whilst organising their production on industrial lines. The oak for this piece was probably imported from America and full use was made of machinery for production of some of the component parts. In this way they were able to produce a very large range of furniture in many different customised versions at a reasonable price.

The distinctive wardrobes, overmantles, chairs, bookcases and hallstands etc produced by Shapland & Petter were sold through agents and retailers around the country and Europe. The firm also had its own shop in Berners St, just off Oxford St in London and not far from Regent St where Liberty & Co were competitors.

The business was started by Henry Shapland, a cabinet maker from Barnstaple, in the middle of the nineteenth century. He had travelled to America and brought back ideas on mechanised manufacture of quality furniture. He took Henry Petter into partnership in 1865 and within a few years over a hundred men were being employed. In 1888, after a fire, the firm relocated to a new factory – the Raleigh Cabinet Works - in Barnstaple. The town had a tradition of crafts skills from lacemaking times, a thriving School of Art at the end of the nineteenth century and the Barnstaple Guild of Metalworkers.

One of the renowned designers associated with Shapland & Petter was William Cowie (see some of his designs above), a product of the Barnstaple School of Art, who was responsible for this piece. It bears a number of the Shapland & Petter hallmarks for their Arts and Crafts years: squared spindles, cut-out hearts, geometric arch, long strap hinges and decorative metalwork.

Friday 2 October 2009

It's Quicker By Rail, 1930s

The famous It's Quicker by Rail slogan was widely used by the London and North Eastern Railway in the 1920s and 30s. It followed the reorganisation of the railway network in 1922, which resulted in the emergence of the LNER, and the appointment of William Teasdale as its advertising manager the following year. Teasdale was a great believer in the power of poster advertising and commissioned a number of well known artists at the time to design them.

This one is by Guy Seymour Malet (1900-73) who combined the talents of painter, engraver and writer, and who had studied at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in the 1920s.

Posters such as this were intended to catch the eye of passengers as they idled away their time on a draughty and perhaps depressing platform. They use attractive and relaxing images of the countryside, with their attendant associations based on traditional English virtues of trust and reliability, to represent rail travel in a pure and positive light.

Friday 25 September 2009

Escape from the town, 1920s

The two posters here, recently acquired, date from 1926. The message on both is central to the theme of this project and the relationship between town and country. They are by F.Gregory Brown (1887-1941), well known in the interwar years as a landscape painter, illustrator and textile designer. For the railway companies, the great popularity at the time of hiking and rambling offered positive marketing opportunities for their commuter routes in the off-peak weekend periods.

Writing of Manchester in this time, C.E.M.Joad wrote 'singly, in couples, in groups or organized in clubs young people have formed the habit of going on Saturdays and Sundays and, increasingly, for the whole weekend, into the country. You can see the living witnesses of this revolution at the Central Station at Manchester early on a Sunday morning, complete with rucksacks, shorts and hob-nailedboots, waiting for the early trains to Edale, Hope and the Derbyshire moors. Looking at them, one might be tempted to think that the whole of Manchester was in exodus' (from The Untutored Townsman's Invasion of the Country, 1946.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Skewbald and other pony stories of the 1920s/30s

Orlando the Marmalade Cat's creator Kathleen Hale was taught fine art at Reading by Professor Allen William Seaby (1867-1953). He was a painter and woodcut artist who delighted in wildlife subjects. He also wrote and illustrated a very popular series of pony stories for children, beginning with Skewbald The New Forest Pony in 1927.

It's more than a story about a pony, it's an introduction to the ecology and the life of the Forest itself. It was followed by Exmoor Lass and Other Pony Stories the following year. The University collection has a signed copy of the sequel Sons of Skewbald which first appeared in 1937.

In the Notes at the beginning, Seaby details some of the changes that have occurred in the Forest since the first Skewbald book a decade earlier. The fate of the ponies was dependent now not so much on their use in the coal mines, or as meat on the continent, but on their rising popularity as riding horses for children. The motor car represented a new threat because of the number of ponies killed and injured on the Forest roads. Seaby also railed against plant robbers who were causing the disappearance of many of the Forest's rarer species.

Jenny Kendrick of Roehampton University will be talking about the wider significance of Seaby and his pony stories at the Collecting 20th Century Rural Culture conference at the Museum of English Rural Life on November 4th. More details of the conference can be found on the Museum's website.

Monday 7 September 2009

Orlando The Marmalade Cat

This is opening up a new theme of children's literature and its cultural influence on perceptions of the countryside. To maintain a tenuous motoring link from the previous post, I have included the illustration below from Kathleen Hale's story Orlando Buys a Farm, orignally published in 1942.

On the right, just below the horse's head, Orlando the Marmalade Cat can be seen driving his car with a hay sweep attached to the front. The use of cars in the hay meadow was quite a common sight in the 1930s. These were old, big-engined cars that still had life left in them but little second hand value at the time and could be bought very cheaply. With a hay rake or sweep bolted to the front, they were ideal for trundling the finished hay across a field to where the stack was being built. The picture is full of other accurate detailing: the individual components of the horse gear used for driving the elevator; the elevator itself; and the rolled up temporary canvas tilt, supported by poles and guy ropes, that kept the stack dry, should it rain whilst under construction. In her autobiography, Kathleen Hale (1898-2000) recalled how she used to sneak into agriculture lectures and spend lots of time at the College farm whilst an art student at Reading during the First World War - in fact her student residence was St Andrew's Hall, which now is home to the Museum of English Rural Life.

Hale's first Orlando book was A Camping Holiday of 1938, from which the illustration above is taken. The Orlando character emerged from stories that she made up to amuse her own two sons and in this case drew heavily upon her love of the countryside and childhood memories of camping holidays. Further published adventures followed as Orlando became a big hit with children in the 1940s and 50s. There were radio spin-offs and even an Orlando ballet at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Orlando's Country Peepshow was a pop-up book that appeared in 1950 and gave more opportunity for Hale to display her sound working grasp of farming practice with a scene for each of the seasons.

This copy, along with the other examples of Hale's work, are from the Children's Collection - part of the University's Special Collections held alongside the Museum.

Friday 28 August 2009

The Country Picnic

This is an ‘En Route’ tea-making basket produced by Drew & Co of London probably around 1905. (The design number on the little stove shows that it was registered in 1900, and some of the other components were registered a few years earlier). Originally, a device like this was associated with railway travel, and even the horse drawn carriage. But by the Edwardian era, it was increasingly about the relationship between the motor car and the countryside – going for an afternoon jaunt into the country and having a nice cup of tea in a secluded scenic spot before returning to the clamour of the town. It became an enduring tradition, spreading as the century progressed to a wider and wider sector of the urban populace as the price of cars dropped and their availability grew.

By 1912, when this catalogue was produced, Arthur Gamage's department store in London had large motoring and cycle sections, and a big mail order business. The picnic paraphenalia continued to grow in sophistication and ingenuity.

The Morris dealer in Oxford created a country picnic scene in his front window to advertise the 1925 Bullnose. Morris was selling more than 50,000 cars a year by this time and prices of standard models were dropping dramatically.

Monday 17 August 2009

Glastonbury Festival

That a dairy farm in Somerset should have emerged in the late twentieth century as a pilgrimage site for celebrations of music, performing arts and alternative lifestyles, drawing thousands from around the country to rough it for a few days in the open air whatever the weather might throw at them, is reason enough for examples of its memorabilia to be included in this project.

Myths, mysticism and the Arthurian legend have swirled around Glastonbury for centuries giving it a magnetic sense of mystery and fascination particularly for those with a pantheistic world view seeking harmony with Nature and the passage of the seasons. There were earlier festivals of music and drama in the town during and immediately following the First World War that drew many of these elements together, so that what has subsequently become known as the Glastonbury Festival is not entirely without precedent.

Dairy farmer Michael Eavis organised his first festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton (near Glastonbury) in September 1970. He had been inspired by a visit to the second Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music in June that year - held on the Showground in Shepton Mallet of the Bath & West of England Agricultural Society - and wanted to mix a musical event with the concept of the traditional country fair. It was deliberately low key and laid back, with the audience of 2,000 or so getting free milk from the farm's herd included in the £1 ticket.

It was followed by the free Glastonbury Fayre during the summer solstice the following year, where a pyramid-shaped stage made its first appearance, and by occasional ad hoc happenings thereafter - often sparked by the arrival of New Age travellers from Stonehenge - until the first commercial festival event in 1979. CND were actively involved as co-organisers and beneficiaries from 1981, when a new pyramid stage that doubled as a winter cow shed was constructed.

By 1989, when our copy of Glastonbury Global - the Festival's own newsheet - was produced, attendance had risen to over 60,000 and £100,000 was raised for CND.

Our twentieth anniversary programme of 1990 shows that it was now called the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts to reflect the great range of non-musical activity. The Green Field, an area of the site first introduced in 1984 to highlight eco issues, was expanded to 60 acres.

The New Musical Express started sponsoring the Festival in 1989. Our badge is from 1992 and was given away at the NME stage. Showing how campaign concerns had moved on, this was the year that Greenpeace and Oxfam rather than CND became major recipients of Festival profits.

In 1994, the pyramid stage burned down shortly before the Festival start. A Greenpeace wind turbine was installed to generate power for part of the site.

As the poster shows, 1995 was the 25th anniversary of the first Festival. It was just like the old days of Woodstock and the Isle of Wight when part of the perimeter fencing was pulled down in an effort to make a free festival. Nevertheless, £400,000 was still raised for the charities.

Worthy Farm was rested in 1996. The Festival returned in 1997 but to a sea of mud due to bad weather. The whole site now stretched to 800 acres and attendance hit 95,000.

Mud Festival again in 1998. Bob Dylan is on the bill. Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid share £500,000.

In 1999, sponsorship from The Guardian, Orange, and the BBC, shows how far up the establishment ladder the Festival has climbed.