Thursday 25 February 2010

Rural Nostalgia and collectors' plates, 1980s/90s

We've acquired a number of examples of this genre recently, all very much of their time. This one has the title The Farm-Yard and is the July plate in a twelve-month series called The Farm Year which was produced by Wedgwood for the Danbury Mint. The artist, Michael Herring, specialised in gentle rural scenes like this set in the earlier part of the twentieth century which were commissioned for a range of products from jigsaws to coasters.

This one is The Farm Cottage, dated 1988 and the sixth in Colin Newman's Country Panorama series for Wedgwood depicting a 360 degree panoramic view of the countryside.

The Sunday colour magazines of the 1980s and early 90s often featured full-page advertisements for decorative plates, usually issued in a series of eight or more, and often on a nostalgic rural theme. Indeed, I recall the Museum of English Rural Life entering into a commercial arrangement to endorse one such series. Readers were invited to sign up for a whole series in advance by mail order and would then receive each successive plate on a periodic basis, often accompanied by a elaborate certificate of authenticity. The sales pitch was that these plates were limited editions that would effortlessly become the antiques of tomorrow. Whilst looking good in the sitting room cabinet, so the argument went, they would also be appreciating in value.

The reality has proved to be rather different. Plenty of these plates, from so many series, are available today on Ebay and elsewhere at prices below what they originally sold for twenty or thirty years ago. If nothing else, it shows that the marketing at the time paid off and brought in the buyers in their droves.

Here is Haymaking, dated 1989 and the third in the Life on the Farm series, with artwork by Lancashire-based John L.Chapman (1946-).

So who were the buyers? I think it is safe to assume that this was not a market aimed at young people. The appeal was to an older generation, retirees with a comfortable pension and money to spend, who were beguiled by images that matched the fading recollections of their youth and prey to a sales patter offering instant heirlooms to be treasured by the family after they had gone.

So often, the subjects are syrupy rural scenes, based in some indeterminate pre-1950s era and covering all the standard nostalgia bases. They are for people who had taken to looking back wistfully from a changed world in which they were not entirely at home.

The plate above is Early Morning Milk in the 1991 series Country Days. The Worcestershire artist, Chris Howells (1947-), is not untypical of those who received these commissions. After art college and experience in the commercial world, he became a freelance artist specialising in rural scenes for the popular market.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Ogden's 'Picturesque Villages' cigarette card set, 1936

This is the first in Ogden's fifty card series of Picturesque Villages. They run in alphabetical order of county, though the subject here, Coleshill, is now administratively part of Wiltshire rather than Berkshire.

There may or may not be deeper significance in the uneven spread of subjects across the country. Dorset, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire, for example, have three cards each whereas Sussex, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire have none, and the north west is hardly represented at all.

Looking at them all, a composite picture of the 1930s picturesque village would include plenty of cottages in the local vernacular style, the church, a village green or perhaps a market square, and a riverside scene with bridge. And almost no traffic.

The full list of subjects is:
1. Coleshill, Berks
2. Chenies, Bucks
3. Pampisford, Cambs
4. Morfa Nevin, Carn.
5. Mousehole, Cornwall
6. Polperro, Cornwall
7. Castleton, Derbys
8. Broad Hembury, Devon
9. Clovelly, Devon
10. Cerne Abbas, Dorset
11. Corde Castle, Dorset
12. Milton Abbas, Dorset
13. Finchingfield, Essex
14. Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire
15. Frampton-upon-Severn, Gloucestershire
16. Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
17. Nether Wallop, Hampshire
18. Wherwell, Hants
19. Godshill, IOW
20. Weobley, Herefordshire
21. Aldbury, Herts
22. Westmill, Herts
23. Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire
24. Chilham, Kent
25. Otford, Kent
26. Norning, Norfolk
27. Upwell, Cambs & Norfolk
28. Collyweston, Northamptonshire
29. Wicken, Northants
30. Bamburgh, Northumberland
31. Blanchland, Northumberland
32. Wroxton, Oxon
33. Empingham, Rutland
34. Dunster, Somerset
35. Selworthy, Som
36. Cavendish, Suffolk
37. Kersey, Suffolk
38. Shere, Surrey
39. Marlcliff, Warwicks
40. Lowther, Westmorland
41. Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire
42. Castle Combe, Wiltshire
43. Lacock, Wilts
44. Steeple Ashton, Wilts
45. Broadway, Worcs
46. Elmley Castle, Worcs
47. Bishop Burton, Yorks
48. Runswick Bay, Yorkshire
49. Staithes, Yorks
50. West Tanfield, Yorkshire

Thursday 11 February 2010

Ogden's 'By the Roadside' cigarette card set, 1932

The link here with Frank Patterson's drawing of Ribchester in the previous post is that No.35 in Ogden's 'By the Roadside' set of cigarette cards is of the Norman chapel at Stidd, just outside Ribchester. The other forty nine cards in the series depict features of historical or natural interest in the countryside and ancient market towns - primarily of England, with just two of the subjects being from Scotland. On the reverse of each card is a brief description of the site and its history.

Every card incorporates a little circular map above the primary image showing its location and the main routes for getting there from principal centres up to ten miles away. The implication is that this was a suitable destination for a trip out by bike or by car.

UK tobacco companies began including illustrated cards in packs of cigarettes, initially as stiffeners, in the 1880s. By the 1930s the practice was at its peak and had developed its full marketing potential. Ogden's, part of the Imperial Tobacco Company, had joined in by the 1890s. Thousands of sets on popular subjects of the day were issued and avidly collected, and not only by small boys.

The sites chosen for this series give a glimpse into the manner in which heritage, the countryside, and leisure were being bracketed together in mainstream culture at the time. The full list of subjects is:
1. Shodfriars Hall, Boston, Lincs
2. Market Cross & stocks, Bottesford, Leics
3. The Bowder Stone, Borrowdale, Cumberland
4. Old Bridge and Chapel, Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts
5. Bronze Tables, Corn Street, Bristol
6. Market Cross, Castle Combe, Wilts
7. The Cross, Chester
8. All Saints, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
9. Wool Market, Chipping Campden, Gloucs
10. Triangular Bridge, Crowland, Lincolnshire
11. The Butter Market, Dartmouth, Devonshire
12. Yarn Market, Dunster, Somersetshire
13. Buttress, All Saints’ Church, Dunwich, Suffolk
14. Old Canongate Tollbooth, Edinburgh
15. Queen Eleanor Cross, Geddington, Northants
16. The Abbot’s Kitchen, Glastonbury, Som
17. Saxon Church, Greensted, nr Chipping Ongar, Essex
18. Hadrian’s Wall, near Hexham, Northumberland
19. Old Windmill, Hemingford grey, Huntingdonshire
20. The ‘Old House’, Hereford
21. The Guildhall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
22. Saxon ‘King’s Stone’, Kingston-Upon-Thames
23. Lamarsh Church, Essex
24. Market Hall, Ledbury, Herefordshire
25. Market Cross, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
26. The ‘Jews House’, Lincoln
27. Maiden Castle, near Dorchester
28. Old Grammar School, Market Harborough, Leics
29. The Old Cross, Meriden, Warwicks
30. Iron Cresset, Monken Hadley Church, near Barnet
31. Monkwearmouth Church, Sunderland
32. Butter Cross and Stocks, Oakham, Rutland
33. Old Cottages, pembridge, Herefordshire
34. Smithy, Penshurst, Kent
35. Stidd Chapel, Ribchester, Lancashire
36. Nuns’ House, Rochester, Kent
37. Rufus Stone, near Lyndhurst, Hampshire
38. A quaint street, St Ives, Cornwall
39. Old Bridge, St Ives, Huntingdonshire
40. 9th century crosses, Sandbach, Cheshire
41. Sompting Church, Sussex
42. Sundial and Lock-up, Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire
43. Beheading Stone, Stirling
44. Stokesay Castle, Shropshire
45. Harvard House, Stratford-upon-Avon
46. Turton Tower, Turton, Lancs
47. Waltham Abbey, Essex
48. Butter Cross, Witney, Oxfordshire
49. Market Cross, Wymondham, Norfolk
50. Clifford’s Tower, York

Friday 5 February 2010

Frank Patterson, cycling artist, 1920s

Staying with the theme of cycling and the countryside, here is an orignal pen and ink drawing from 1929 by the most renowned of all cycling artists, Frank Patterson (1871-1952). For more than half a century from 1893, he provided a constant flow of distinctive illustrations for Cycling magazine. And from 1925 he was doing the same for the Cyclists' Touring Club Gazette. Ribchester, the subject here on the left, is a village of Roman origin that sits in a curve of the river Ribble. Roughly midway between Preston and Clitheroe, it is in ideal weekend cycling country.

Through thousands of drawings, all in this finely observed style, Patterson captured the essence of the early twentieth century countryside and the joy of exploring it on two wheels in such a way that associating cycling with the rural landscape became fixed in the cultural memory.

Patterson himself was a keen cyclist in his younger days until a knee injury forced him to give up at the age of 35. After completing his studies at Portsmouth Art School, he moved to London in search of work as a jobbing artist and for recreation took to cycling in rural parts south of the capital.

From 1898, Patterson lived and worked deep in the countryside at Pear Tree Farm near Billingshurst, West Sussex. Initially, it was rented at 9d a year and then in 1902 purchased for £5 (in 2008 it was on the market for £1.45 million). Here he lived a dual life, working his land and engaging in country pursuits in the morning whilst afternoons were spent in the study, fulfilling his contract of ten drawings a week for the magazine publishers Temple Press.

A second Patterson drawing we have acquired for the project, this one dated 1924.