Well I went up Leeds at the end of last week, to give a talk at the Marks and Spencer archive about Daphne Padden.

This was a lot of fun, even if I’m not entirely sure that I fulfilled the alleged title of the talk, which was about Daphne Padden and design in the 1960s and 1970s.

Daphne Padden Marks and Spencers Christmas cake design

I did cover Daphne Padden’s work for Marks and Spencers, but that didn’t take very long at all, because we don’t really know very much about it.  Which isn’t just me not trying very hard, but between me knowing about Daphne Padden and the archive knowing all about M&S, there still isn’t very much information out there at all.

Daphne Padden M&S angel sandwich design and finished

And that, in the end, was one of the main themes of the talk: just how little we know about designers and design of this period, despite all the best intentions of archives, academics and people like me.  Served with a large dose of my general thoughts on archives, not knowing things and why coach posters are brilliant, most of which will be familiar to any regular reader of this blog

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957


I was considering posting the talk on here, but that’s before I delivered it and realised that it was a rambling and somewhat opionated mess that probably wouldn’t play that well without the facial expressions and apologies.

But I did meet lots of lovely audience people there too, who asked interesting questions, so I’m happy to answer any questions on here if anyone wants.  Although be warned in advance, quite a few of the answers tend to be, we just don’t know.



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Talking yoghurt

Apologies for the gap in transmissions, real life has a way of interfering sometimes.

This is just a quick post to remind you all that I will be speaking at the Marks and Spencers archive next month, on April 24th, about Daphne Padden’s career and her work for M&S, with particular reference to this yoghurt pot.

Daphne Padden Yoghurt pot design for Marks and Spencer

And whatever else comes into my head at the time, I don’t doubt.

Full details here, and please do come and say hello if you are there.  The yoghurt pot will also be making a personal appearance.

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Vote poster

Stuff, life, has kept me away for a bit – apologies – and now that I am back there appears to be an election on.  This blog doesn’t usually have too much overlap with the political arena, but there is one thing I wanted to point out.

Labour party post war poster reversion as tea towel

It’s not a poster – well it was once upon a time, but now it is a Labour Party fundraising tea towel.

Obviously tea towels based on vintage poster designs are a great idea, but that’s not the only reason I’m showing you this.

What’s interesting is that this is a poster that I’ve never seen before, another part of the unknown known.

There are a very few political posters that have become part of our visual furniture.


But the rest – well, they’ve just disappeared.  And there’s no central repository, no archives to browse through and see which parties produced which messages and designs.  So to all intents and purposes they didn’t exist. Until, that is, the Labour Party goes through their own records and pulls one out for us to buy.  For which I am of course very grateful, although it would be even more interesting to see the other ones too.

(The Labour Party archive does live, it seems, in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, but only a small proportion of the posters are digitised.  Although this one does seem to come from the same series as the tea towel.)

Labour party 1950s political poster

But in the end, all of this acts as a reminder that it’s almost impossible to make any kind of sweeping statement about the history of posters, for the simple reason that we just don’t know enough.  The posters that are out there, kept in archives, curated, digitised, seen, are just a small and rather less than random sample of the totality of what was produced.  And every so often we get a reminder of this fact, which can only be a good thing.

Oh, and if you wanted to get a tea towel, the bad news is that they were a limited edition and have just sold out.  But you can always buy one of ours instead.

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Enquire promptly

We’ve hardly recovered from Christmas here, but nonetheless, the auction year is already gearing up, beginning with the GCR auction on February 7th.

There are posters.  Quite a lot of posters.

A BR(W) double royal poster, SOMERSET, by Wootton British railways
Wootton, 1952, est. £150-300

A rather large number of them are of this ilk; pretty post-war depictions of landscapes and towns courtesy of British Railways.

A BR(S) double royal poster, SALISBURY, Charles I, visit 1651 British Railways
Claude Buckle, 1952, est. £100-200.

Although I do quite like the way it equates history with a bad pong.  That’s the visit of Charles I, by the way.

I do have one gripe about the auction, though, which is that not very much effort has been put into ascribing dates, or even artists to the posters.  Take the Salisbury smell, above.  That’s down in the catalogue as being Anonymous, but it took me all of two minutes on Google to discover the date, and that it’s by Claude Buckle.  A piece of information you’d think might increase its value, and hence the auctioneer’s commission.  And all of the dates on here are ones that I have found, not them.  Poor show.

But I mustn’t grumble too much.  For a change,  there are actually a few nifty bits of graphic design in amongst the conventional pretties.  This example is actually pre-war.

An LNER double royal poster, LOST PROPERTY, ENQUIRE PROMPTLY, by Sav,
Sav, est. £80-120

I’d like to think that the Sav is short for Savignac, but as I can find another, 1946, railway poster with the same signature but not of anything like the same quality, I am inclined to suspect not.

This next, while good design, is probably a bit too effective for most people’s taste.

A BR(M) Safety awareness poster, NO, showing a skull between wagon buffers
Anonymous, est. £80-120

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a feeling that I used to know who that poster was by, and I think it’s Pat Keely, while the internet is hinting that it might be by Leonard Cusden.  But if anyone out there knows better, please do say.

This Hans Unger is considerably cheerier, and a great deal more desirable.

A BR double royal poster, GO MID-WEEK BY TRAIN, by Hans Unger
Hans Unger, 1962,  est. £50-80

I have just been to that London by train; this is how you may imagine me travelling.  Including the hat.

While this is rather good of its kind too.

A BR(M) quad royal poster, LANCASHIRE COAST, (anon), a montage of coastal views between Southport and Morecambe
Anonymous, 1957, est. £80-120.

As has been the case with the last few railway auctions I’ve looked at, there are also a handful of World War Two posters included, of which this is my favourite.

A double royal poster, JOIN THE WRENS and Free A Man For The Fleet
Anonymous, est. £150-300.

It looks a bit like a Beverley Pick, although I have some nagging memory that either Henrion or Zero did a lot of the Wrens advertising at the time.  Still, it’s a World War Two poster, so the chances are that we’ll never know for sure.

And finally, a conundrum, in the form of an entirely new (to me) poster for Ramsgate.

A BR(S) double royal poster, RAMSGATE British Railways
Anonymous, 1961, est. £80-120.

Surely this has to be Chapter Four of Alan Durman’s Ramsgate romance, with the baby all grown up and playing.  And Mrs Ramsgate has bought herself a new swimsuit at last.

Tantalisingly, the NRM don’t give an artist for their copy of the poster, but the date is 1961, two years after Durman’s couple were holding their baby up in the surf.  How can it be anything else?

And even if it isn’t, it’s still a bargain at that estimate.  What are you waiting for?

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Be really cool, man, archive

The recent announcement from the British Postal Museum and Archive announcing that they have upgraded their online catalogue may not have been the most retweeted 140 characters in the history of Twitter.  But the news is actually quite exciting.

On an entirely practical level the images are now larger than a postage stamp. The particular joy of this is that I can now get a proper look at the van posters, which are some of my favourite things in the world.


I wonder if any of these have survived outside of the BPMA’s collections?  I’ve never come across one out in the wild.

1951 Alick Knight post early robin poster GPO

More than that, a whole lot of new material also seems to have been catalogued for the first time.  I had no idea that Barbara Jones had ever designed a poster for the GPO, but the evidence is there in full colour.

Barbara Jones GPO poster mermaid inland postcards

It’s from 1956, since you ask.

In addition, for the first time the catalogue now includes some Post Office Savings Bank posters.  This is clearly still a work in progress as, currently, there’s nothing in there by Daphne Padden and she did some of her best work for the POSB.

Daphne Padden post office savings bank poster with rabbits and owl.

What is in there, though, when you search for POSB posters, is a lot of work by Stan Krol, quite a bit of which I’ve never seen before.

Stan Krol post office savings bank poster 1960 guitar

With both posters and artwork included.

Stan Krol eureka gpo poster artwork 1960

All of which is a salutary reminder.   It’s not just that archives themselves are important, but also the way they are arranged and made accessible.  Because both of these things can change the way we think about the past.

Let’s just start with the contents.  A couple of years ago, I wrote about Stan Krol, saying that I couldn’t find out that much about the man or his output.  Obviously, pages of Stan Krol posters in the BPMA catalogue rather changes things.

stan krol telephonists job artwork GPO 1951

Morever, in the new, exciting BPMA catalogue, the results also come up differently.  Back in the day, the archive used to sort the results, so that the artwork would come up first, then the posters.  So I would skip through the artwork, and just look at the posters instead.

1968 Tom Eckersley detector van van poster

But now the two come up intermingled, which means that I don’t miss items like this Tom Eckersley internal poster, which shows as artwork but not as finished poster.

Tom Eckersley GPO internal poster mailbags 1950

All of which will, I am sure, make other differences to the way I think as well, even if I I don’t entirely know what the results will be yet.  Watch this space.

The biggest change of all, of course, is just the fact that online archives exist in the first place.  This blog, and I’m sure much else besides, simply wouldn’t exist without them.

GPO Gay Christmas van poster

If I had to travel from London to York and all points in between simply to see posters, it’s just not going to happen without a private income or a job that is prepared to pay for me to do it.  Neither of which things exist.  So online archives enable me, and many many other people, to think more widely and to see more points of reference.  But there is another more subtle benefit too, which is that they also allow people like me to choose.

Prior to this, the only way I would have been able to see any GPO posters would have been either in auction catalogues, or in books.  In each case, the posters would have been pre-selected.  But give me an archive and a computer, and I am at liberty to decide which items I find interesting.  So, perhaps, I am less likely to fall in with the accepted canon of ‘good’ posters as a result, and history ends up being written slightly differently.  Which is clearly a good thing.

Schlegel export drive gpo poster 1950

So hurrah for the lovely new BPMA catalogue and archives in general.

Games Giant postcards van poster 1961

But wonderful as all of this is, we mustn’t let this blind us to the fact that not everything is archived.  This may sound like a truism but it’s actually a really important point, and it’s something I think about a lot in connection with Daphne Padden.

Daphne Padden POSB poster knight

Her work has been massively under-recognised over the years, and her profile still isn’t as high as it should be.  Now there were plenty of reasons for this – and being a woman working on the outskirts of London must have played a considerable part.  But a big part of it has to be because she just worked for the wrong people.

Daphne Padden lytham st Annes British Railway poster

Railway posters were sold and collected when they were produced, and nowadays they are traded at auction, reproduced in books and as fridge magnets, and kept in a socking great archive in York (now there’s an interface that could still do with taking a long hard look at itself).  But she only ever did a few of those.

Daphne Padden isle of Man BRitish railways poster

Instead her main customer were the coach companies.  And where is the coach archive, I hear you ask?  Well exactly.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957

There isn’t a collection of these anywhere; hardly any survive and it’s possible that the most comprehensive selection (now that the Malcolm Guest collection got sold) is in our spare room.  Which is ridiculous.

Coach tour rabbits Daphne padden coach poster

And because my spare room doesn’t have an archivist or – more to the point – doesn’t actually contain more than a couple of dozen coach posters when hundreds were produced, people don’t know about these designs.  So they don’t get reproduced in books, or as fridge magnets, and in the end they disappear from view.

Daphne Padden Southend coach poster

Along with the designers, like Daphne Padden, who produced them.

Spring coach poster Daphne Padden

So while we can have a lot of fun with the archives that are there, it’s always worth using them with half a mind to the ones that don’t exist.

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New ideas for dishwashers

Christmas is madness in so many ways, but one of them is that there is far too much television on to take in all at once.  So one of the series that Mr Crownfolio and I stashed away to watch later, was The Home That 2 Built, which is a history of makeover and suchlike programming on BBC2.

We’ve also been watching it in the wrong order, starting with the last programme, about the 90s and 00s.  This is because in my past life before this blog, back in the late 90s,  I used to make exactly this kind of show.

So I knew there would be a few familiar things in there, but I really wasn’t prepared for how much I recognised.  It was like drowning and watching an entire period of my life flash before my eyes as I went under, programme after programme, episode after episode.

Laurence LLewellyn Bowen on Changing Rooms, first series

‘I filmed that bit.  And that one.’

‘That was the first programme we ever made.’

‘She was a cow.’

‘Oh my God, it’s those credits again.’  Etc.

They didn’t interview me, though, opting instead for Laurence Llewelyn Bowen; I can’t think why.

So, fast forward a couple of weeks, and we finally get round to watching the first programme, about the 1960s.  This time I really wasn’t anticipating any kind of surprises, but my goodness there was one this time too.  Half way through, in a short piece of black and white film, a woman demonstrates how she has turned a dishwasher into an owl.

‘That’s Barbara Jones,’ said Mr Crownfolio.

He thought he was being flippant, but you know what?  He was absolutely right.  There was Barbara Jones.  On our television.

Barbara Jones on BBC2 with owl dishwasher

It’s a good owl, too.

Barbara Jones owl dishwasher two

If you want to watch it for yourself, this episode is on Youtube, and you can find it about 27 minutes in.

But I do have to warn you, there’s a lot of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen to wade through on the way.  For which I do have to apologise.  It is after all, in a small way, my fault.

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