Going Postal

The blog has been a little bit overlooked lately.  Apologies for that, I’ve had a rather urgent appointment with some wallpaper that needed to be removed.  It’s been a bad time to be distracted as well, because people – well the readers of this blog to be precise – have been sending me things.  And they’ve been rather good.

Let’s start with these, mostly because I asked for them.  ‘Did Daphne Padden design any other leaflets for British Railways?’, I asked the other day.  The answer is a resounding yes.

Daphne Padden British Railways Leaflet Isle of Man

And here’s another, although I’ll be blowed if I have any idea what a ‘Radio Cruise’ is.  Can anyone enlighten me?

British Railways Brochure Cambrian Radio Cruise Daphne Padden front cover

She even designed the insides of this one too.

British Railways Brochure Cambrian Radio Cruise Daphne Padden inside design

Which include this rather fine map.

British Railways Brochure Cambrian Radio Cruise Daphne Padden map

Are there more out there?  I hope so, although I am anticipating that I might have to do something frightening, like attend a transport ephemera fair, to find them.

Meanwhile through the actual mail box came a small set of  these little London Transport prints – I’m sure there is a precise art historical word for what they are but I’m afraid I don’t know it.  Anyway, they were a fantastic gift all the way from America so thank you very much.

Small London Transport prints - front covers

What I got was four little folders, each containing a small print of a London Transport poster from 1953.  Here’s St James’ Palace by David Lewis.

London Transport poster print david Lewis St James Palace

Each print was the pictorial half of a pair poster, so making the transfer to prints quite well.  I can’t decide whether my favourite is the John Bainbridge or the Sheila Robinson (both artists who deserve further notice on this blog one day).

London Transport poster print John Bainbridge Royal London 1953

London Transport poster print Kensington Palace Sheila Robinson 1953

I have no idea, however, what the purpose of these were.  Were they bought by the public and framed, or where they sent out by London Transport as a form of publicity? Or some other reason that I can’t even guess at.  If anyone can enlighten me, please do.

While we’re on the subject of London Transport, this is also rather good.

London Transport spoof

This also reminds me that I’ve been meaning to mention the work of artist Micah Wright for a while.  He’s been working on ironic modern versions of propaganda posters for a while, and got in contact with the blog to say that we might like this take on Pat Keely. He was right.

Micah Wright version of pat Keely wireless poster

Most of what he does is American in origin, but it’s still very much worth taking a look at his PropagandaRemix website.

Micah Wright propaganda remix war poster

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a wall that needs demolishing.  But if you’ve got anything else to send me in the meantime, please feel free.

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Spot the birdy

Another day on Quad Royal, another bird.  But today’s isn’t any old bird, oh no; this is a Festival of Britain bird.

Joan Nicholson needlework bird Festival of Britain

Yes really.  This very bird was made to ornament some of the room sets in the Festival and it’s not just a copy but the actual thing.  So what’s it doing on my coffee table (other than for me to take not very good photographs of it)?

Birds by Joan Nicholson from Festival of Britain

A fewof these birds – along with many other delights –  came to visit earlier this summer thanks to their current owner, Nancy Nicholson.   Nancy is not only a textile and pattern designer in her own right, but is also the daughter of one of the power couples of 1950s design, Roger and Joan Nicholson.

I’ve written briefly about Roger Nicholson before (since then I’ve discovered even more of his contribution to design at the time and really owe him another post one day). Joan was a talented designer in her own right whose most famous commission was the wall hanging for the Queen’s bedroom on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Queens Bedroom on Royal yacht britannia with embriodery by Joan Nichsolson

She also wrote several classic books about embroidery and produced some delightfully idiosyncratic designs – here’s just one.  I hope to show you some more in due course.

Joan Nicholson needlepoint

But back to the birds.  In 1951, Roger Nicholson, along with his brother Robert,  designed a number of the room sets in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival of Britain  This, for example, is the Headmaster’s Study.

Roger Nicholson Headmaster study roomset for Festival of Britain

At some point, it was decided that the rooms were all looking a bit austere and needed a bit more decoration.  So Joan Nicholson was asked if she could help.  The result was these birds.

Joan NIcholson bird ornamenents from Festival of Britain

These have to be incredibly rare – how many actual items which were displayed at the Festival still exist? Not many I would guess.  But they’re also interesting because they do something which I always enjoy, which is disrupt the conventional narrative of the Festival of Britain.

Roger Nicholson Room design Festival of Brigain

The story of interior decoration at the Festival is always supposed to be one of a Scandinvian style modernism which sweeps all before it, including decorative clutter.  But take another look at these rooms.  Yes, they may not have the array of knick-knacks which would have graced a 1930s fireplace.  But ornaments haven’t entirely disappeared.  The headmaster up there has some odds and ends on his shelf, while the farmer for whom this dining area was designed has a whole trophy cabinet of pewter as well as a rather covetable china bull.

Roger Nicholson Farmer room Festival of Britain Homes and Gardens

So when we remember the Festival of Britain, let’s not just honour the Robin Day chairs and Terence Conran tables, let’s honour the ornaments too.  Because the reality is always so much more complicated than the myth.

More than that, we must also remember the people who weren’t Robin Day and Terence Conran, but who also made the Festival what it was.  People like Joan and Roger Nicholson.

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Deja vu all over again

I seem to have come back from holiday only to wander into a fold in time, because at least some of the posters on offer out there seem strangely familiar.

Lets start with Dreweatts in Bristol, who are once again selling the work of Percy Drake Brookshaw.

Percy Drake Brookshaw Boat Race poster 1927 London Transport
Percy Drake Brookshaw, 1927, est. £150-200

This is not a new thing, in fact it’s something which has been going on almost since the very beginning of this blog.

Percy Drake Brookshaw Wimbledon tennis London Transport poster 1928
Percy Drake Brookshaw, 1928, est. £200-300

The only real change being that they have got slightly more realistic in their estimates.

Percy Drake Brookshaw shell poster cricket just out 1933
Percy Drake Brookshaw, 1933, est. £300-400

Although I can’t remember these posters ever coming up before.

Percy Drake Brookshaw Green Line posters 1936 London Transport
Percy Drake Brookshaw, 1936, est. £200-300

Once again, they are provenanced from the artist’s family by direct descent.  I can only imagine, with some envy, the stack of posters they must have had before they started selling.

Elsewhere in auctionworld, a curiosity in Bloomsbury’s British Art Sale.  Even they describe it as ‘a macabre vision’.

Betty Swanwick RA (1915-1989) Safety First!' a macabre vision for a Ministry of Transport poster
Betty Swanwick, est. £1,000-1,500

It’s a design for a poster, although not one I’ve ever seen.  Maybe even the ministry thought it was a step too far.  There are some examples of her painting up for sale too – I rather like this.

Betty Swanwick RA (1915-1989) The Gardeners
Betty Swanwick, est. £1,500-2,000

Although the price is once again a reminder why we collect posters rather than fine art.  I’m sure there are lots more wonderful things lurking in that auction too, but I don’t dare take a very close look in case I start spending money which is meant to be used for house renovation.

Meanwhile on eBay, there’s more on offer than I’d normally expect to find in the doldrums of August, and they’re proper posters too.  The kind that you might normally expect to find in auctions.  Let’s start with a handful of classic railway posters.  Well, post-war classics at least.

British Railways poster

That – by Ronald Lampitt and dating from 1952 – is my favourite, but there’s also this Lander, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.  Or at least not noticed.

Lander British railways poster 1952 Northern Ireland

But it’s this Kenneth Steele which seems to be the most popular with the bidders so far.

British Railways poster loch ness Kenneth Steele

The price as I write stands as £221, with more than four days to go.

Also doing well are a set of three Empire Marketing Board posters from the 1930s.

Chas Pears Empire Marketing board poster Gibraltar

The Gibraltar example above, by Chas Pears, has already reached £122, but you can still have his version of the Suez Canal for a bid over £5.59 if you like.

Chas Pears Empire Marketing board poster  Suez Canal 1930s

Finally, an oddity from our old friends PosterConnection.  I don’t suggest that you actually buy this, what with it costing $400 and all, but it’s worth a look.

London Transport poster Music in London, by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze, 1964

It’s by our old friends Hans Unger and Ebhard Schulze, but it’s not a plain mosaic, rather it’s a collage with a bit of mosaic in.

The poster is also missing the text beneath  – here is the LT Museum copy by way of comparison.

Music in London, by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze, 1964

Although whether that makes it worth more or less I have no idea. Any thoughts?

Posted in auctions, eBay | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses


We have now returned, after a fortnight which did look, at times, like this.

Sadly I couldn’t find a poster for our nearby resort, the delightfully named Tranche-sur-Mer, or Slice-on-Sea, so you’ll just have to believe me on that one.

Quite a lot of this was also consumed.

Back to things British shortly, when I’ve worked out what, if anything, has happened in my absence.  Do let me know what I’ve missed.

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Ferry nice

Oh heavens, I have just discovered a world of previously undiscovered and mostly rather kitch treasures, found by putting ‘ferry poster’ into various archives.  Unfortunately I can’t possibly fit them all in, because the purpose of this post is simply to say that Quad Royal is off across the channel for the next two weeks.

'Cross the Channel from Dover', BR poster, Laurence 1960

But I can’t stop at just one, so this is how I would like you to imagine us travelling.

'Cross with us to the Continentâ??, BR poster, 1963.

Mr Crownfolio will be wearing the sailor’s hat.  Au revoir and see you in a fortnight.

Bon Voyage British Railways poster Leonard Richmond

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Loves a sailor

An errand sent me rummaging through our stack of Daphne Padden bits and bobs the other day.  This made me realise two things.  One is that they really ought to be in an archive box, something which has been on my to do list for too long. The other – more relevant here – is that I never got round to scanning much of it in order that you lot could take a look at them.  It’s time to make amends, clearly.  Here’s a thoughtful bird to start with.

Daphne Padden sketch of bird

For those who weren’t around last year (where were you?), the executive summary is as follows.  After Daphne Padden’s death in 2009, a lot of her posters came up for auction in 2010.  We got in contact with the executors after this, and ended up buying a miscellany of drawings, sketches, designs and, well, other stuff which hadn’t been included in the auction.

Most of the archive has gone to the Brighton University Archive of Art and Design where it can be consulted by historians and designers (more exciting developments on this next month too) but we kept a few small pieces that we might want to display one of these days.  I posted pictures of a few of them when they arrived, but but promised more.  That was some time ago.  Oops.

This was the item which particularly made me feel remiss.  I swear I had never seen it before, although Mr Crownfolio assures me I have.

daphne padden design for sailor coach poster 1950s

It’s done in real detail but very small (just over 10cm high) and in a little paper folder, so I like to think that this was what she presented to the coach company as a proposal.  This is of course the poster commission which resulted, although it does exist with a couple of different varients in its lettering.

Daphne Padden Royal Blue vintage coach poster sailor 1957

She obviously liked this series of posters a great deal.  I’ve posted this study before, but it was all part of the same collection of things she kept over the years.

Daphne Padden old salt artwork

Along with this much rougher sketch, on a torn piece of brown paper.

Daphne padden sketch of sailor on brown paper

There’s nothing similar for any of her other designs, so she must have felt a real sentimental attachment for this one.

Also of interest are a couple of proofs for British Railways leaflets.  This one is helpfully stamped 1963.

Daphne Padden proof for British Railways leaflet 1963

Along with them is one finished leaflet, which looks as though it’s from a slightly different series.

Daphne Padden British Railways leaflet 1960s The English Lakes

(In case you also worry about these things as much as I do, the BR in-house printing department definitely did the inside on this one, it’s not very exciting at all.)

Once again, I would have had no idea that she’d designed these without this evidence.  I also have no idea where to start looking for them in the great sea of ephemera out there, so if anyone can point me at some more, I’d be very interested to see them.

Finally, there is this.  I have no idea what it is for or even if it was by her at all, but  I rather like it.

A sketch.  Possibly by Daphne padden

What do you think?


Posted in archives, designers | Tagged | 5 Responses