Life in an English Village

Shortly after WW11, at a time when it was believed that ‘Village Life' was under threat, a well-known artist, Edward Bawden R.A, illustrated a book entitled 'Life in an English Village' depicting scenes from his home village of Great Bardfield in North Essex. The book was published in 1949 in the King Penguin series.
 
Some of our Lion Quick-Action Scales are seen in a butcher's shop of the time in Plate 13, "The Butcher".
 
Edward Bawden was born March 10th 1903 in Braintree and educated at the Grammar School and then the Friends School, Saffron Walden. Fellow student with Eric Ravilious at Royal College of Art he took his diploma in book illustration. His work in the early 1930s was as a designer and illustrator, and he taught design in London, but his move to Bardfield was a turning point in his career.
 
He and Ravilious were cycling in the area when they discovered Bardfield, and were taken by the village and its surroundings. It is difficult for us now to conjure up what the village must have been like 80 years ago - mostly dependent upon agriculture for work, but self-sufficient with many shops and services, including three pubs and four ale houses. It must have seemed very isolated then, and still did in the 1950s.
 
Bawden took over half of Brick House in the High Street in 1925 jointly with Ravilious, although he continued to live in Hammersmith until 1932 when he married Charlotte, a fellow student, and they acquired the other half of the house. In 1935 he made Bardfield his home, and thereafter left the village as little as possible. Ravilious left in 1933 to live at Castle Hedingham. At this time Bawden took his subjects for painting within a ten mile radius of Bardfield. He also became an avid gardener and used flowers and plants as subjects.
 
By now John Aldridge had moved into Place House, Dunmow Road, and in 1939 they collaborated on a series of wallpaper designs, to be printed from linoleum blocks cut by them. But war came and production was shelved never to be resumed.
 
Bawden became an official war artist, and was evacuated from Dunkirk.
 
After the war he returned to Bardfield and took many commissions. He invented a new painting method, water-colours on lettering paper, which has a non-absorbent surface. The washes were often scored and drawn upon to give further effect. He had a tremendous manual skill, which came to a peak in his use of lino-cuts; these were used for his best posters and nearly all his book jackets, which were built up from a series of lino-cuts, superimposed for colour printing.
 
Edward Bawden continued to live in Brick House until Charlotte died in 1970 (memorial tablet in the Church), when he moved to Saffron Walden. He died in 1989.

Copyright © Great Bardfield Parish Council.
 

 
Life in an English Village

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