Wartime Northamptonshire

I recently bought two black and white prints of Stoke Bruerne and Cosgrove primarily because of their local connection to the Grand Union Canal but also because I admired their style. They appear to be taken from a book called “Recording Britain”. The originals appear to be kept by the Victoria & Albert Museum; their images can be seen on the museum’s web catalogue. They were painted by S.R.Badmin who was a watercolourist. His Shell Guide to Trees & Shrubs has some wonderful illustrations; all those who love the English landscape throughout the year will admire them.

'Recording Britain' was part of a scheme carried out during the Second World War to employ artists to record the home front in Britain. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. The scheme was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, who was then director of the National Gallery, and it ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme. Clark became well-known in the 1970s as the writer, producer, and presenter of the famous BBC Television series Civilisation.

Cosgrove 1940s by SR Badmin

The Cosgrove picture also features a narrow boat, this time crossing of the pedestrian tunnel that goes under the canal. If you look carefully a train can be seen in the background and two children are near the boat, one watching the boat and the chasing towards the tunnel. A woman is steering the boat, presumably a butty. The Barley Mow still looks much the same sixty years on, although Phipps the Northampton brewery has long gone.
Stoke Bruerne 1940s by SR Badwin 

The Stoke Bruerne print is particularly stylish with the double-arched bridge dominating the scene. The scene shows sandbags in the foreground indicating that it is wartime. There a number of technical inaccuracies in the picture concerning the boat, such as the signwriting and the use of running blocks, but I like the way Badmin has captured the steerer leaning on the cabin as he passes under the bridge.

This coming weekend Stoke Bruerne will be looking back to wartime again with the Village at War Event.