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A Map of Eton College and its Environs c.1937

  • Author: WAGTAFF, Hester
  • Publisher: Petersfield Workshops (Petersfield Bookshop)
  • Engraver: Emery Walker Ltd
  • Date: 1937
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 62 x 51 cms. Map image: 56 x 44 cms.

Description:

Rare pictorial map of Eton College published in 1937 by female artist & designer, Hester Wagstaff [1892-1953]

About this piece:

A Map of Eton College and its Environs

drawn by H M Wagstaff and published at The Petersfield Workshops

Printed by Emery Walker Ltd.

Sheet: 62 x 51 cms. Map image: 56 x 44 cms. Hand coloured. Small circular water stain in upper blank margin just outside engraved border, some slight foxing in upper side margins but generally a very clean & well-preserved example.

Superbly designed pictorial map of Eton College conceived and drawn by the early 20th Century female artist, illustrator, author and jewellery designer, Hester Wagstaff [1892-1953].

It is one of only two pictorial maps known to have been produced by Wagstaff, the other being a map of the Town of Petersfield dating from 1922, published by the Petersfield Bookshop, of which Wagstaff was herself a director and partner. The Petersfield map now resides in the David Rumsey Collection. Both maps are rare, the Petersfield one especially so, and reveal Wagstaff’s innate talents as decorative mapmaker as well as book illustrator, jeweller, and furniture designer.

Born in Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire in June 1892, the daughter of local doctor, Ernest Hamilton Wagstaff [1857-1920] and his wife Jane (née Smee) [1858-1925] and fourth of five siblings, Hester Marian Wagstaff’s artistic talents became apparent from an early age. In her late teens she moved to London to study art at the Polytechnic Institute in Marylebone, better known as the London or Regent’s Street Polytechnic. In 1912 she exhibited two decorative painted boxes at the Arts and Crafts Society Annual Exhibition, one of which was subsequently purchased by Queen Alexandra and now resides in the Royal Collections. Another of her decorative furniture designs, a card table (top) decorated with figures denoting the suites, which probably dates from about the same period, was offered for sale by Salisbury auctioneers, Wooley & Wallis, in June 2008. A further decorative wooden mirror frame design was exhibited at the National Schools of Art Competition in 1914, alongside another of her decorative painted make-up boxes. According to a newspaper article of the time, upon the recommendation of the Arts Section of the Board of Trade, further examples of her work were sent for display at the 1913 Ghent International Exposition (World Fair) in Belgium.

By the end of the First World War she had moved to Petersfield and been drawn into the orbit of Dr. Harry Roberts and his artistic circle of friends, who resided at nearby Oakshott.

This map of Eton College was designed and published in about 1937 at the so-called “Petersfield Workshops”. The Workshops were essentially another incarnation of the Petersfield Bookshop. Initially located at the same address, Number One, the Square, Petersfield, a beautiful half-timbered medieval property on the corner of the town’s central square, it is interesting to note that on Wagstaff’s 1922 map of the town, the Workshops by then appear to have expanded to incorporate two locations in the town: one at the bookshop, established four years earlier, and the second location just off the High Street, opposite the Red Lion public house.

Wagstaff was one of the directors of the Petersfield Bookshop which had first been established in 1918 by London East End medic and owner of the local estate of Oakshott, Dr Harry Roberts [1871-1946], together with his close friend, the artist Flora Twort [1893-1985]. The shop was managed by Roberts’ secretary, Marie Brahms [1880-1948].

Roberts had owned a practice in Cornwall which he sold in 1904 and two years later moved to a large practice in Hartford Street, Stepney, in the heart of London’s East End. In 1908 Roberts decided to build a new house on 34 acres of land at Oakshott Hanger in Froxfield, some four miles north of Petersfield. As part of the project, Roberts also constructed a series of huts in the grounds of his new house, to provide weekend retreats offering a sample of the simple country life. When this project failed, the huts were offered as a rural sanitorium for Roberts’ East End TB patients, who, unsurprisingly, hated the quiet rural surroundings and quickly returned to London. The huts in turn became a sort of bohemian haven for Roberts’ wide circle of artistic, literary and political friends and acquaintainces, who would often gather at Oakshott for weekend house parties.

Although already married, Roberts’ long-term housekeeper at Oakshott was Winifred Louise Stamp [1882-1948], another accomplished artist and miniaturist, and daughter of Hampstead chemist & druggist, Edward Blanchard Stamp [1834-1908] and his wife, Alice (née Peters) [1847-1921]. She subsequently became his lifelong companion, living with him for many years as his wife and, after his death, publishing his “unorthodox” biography, entitled Doctor Himself [Hamish Hamilton, London 1949]. She sadly passed away just two years after Roberts, in July 1948.

Winifred Stamp had exhibited numerous pieces at the Royal Academy and Royal Miniaturist Society in the late 1890s and early 1900s and subsequently taught Art at the Regent Street Polytechnic, where one of her pupils had been the talented Hester Wagstaff. It was through Hester’s friendship with fellow-artist, Flora Twort that this Peterfield group had coalesced, when, after the end of World War One, Flora also relocated to Oakshott and then settled in Petersfield itself.

The circumstances of the establishment of the Petersfield Bookshop are recounted in Roberts’ biography, when Flora and Harry made a shopping trip from Oakshott shortly after the end of the war. Whilst doing his shopping, Roberts became increasingly frustrated to realise that in a place the size of Petersfield, it was actually “impossible to buy a serious book”.

Why not start a bookshop? said Flora, who had long had this project in mind. Many marketable books could be supplied from our own (Oakshott’s) shelves; Hester Wagstaff was an accomplished jeweller; Flora Twort a first-rate portraitist in black and white and colour, as well as a good all round artist, and Marie Brhams had good experience of organising and secretarying as well as a knowledge and love of books….The only question seemed to be the premises….

They did not have to look far, as at the corner of the Square, in an excellent situation, stood two empty shops; part of an old building with an overhanging upper story and high tiled roof…

As Winifred Stamp elaborates, with a low rent and a favourable lease, and through careful & sympathetic restoration, which included stripping back the facades, demolishing many of the internal Victorian room partitions and opening up the upper roof space and attic rooms, with their attractive dormer windows, the new bookshop soon became the “cultural centre” of Petersfield. It continued to attract many artistic friends and acquantainces, including novelist Neville Shute and artist Stanley Spencer, who painted several of his works in Flora Twort’s converted studio on the first floor of the bookshop in the early 1920s.

It is known that in 1919 and 1920, Harry Roberts and the other Bookshop directors placed advertisements in numerous leading national magazines promoting the “Petersfield Workshops” as an outlet for high quality modern design and furniture by leading contemporary craftsmen and artisan workers, specifying the need for “well-made objects of beauty and utlity”.  Taking a 25% commission on any sales they appealed particularly to “picture- framers, toy-makers , brass and copper workers and makers of cabinets and small furniture”. So the bookshop served as an outlet not only for books, but for Flora Twort’s portraits and paintings, Hester Wagstaff’s jewellery and decorative boxes and furniture pieces, as well as other carefully selected items made by leading designers and craftsmen of the day.

As Winifred Stamp explains in her biography of Roberts….“for a long time all Harry’s spare moments were spent in tracking down and getting in touch with makers and importers of every kind of goods – china and glass; stuffs and embroideries; metal work and woods. The only rule we ever made in buying was never to purchase anything which we would not have bought for our own use or pleasure.”

Wagstaff’s map of Eton shows the School campus with its central core of town buildings north of the Thames and the Barnes Pool Bridge. The School was originally founded by King Henry VI in 1450, his statue in the School Yard, appearing as an inset on the right of the map, above a view of nearby Windsor Castle and below a decorative trio of Coats of Arms, including the royal coat of arms belonging to Henry VI and those of Eton itself. The latter were granted by Henry in January 1449 and feature the quartered Royal leopard passant & French fleur-de-lys above three white lilies, the flower of the Virgin Mary, to whom the school was dedicated and symbol of eternal purity. The map itself is bordered in the West and East by the lines of the Great Western Railway and Southern Electric Railway. South Meadow marks its southern limits whilst Mesopotamia, Willow Brook and  Agar’s Plough mark the northern boundaries of the map.

A unit of the school’s Junior Training Corps (JTC) can be seen marching over the Barnes Pool Bridge. The JTC had been established in 1859 as a volunteer militia when the threat of war with Napoleon III’s France loomed large. It was notable for its distinctive grey uniform which endured until the First World War, when replaced by one of a mulberry colour.

Immediately behind the JTC can be seen the School Stores, one of a series of commercial ventures run by a committee of Masters, including a Bat shop (for all types of sports gear), jewellers, shoe shop, grocery department and sock shop (sweets). The funds raised from these ventures have traditionally been used to fund the purchase of new sports equipment and various other improvements.

Directly to the north along the High Street can be seen the School Chapel and the School Yard with the buildings of the Upper School on its Western side, said to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren. On the Yard’s north side, the Long Chamber, part of the original early 16th Century buildings constructed by Provost Roger Lupton, also commemorated in the magnificent twin-turreted Lupton’s Tower on the East side of the Yard, which houses the school clock and dates from 1507. It is also depicted in a separate inset lower left. On the Western side of the High Street, many of the the  School Houses, including Jourdelays, the first proper boarding house of the School, established in 1722, and the renowned school institution, the Eton Society (or Debating Society) known as Pop, the name probably derived from the Latin name popina, a pastry cook’s shop. Founded in 1811, the Society originally met at Mrs Hatton’s sock (cake) shop. Moving further up the High Street, on the left, the School Hall and dome of the School Library, adjacent to the three-way junction with Common Lane and Slough Road, marked by the distinctive features of the Burning Bush, a name derived from a curious lamp-post with wrought-iron foliage erected in 1864. To the left of these, many of the now numerous School houses between Common Lane & Judy’s Passage and Eton Wick Road. On the Eastern side of Common Lane, the buildings of the New School, with the Gymnasium, Fives Courts, School Stires, Mechanics Building and Drawing Schools beyond.

Backing on to the Drawing Schools, the River Jordan, which dissects the School Fields, separating Mesopotamia from The Field or Sixpenny, also known as the Timbralls. The name Timbralls derives from its original name in the 15th Century, when a wood store was located on the site. It is also the name of one of the adjacent School houses. The Field is, of course, the principal location for the playing of the famous Field Game, a peculiarly distinctive hybrid of football and rugby played only at Eton and which originally took shape in the early 19th Century. Comprising teams of seven players, the goals resemble those used in hockey but without the nets. It has a complicated set of rules and strange assortment of names: the scrum between the two teams is known as a Bully, supported by four Behinds, Flying Man, Short, Long and Goals; a scoring system known as Rouges; and rules which include offences such as Sneaking and Furking. Wagstaff shows the two teams facing each other off after a Bully and a Rouge (goal), the attacking side now forming a (battering) ram – represented by the ram’s head above the goalposts – to force the ball once more through the opponents’ goal, thereby adding an additional point to their score.

Nearby, across the Slough Road, on the College Field, Wagstaff depicts another of Eton’s most peculiar and distinctive sports: the Wall Game, located on a pitch directly adjacent to the Wall running along the roadside, and from which the game derives its name. The pitch is some 110 yards long but only seven yards wide, a furrow marking the touchline along its southern boundary, with the two goals being formed by the gate of the Lower Master’s Garden at the western end (Good Calx) and, at the other, by the trunk of a large tree, adjacent to the Fellows’ Pond (Bad Calx). Probably derived from the Field Game during the 18th Century, with some of the same rules and terminology, the object of the Wall game is, through a series of three Bullies, some comprising the heaviest and largest players wearing elaborately padded gear to protect themselves from close contact with the brickwork, others shoving and battering, to move the ball up or down the field to the areas known as Good and Bad Calx and then try and score through a series of “shies”, the equivalent of a rugby try. The ball can either by moved forward or backward within the writhing scrimmages and massed bodies of the Bullies or by dribbling and kicking it in more open field play or alternatively by simply kicking the ball off the field, when a new Bully is formed against the Wall, opposite the spot where the ball originally went out of play.

The most significant fixtures in both the Field Game and Wall Game calendar take place on St. Andrew’s Day each year.

Another of Eton’s long-established field sports was beagling, the first official pack of hounds being sanctioned in 1854 and entirely managed by the boys. A pack can be seen in full flight running across the northern edge of Mesopotamia with one of the huntsmen.

To the East of the Field and College Field and across the Fifteen Arch Bridge, lie further playing fields, reserved for school cricket, one of Eton’s oldest established sports and mentioned for the first time in the school records in 1706. Here are the Upper Club and, across the Willow Brook, Agar’s Plough, originally acquired by the School in 1895, and where the XI usually play from June 4th onwards.

June 4th has always been the most important Festival in the Eton calendar, the birthday of King George III and one of the School’s most significant benefactors. It is the day on which the school is invaded by crowds of parents, relatives, friends and onlookers. The celebrations are punctuated by a procession through the town streets, speeches & official ceremonies, and much sport, including cricket and rowing, most notably the Procession of the Boats, and with the day usually culminating in a spectacular fireworks display. Wagstaff depicts one of the boats from the Fourth of June Procession in the lower image, the ten-man crew (should it not be eight?) in striped shirts and flower-topped boaters, the cox in traditional naval uniform and holding a bunch of flowers, all standing upright in the boat, according to long-established tradition.

A second Eton coat of Arms embellishes the title cartouche lower right, with the school motto (Floreat Etona) and two supporters, figures, one in top hat and tails, the other in medieval doublet, presumably representing Eton scholars, past and present.

The map was printed on the presses of the well-known London firm of Emery Walker Ltd.

Wagstaff’s initials appear in the lower left corner, with a capital C marking her copyright of the map.

The map was used as decorative endpapers to B J W Hill’s Eton Medley [Winchester Publications, London, 1948]

Wagstaff herself continued to work at the Petersfield Bookshop until the deaths of both Maria Brahms & Winifred Stamp in June & July 1948 respectively. In the 1939 Census all three are recorded living at Oakshott but after the war Wagstaff appears to have moved to No.2 Sheep Street in the centre of Petersfield.

Along with Roberts, Twort and Stamp and fellow local artist, Graily Hewitt, Wagstaff was instrumental in the foundation of the Petersfield Arts & Crafts Society in 1934.

Like Marie Brahms and Flora Twort, she was also an actively involved in the local amateur dramatics and theatrical productions, most notably with the Steep Shakespeare Players, painting much of the scenery for their post-war productions.

During the late 1930s and 1940s she also found a second career as a children’s book author and illustrator, producing several popular works, including The Doings of Dicky Daw [1939], The Tale of the Jolly Robin [1945], The Story of Fuzzy Wuzzy and Woolly Wonder [1946], The Adventures of Velvet [1947], The Tale of Two Jolly Robins [1947], The Adventures of Velvet and Vicky [1950], and The Tale of the Jolly Robin Family [1950].

Hester Wagstaff died suddenly at her home in Sheep Street on January 27th 1953.

Examples of both of Wagstaff’s maps are very scarce: to our knowledge, her 1922 Petersfield map is known in just the single example now in the David Rumsey Collection, whilst the Eton map is only infrequently offered on the market.

Refs:

Alice Munroe-Faure: Flora Twort – A Peterfield Artist [Hampshire Papers No.7, Hampshire County Council, 1995]

Winifred Stamp: “Doctor Myself” – An Unorthodox Biography of Harry Roberts 1871-1946 [Hamish Hamilton, London, 1949]

Eton College Online Collections

Postscript

During our research, a previously unknown connection appears to have come to light between Hester Wagstaff and another well-known female artist and pictorial mapmaker, Cecily Peele [1892-1984], eccentric owner of Oxford’s Alley Workshops and notable for her fine pictorial map of Oxford, c.1930. She was the subject of our 2017 blog. Evidently close contemporaries, it is possible they studied together as young art students at the London Polytechnic in the years just prior to World War One and subsequently became close friends. What is known is that Cecily Peele moved into Hester’s former home, No.2 Sheep Street in Petersfield, at some point in the mid 1950’s. It is possible Hester bequeathed the property to Cecily in her will following her death in 1953. Cecily is certainly listed there in 1960. It would remain Cecily’s home until she eventually moved into a Liss nursing home shortly prior to her death in June 1984, aged 92.