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  • Author: CLEGG, Ernest
  • Publisher: Countryman Ltd
  • Engraver: John Waddington Ltd, Leeds
  • Date: 1947
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 44 x 57.5 cms


Decorative map of Oxfordshire [1947], one of a sadly incomplete post-war series by Anglo-American cartographer, Ernest Clegg

About this piece:


Printed colour. Wide margins. Overall fine condition.

The 1947 Overseas edition of this charming & decorative county map of Oxfordshire, one of a sadly incomplete series of post-war English County & regional maps designed and created by the well-known Anglo-American calligrapher and cartographer, Ernest Clegg [1876-1954].

Originally born in Birmingham in 1876 and a graduate of the City’s famous School of Art, Clegg had seen military service in the British Army in both the Boer and First World Wars (see our blog posts). Returning to the United States after World War One, he pursued a successful career as a graphic artist, calligrapher and cartographer in New York during the 1920’s and 1930’s. During the Second World War, supposedly following the personal intervention of Lord Halifax, the then British Ambassador in Washington, the ever-patriotic Clegg returned to England in late 1944 and settled in Bournemouth, where he briefly set up an artist & map-making studio. Soon after the end of the war, he & his wife relocated to the London suburbs.

It was in early 1945 that the so-called Countryman County Map Series was first mooted. Endorsed & copyrighted by the Countryman Magazine and printed by the Leeds games publishers, John Waddington Ltd (of Monopoly fame), all of the maps were designed & drawn by Clegg in collaboration with Donald McCullough [1901-1978], a well-known writer & broadcaster and perhaps most famous as the chairman & compère of the BBC’s immensely popular wartime radio programme, The Brains Trust. From 1947 onwards, an edition for overseas markets was also produced under the auspices of the British Travel Association, as Britain’s heavily indebted & ravaged economy sought to encourage post-war tourist spending & the influx of much-needed hard currency, not least from the pockets of former wartime GIs & affluent new visitors from across the Atlantic.

The principal aim of the maps was in fact to raise money for the Women’s Land Army Benevolent Fund, originally launched in July 1942 under the auspices of the WLA’s Honorary Director, Lady Gertrude Denman. By 1944 some 80,000 Land Girls had been seconded into the farming sector in order to sustain & support Britain’s wartime food & agricultural production on the Home Front. The Benevolent Fund’s “original function was to help volunteers who met with illness or accident, and who were not covered by other forms of help, and to assist with grants or loans for those women intending to remain on the land after the war ended” (Twinch). Fund raising activities continued around the country throughout the wartime period, with local areas and Land Girl hostels often competing against one another to raise the most funds. In 1944, the author, Vita Sackville-West offered all the profits & royalties from her book “The Women’s Land Army” to the Benevolent Fund. Commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, Sackville-West’s book was the first attempt to focus public attention on the WLA’s relatively little-known efforts in both World Wars and to celebrate their organisation, efforts & impact in saving Britain from starvation. Most interestingly perhaps the final chapter of the book envisioned the potential career paths & contributions that its members might make in the peaceful post-war world. In 1945, the British Government provided additional funding to the Fund totalling some £170,000. By 1944, the Benevolent Fund’s services included a WLA Club in London and a Homecraft Training Centre (offering residential courses for retraining &/or for those about to leave the WLA & get married). Special treatments for rheumatic complaints (arising from wartime agricultural work) were also offered, and from 1945, a dedicated Convalescent home & two Rest homes were provided for former wartime workers in Torquay & Llandudno. The Women’s Land Army was finally disbanded on 30th November 1950. At a farewell parade at Buckingham Palace on 21st October 1950, Queen Elizabeth observed that the Land Girls “had obeyed the call of duty in the nation’s hour of great peril and need, and the nation owed them an everlasting debt.”   

Clegg would be honoured for his important work both as cartographer and supporter of the WLA’s Benevolent Fund with the award of an M.B.E in the 1947 New Year’s Honours list.

On the map itself, Clegg highlights the varied areas of agricultural production throughout Oxfordshire, including sheep, corn, potatoes, sugar beet, watercress and, rather unusually, beech timber for chair making and the cultivation of violets (just to the west of Oxford). He further notes that on British farms between 1939 & 1944 the area under the plough increased from nearly 13 million acres to over 19.2 million (he indicated 19.4 million on several of the maps) and that the output of food increased by 70%. According to Clegg, in Oxfordshire, the area under plough was more than doubled during the war years, and despite the loss of 7000 acres for military purposes, the county maintained some 93,000 head of cattle, with WLA developing a “Relief Milking” scheme across Oxfordshire from 1943 onwards.

Attractive pictorial vignettes depict the county’s most notable historic buildings, sites and attractions, including Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford; Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera; Broughton Castle; and two locations intimately connected with Winston Churchill: Blenheim Palace (where he was born in Nov 1874) and Ditchley Park (the estate & home of Conservative MP Ronald Tree (during the war a Junior Minister in the Ministry of Information) where, between 1940 & 1942, Churchill took to spending occasional weekends. American visitors to Ditchley also included such influential figures as Harry Hopkins.) Clegg elaborates on the special precautions that were taken to protect Churchill whilst he was in weekend residence at Ditchley.

 In common with most of these maps, Clegg includes quotations from Winston Churchill’s wartime speeches, here an extract from his address to the joint session of Congress during his Christmas visit to Washington DC  in late December 1941, just three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the United States’ entry into the Second World War. Clegg’s extract is taken from the very opening of Churchill’s speech, which commenced on a suitably light-hearted note, emphasizing his own proud American ancestry and the role played by so many generations of his maternal forebears in the political life of the United States. Expressing the immense thrill of being welcomed into their midst, he further observes that: “If my father had been an American, and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own”. He then proceeded by grimly predicting that Allied forces would require at least 18 months to turn the tide of war and warned that “many disappointments and unpleasant surprises await us.” At the conclusion of the 30 minute address he flashed the V sign and departed amid thunderous applause.

Other embellishments include lines from John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, a poem that particularly resonated with Clegg, given his deep-seated patriotism & his own personal experiences as a British army officer on the Western Front in World War One. Clegg had produced a beautifully illustrated limited edition of McCrae’s work as a special Christmas gift given to the friends and associates of New York publisher, William E Rudge in 1921.

A further panel highlight the vital role played by Prof Sir Howard Florey & the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford in the initial development and subsequent roll out of penicillin in the treatment of war  wounds on battlefronts all around the world. Reference is also made to locations in Oxfordshire associated with the events of World War Two. Further annotations highlight some of the county’s most famous  sons, including artist William Morris and Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, GCB.

Above the map title Clegg includes a fine panoramic view of Oxford’s “dreaming spires” with the adjacent insignia of the County’s two Army Regiments, the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

The map is dedicated to Sir A P Herbert [1890-1971], a well-known humorist novelist & law reformer, who served as an independent Member of Parliament for the Oxford University constituency from 1935 to 1950 (when university constituencies were finally abolished.)

The decoration is completed by a surrounding line border interspersed with equally finely rendered royal & military coats of arms, typical of Clegg’s polished & refined design style.

Refs: Women’s Land Army