- Author: CLEGG, Ernest
- Publisher: Countryman Ltd
- Engraver: John Waddington Ltd, Leeds
- Date: 1946
- Dimensions: Sheet: 57 x 45 cms
Ernest Clegg’s rarely seen, finely engraved & highly decorative map of the County of Somerset, first published in 1946
About this piece:
Printed colour. Wide margins. Fine condition.
Early printing in this highly decorative but 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 a professional calligrapher, graphic artist and cartographer working in New York during the 1920’s and 1930’s. During the Second World War, in 1944, supposedly following the personal intervention of Lord Halifax, the then British Ambassador in Washington, Clegg returned to England in late 1944 and settled briefly in Bournemouth. Soon after the end of the war, he & his wife moved 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), they were all 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 1946 onwards, an edition for overseas markets was also produced, as Britain’s ravaged post-war economy sought much-needed hard currency, not least from the wartime GIs & prospective tourist pockets of her principal wartime ally, the United States.
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 to sustain & support Britain’s wartime 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 in Torquay & Llandudno. The Women’s Land Army was finally disbanded on 30th November 1950. At a final 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 1946 Honours list.
On the map itself, Clegg highlights the different areas of agricultural production throughout Somerset, from barley, stock rearing & Devon cattle and Exmoor sheep in the western uplands of the County to dairy, cheese, cider & strawberries in the east. He further notes that on British farms between 1939 & 1944 the area under the plough increased from nearly 13 million acres to over 19.4 million and that the output of food increased by 70%. In Somerset itself, milk production increased by some 8 million gallons whilst the area under wheat increased fivefold.
The map is dedicated to the Labour MP for Wandsworth Central & wartime Minister of Labour & National Service, Ernest Bevin [1881-1951]
Attractive pictorial vignettes depict the county’s most notable historic buildings, sites and attractions, including Montacute House; Dunster Castle; Abbot’s Kitchen at Glastonbury; the Roman Baths at Bath; Wells Cathedral & Cheddar Gorge. Brief biographical notes reference the County’s most famous historical figures. In common with most of these maps, Clegg includes quotations from Winston Churchill’s wartime speeches, here an extract from the “Blood, Toil, Tears & Sweat” speech to the House of Commons of May 13th 1940, following his acceptance of the King’s commission to become Prime Minister of the country, in succession to Neville Chamberlain. The map is further embellished with a fine compass spur in the Bristol Channel. The map is completed by a surrounding line border interspersed with finely rendered royal & military coats of arms, typical of Clegg’s polished & refined cartographic style.
Refs: Women’s Land Army