Ernest Clegg Sussex 1945
- Author: CLEGG, Ernest Costain
- Publisher: John Waddington Limited, Leeds
- Date: 1945
- Dimensions: sheet: 57 x 45 cms / map: 54 x 40 cms (max)
Decorative map of Sussex  by Ernest Clegg, one of the first of a series published to raise funds for the Women’s Land Army
About this piece:
Printed colour. Wide margins. Fine condition.
April 1945 edition of this this highly decorative county map of Sussex, one of the earliest to be printed in this 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). He first emigrated to the US before World War One. At the outbreak of war he returned home to take an officer’s commission with the Bedfordshire Regiment in late 1914 and saw action on the Western Front, where he was badly wounded in a German artillery bombardment on the Somme in June 1916. After recovery & demobilisation, he returned to the United States in 1919, pursuing an increasingly successful career as 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 once again, in late 1944. He briefly settled in Bournemouth, where he set up an artist & map-making studio in the final months of the war. In 1945, following the advent of peace, 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 & inflows of much-needed hard currency, not least the dollars of former wartime GIs & equally affluent fellow Americans 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. These two Rest homes were a gift from the British War Relief Society of America and resulted directly from Lady Denman’s personal campaigning & intervention. 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 1946 Honours list.
On the map itself, Clegg focuses on the fruit & agricultural production of the county, highlighting apple orchards, tomatoes and corn and milk production in West Sussex and sheep, fat cattle, flax, hops and “a mile of potatoes” (just north of Brighton) in East Sussex. A note indicates that Sussex’s doubled its arable acreage during the course of the War and also increased the size of its dairy herd. A further note west of Rye highlights the fact that this area achieved a record wartime yield of two tons of wheat per acre in harvesting cornfields of 406 acres. Attractive pictorial vignettes depict Sussex’s great historic towns, castles and country houses, including Chichester, Pevensey Castle, Lewes Castle, Arundel Castle and Bodiam Castle. Reference to recent wartime events includes a superb vignette of the D-Day Armada of June 1944, including floating concrete sections of the two “Mulberry” Harbours that would be built in the ensuing days on the Normandy landing beaches. Another detail shows “Flying Bomb Alley”, the pathway frequently taken by the infamous German V1 rockets (“doodlebugs”) over Hastings and the South Downs, northwards into neighbouring Kent and London, from the summer of 1944 onwards.
The map is dedicated to Lady Gertrude Denman [1884-1954], Honorary Director of the WLA, whose coat of arms appears lower right with accompanying note. Born Gertrude (Trudie) Pearson, daughter of Weetman Pearson, later Lord Cowdray, an active supporter of women’s suffrage and Annie Cass, a charitable worker and active member of the Women’s Liberal Foundation, it is hardly suprising her life should be one steeped in political and social campaigning. The Cowdrays held extensive estates in West Sussex, so it is fitting that Clegg should draw the connection between Lady Denman and her native county. In 1903 she had married the Liberal Peer, Thomas, Baron Denman, who was subsequently appointed Governor General of Australia in 1911. It was Lady Denman who would officially name the new Australian capital, Canberra, in 1913. She was a pioneering campaigner for women’s rights and gender equality throughout her life and held numerous important and influential appointments. Following its formation in 1917, she was elected Chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes serving in that role until her retirement in 1946. She was also first Chairman of the Family Planning Association; President of the Ladies’ Golf Union and a Director of the Westminster Press. She was appointed Honorary Director of the WLA in 1939 and her home, Balcombe Place near Haywards Heath, became the WLA wartime headquarters whilst she became an extremely active & hands-on Director. She supervised most day-to-day aspects of the Land Army’s operations including wartime recruitment, provision of hostel accommodation and welfare facilities and the general management of the duties of the some 200,000 “Land Girls” who served in the period between 1930 and 1950. Lady Denman was a tireless & outspoken champion of the “Land Girls”, and waged continual battles for their proper recognition in the face of a wartime Government who shamelessly refused to award them the grants, gratuities, and benefits which it accorded to women in the civil defence and armed services. Amid widespread strikes & protest and growing frustration at what she saw as Government betrayal, Lady Denman eventually resigned her Directorship of the WLA in protest in February 1945, ironically just two months prior to the publication of this map. This map of Sussex, with that of neighbouring Kent, were amongst the first to be designed by Clegg and published to raise funds for the WLA Benovolent Fund, to which the Government had grudgingly contributed substantial extra funds in the wake of Lady Denman’s resignation & to try and smooth over some of the ill-feeling that even remains to this day over the lack of recognition given to the WLA for their vital role & contribution to the country between 1939 and 1950.