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  • Author: CLEGG, Ernest
  • Publisher: Countryman Ltd
  • Engraver: John Waddington Ltd, Leeds
  • Date: 1946
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 44 x 57.5 cms


Decorative map of Wiltshire [1946], one of a sadly incomplete post-war series by Anglo-American cartographer, Ernest Clegg

About this piece:


Printed colour. Wide margins. Some light soiling along left sheet edge & light scattered foxing to upper blank margin. Overall fine condition.

1946 edition of this charming & decorative county map of Wiltshire, 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 1946 Honours list.

On the map itself, Clegg highlights the different areas of agricultural production throughout Wiltshire, including dairy farming, bacon production, market gardening and watercress cultivation.  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 Wiltshire, one of the primary centres of wartime military training for both British and Allied forces, whilst over a quarter of the county was taken over for military purposes, the output of bread corn increased threefold and milk production of 1 million gallons a week was maintained.

Attractive pictorial vignettes depict the county’s most notable historic buildings, sites and attractions, including Malmesbury & Lacock Abbeys, Wilton House & Salisbury Cathedral. In a further pictorial vignette, Clegg references the colloquial name given to the inhabitants of Wiltshire, Moonrakers, one which apparently dates back to the 18th Century when Wiltshire’s rural inhabitants were actively involved in concealing illegal contraband brought ashore by smugglers along the English South coast. Submersing barrels of smuggled brandy in local village ponds, the story goes that, one night, under the light of a full moon, a group of local villagers were caught red-handed  by the county excise men. Pointing at the moon’s reflection in the water & maintaining the pretence of being but simple country folk, the villagers explained that they were using their rakes to try and retrieve a round yellow cheese (the moon) from the waters of the pond. The excise men, all too easily taken in by the supposed simpletons’ explanation, soon moved off, leaving the last laugh to the Wiltshire “moonrakers”.

Brief biographical notes reference the County’s most famous literary & historical figures, including Jethro Tull & Sir Christopher Wren.

Another panel provides notes on the invaluable contribution made by the over 6500 members of Wiltshire’s 154  Women’s Institutes during the wartime years, highlighting their support of families, children and workers from bombed-out urban centres, and the manner in which they helped to sustain market garden production and establish cooperative market stalls.

In common with most of these maps, Clegg includes quotations from Winston Churchill’s wartime speeches, here an extract from his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in March 1945, highlighting the importance of agricultural production in post-war government policy: The record of the agricultural industry in increasing food production and helping to save vital shipping marks a grand attribution to our survival….It would be madness indeed to cast away the increased food production which has been achieved in war.

Appropriately, the map is dedicated to the Rt Hon R. S Hudson M.P, The wartime Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, 1940-45

The map is further embellished with a fine sunrise panorama of Stonehenge above the map title and numerous coats of arms.

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