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Yorkshire West Riding

  • Author: CLEGG, Ernest
  • Publisher: John Waddington Limited, Leeds
  • Date: 1946
  • Dimensions: 57 x 44.5 cms


Ernest Clegg’s 1946 map of the West Riding of Yorkshire, published to raise money for the Benevolent Fund of Women’s Land Army

About this piece:

Yorkshire West Riding

Printed colour. Wide margins. Slight toning in blank margins where line of old window mount is just visible in lower margin. Slightly browned along top sheet edge. Overall fine condition.

The 1946 edition of this charming & highly decorative map of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It  is amongst the earliest (and most scarce) of 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). 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 post-war economy sought to encourage new 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, as Clegg himself put it, “to set on record the achievements of the English countryside against the background of the war” and in the process 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 outlines the different areas of agricultural production, from Cattle, Sheep and Milk production in the Yorkshire Dales to Cereals, Sugar beet and Potatoes in the fertile river flatlands south of York and East of Wakefield.  In a note on British Farms he indicates that the number of Cows increased by 20% during the War and that the West Riding is the greatest rhubarb growing county in Britain. Reference is also made to the 112 Womens’s Institutes in the West Riding Federation and their valuable contribution to the war effort. Notable local figures from history & literature are also mentioned, including 16th Century explorer & sea captain Martin Frobisher; 17th Century Parliamentarian leader, General Thomas Fairfax; and the Brontë sisters. Inset views depict the ruins of Fountains Abbey (upper left); Temple Newsam Hall (upper right) and the West front of York Minster. Like all of the maps in this series, Clegg incorporates a rousing quotation from one of Winston Churchill’s wartime speeches. This one from his BBC broadcast speech of April 27th 1941 which identified the conflict as a People’s War involving the whole British population and concluded with the following words, which are here inscribed in the upper right of the image: “This indeed is the grand heroic period in our History  and the light of glory shines on all.”

A companion map of the East Riding was also published in 1946 and it is known that a North Riding map was also in preparation in October 1947, though, sadly, it never appears to have been published.

The West Riding map is dedicated to Princess Mary, HRH The Princess Royal [1897-1965], the third child & only daughter of King George V & Queen Mary.

In 1922 she had married the West Yorkshire aristocrat, Viscount Lascelles [1882-1947], the eldest son of the then Earl of Harewood.  Clegg, then working in New York, was commissioned to produce a specially-bound wedding book beautifully inscribed by Clegg in illuminated calligraphy, as a wedding gift for the newly married couple. The gift of two former Royal employees at Sandringham who had subsequently retired to the US, this unique wedding gift is now in the Harewood House collections.

Interestingly one of the few known photographs of Clegg shows him with the then Chairman of the Waddingtons Company (publishers of this Countryman map series) presenting a special copy of the West Riding Map to the Princess Royal during a visit to the Waddingtons’ Factory in Leeds in April 1946.

The map first appeared for sale the following month, when it was described in the Yorkshire Post, as glowing “with the colour of an ancient illuminated manuscript”. The article concluded with the pronouncement that “this map will certainly adorn many a Yorkshire wall”!