Friday, July 31, 2009

We are one year old with a pictorial cake!

The 1st of August!
One year old today.
Yes, it all began a year ago, I knew that I had started it somewhere around this date but it was not until I checked back that I discovered the actual date. It has been a very interesting time searching through the historical files. Also I wish to thank those good people who have given me quite a lot of help together with old photographs and have been able to supply the facts when required. A great many are like myself found our lives took us away to many of the Commonwealth Country's and even the United States of America. Anyway we will still carry on as I still have a lot more to cover and looking for those who used to live in the Village during the war years.
More yet to come on the Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Sir Roger" The Type 'N' Dennis Fire Engine.

A copy of "Sir Roger."
A Dennis Type 'N' Ladder Pumper unit.

There are no records available at this time as to the whereabouts of this wonderful fire engine today, which served the village of Cookham for so many years. Maybe that someone reading this Blog will have knowledge of this fact. The licence number of YM 9050 I would think would still be with it. I will go into its technical details in another section of this at a later date.

From details that I have been able to glean from other sources the purchace price was somewhere in the region of £875-0-0. It came with three sections of suction hose and filter basket. There was 1000 feet of delivery hose with quick disconnect couplings.

With this unit the members used to do regular practice at various points in the Cookham's. They had a plan worked out on how they would tackle a fire in any of the village buildings should it arise, nothing was left to maybe or chance. The main problem was where they could get their closest water supply, if there was no stand pipe or water main. From all this pre-planning and practice the Cookham Volunteer Fire Brigade entered many competitions and carried off many a shield and cups. They would show off their skills at the annual village Flower Show every year up until the war.

Not only did they serve the village, during the war saw service in both the London and Southampton Blitz. Having solid rubber tyres Sir Roger never suffered from punctures like other units on the scene. Also at harvest time these men during the war turned out to gather in the wheat, oats and barley.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Cookham Volunteer Fire Brigade.

The Cookham Volunteer Fire Brigade.
On the 6th of September 2008 I posted a little history on how the Village Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed. As it looks as if the Village Fire Brigade is to be made redundant, due in some part for the lack of volunteer members to join in and help.
In the photo above is seen at the old Fire Station just behind the White Hart in Terry's Lane, on the occasion of the reception of the new Dennis "N" Type Fire Ladder & Pumper unit.
"Sir Roger" was the name given to the new fire engine in honour of the benefactor who presented it to the village. It became the pride and joy of First Officer Fred Robinson, who ran his own local garage business, and it received all the loving care as if it was part of the family.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back in his Tree Cottage Studio.

Self Portrait at Tree Cottage.
Gilbert Spencer loved to work in his garden studio at Upper Basildon from articles that have been written about him from various sources. I think that most artists try at least once to paint a self portrait during their life time. In this case he did paint two that I know of, but this one at Tree Cottage is a more mature and finished canvas.

The Village Allotments.

There is no known location for the painting of the Village Allotments, they could be anywhere or like his painting of a Cotswold Farmyard, be completed from a series of sketches and completed at his garden studio.

This wraps up what I have on an artist that had to live under the shadow of a famous brother. Still his work and output was not wanting, and I am sure that those who studied under his teaching, received great benefit and knowledge.

Progress of Husbandry.

Progress of Husbandry.
Gilbert painted this picture in 1964 to capture in my belief the passing of some old methods in farming and country ways. The advance in mechinization in farming in the post war period was taking hold very rapidly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tree Cottage, Upper Basildon.

Tree Cottage, Upper Basildon.
In his retiring years, if an artist ever retires? Gilbert Spencer bought a house in Upper Basildon, Berkshire, having moved down from his London home in Hampstead. The house was and is still called "Tree Cottage." It is situated on Bethseda Street.
The Back Garden (a recent photo.)

The back garden as it can be seen today in a very recent photograph. Then there is Gilbert's painting below of the same view a few years before from his little garden studio, which he enjoyed working in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Pencil on Paper.

Pencil on Paper Sketches.
While Gilbert Spencer was working in and around Oxford on various commissions, he did produce quite a few pencil and paper sketches in preparation for a particular work or mural, as in the case of the one at Holywell Manor.

The pair above I believe to be of two Oxford Don’s of that time, but I can’t be sure of their names.

Tolpuddle Martyrs.
Another sketch around the same time is his thoughts on the “The Tolpuddle Martyrs.”
“The Tolpuddle Martyrs,” were a group of 19th century British labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a friendly society and operated as a trade-specific benefit society. But at the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what we now consider to be the predominant role of trade unions. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were subsequently sentenced to transportation to Australia.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Winter scene at St. Bees, Cumbria

St. Bees, Cumbria. (1940)

Toward the end of the 1930's Gilbert Spencer took a teaching post with the Royal Accadamy of Art in London, and with the outbreak of war was evacuated to Ambleside in Cumbria.

While he was there he became friends with Josefina-de-Vasconcellos the sculptor and other friends included the poet Norman Nicholson and the well-known local farmer and breeder of Herdwick sheep Mrs Heelis (Beatrix Potter) before she died in 1943.

It was while here that he did war a certain amount of war artist work for the government, whatever he did was never published and because his expertise was in landscape, it can be assumed that his work followed that of another Cookham Artist, Frank Sherwin.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stadhamton Mill in South Oxfordshire.

Stadhamton Mill 1934-36.
He executed the wall-paintings of the Foundation Legend of Balliol College for Holywell Manor, Oxford in the period 1934-36. Sometime during that period he did the painting above of Stadhamton Mill, in South Oxfordshire.

L ooking over to the Vale at
Compton Abbas.
Again we swing back down to Dorset and the little place of Compton Abbas, close by to the famous beacon and the edge of the Blackmore Vale. Again you can see why Gilbert Spencer was so taken by this area, see the historical reference below:
The year that saw the birth of this village was a year of war for Alfred, but, between nine battles with the Danes, he founded an Abbey at Shaftesbury and made his daughter Abbess. The Abbey was endowed with the rich land around and, at the foot of Melbury Hill, now lies the village we know as Compton Abbas. A place of peace was born in a year of turmoil. The Saxons called it Cumb-Tun (a village in a narrow valley). In the 13th century it became Cumton Abbatisse.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dorset Country

Dorset Country.
It is not unusual for artists, writers and even poets to visit Dorset for their inspiration to complete their work, such as Sir John Betjeman and his poem "Dorset." Also Thomas Hardy who wrote the classics, "The Mayor of Casterbridge." and "Tess of the d'Urbervilles." Climb to the top of Melbury Beacon as seen above and you you out on the whole of "The Blackmore Vale." From this you can see what drew Gilbert Spencer here to paint, or to complete other paintings in this location.

A Cotswold Farmyard.
Here the preliminary work was carried out in that part of Oxfordshire to which he paid frequent visits. Then, as he was prone to doing, it would be put aside and completed in a different location. In this case, in Dorset, according to the records. Once again, one can see a touch of his Slade training in composition coming through.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sashes Island

Sashes Island.
Like his brother, Gilbert Spencer survived his war service and returned to his studies at the Slade in 1919 for a short period, and became a member of the New English Art Club that same year.

Gilbert Spencer’s first solo exhibition was at the Goupil Gallery in early 1923. He also exhibited at the RA, the Leicester Galleries, RSA, and the Redfern Gallery which at that time, the circuit for successful up-and-coming artists.

Painting in oils, with much evidence of muted greys, blues and greens, Gilbert Spencer was primarily a painter of landscapes. He worked mainly in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Dorset and the Lake District.

The landscape of Sashes Island is the only remaining painting of Gilbert Spencer that has come to light in my search for his work in Cookham.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Village from the Moor circa 1920.

The Village from The Moor.
This painting of Gilbert Spencer is down in the collection as “Fearnlea.” This of course is not correct as it depicts the village from the moor, close to the pond that feeds under the road into “The Fleet” and on to Strand water and the Widbrook Stream. My guess it was painted in the 1919-20 period.
It captures two things. One, The Crown Hotel with the Union Jack flying, this of course was before it was destroyed by fire.
Second, the row of posts denoting the raised driveway to the small holding in Marsh Meadow, that was run at one time by Jim Honour, who also had more ground by Lower Road in the Rise.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Village Flower Show

The Village Flower Show.

Another early work of Gilbert Spencer is “The Village Flower Show” The painting is what I would term a mythical village, constructed out of the artist’s imagination.

There is one thing of note in the picture, that of the boy and girl that I remember well when the annual Cookham Flower Show was always held down in Mill Lane. There were show exhibition classes for boys and girls to show and name wild flowers and grasses. This fact was brought to the fore is this work. Again the Slade influence can be seen in the figures in the picture.