Summer 2014 Newsletter

Summer 2014

2014 is proving to be another good year for MacDonald Gill fans with two exhibitions to visit.  Opening on August 9th is a two-week exhibition in Briantspuddle, Dorset, to celebrate the centenary of Ernest Debenham’s Bladen Estate project, entailing the construction of a experimental dairy farm with state-of-the-art facilities together with modern – yet traditionally-styled - housing for the farm workers.  Although Halsey Ricardo was the lead architect, setting the style and layout of the model farm and village, Max was the architect-in-residence from its inception in 1914 until 1919, designing many of the buildings and overseeing the construction work.   His innovative silo designs were singled out for praise in a review of architecture at a Royal Academy exhibition: ‘In a place with such a name as Briantspuddle, Mr Gill could, admittedly, not be too austere.  He had to put little pointed roofs on his forms and give the spectator a clue to tack them on to – oast-houses, peel-towers or something recognised as picturesque ... this slight, remote piece of architecture is, to our mind, the finest piece of architecture in the Exhibition’.  Included in the displays at Briantspuddle will be original photos and watercolour plans of Bladen Estate buildings drawn up by Max.  For exhibition info see Events).  You can discover more about the estate’s history on the village website:



The second show – Maps to Memorials: Discovering the Work of MacDonald Gill - is at the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Centre located in the Victorian surroundings of Snape Maltings, home of the Aldeburgh Festival.  It opens on 15th August just a week after the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and will include a display focusing on the military headstone for which Max designed the alphabet and regimental badges in 1917.  You’ll also be able to see a selection of Max’s map posters, several items of calligraphy, including the Burgh Missal mentioned in an earlier newsletter, various graphic designs and the artwork for a number of memorials.


A titbit for those of you interested in Max's private life. His love interest during 1914 was Esther, daughter of his architect friend,  Halsey Ricardo.  Nine years his junior and a Biology student at University College, she was a spirited and independent girl with a love of animals and a great sense of humour.  An ardent supporter of women’s suffrage, she even managed to entice a reluctant Max to a meeting where, according to his diary, he ’at length, after doubts – signed (the) membership form’. Well done Esther!  Her donkey and trap (with Max driving) can be found on the Wonderground map.                                                                                                            

Earlier this month I was alerted by a MacDonald Gill aficionado to a fascinating article on Lindisfarne Castle in Country Life (July 9), which included 2 photos of Max’s fabulous wind-indicator (1913) showing the defeat of the Spanish Armada, one of which was a magnificent double-page spread.  Do get hold of a copy if you can.

In June I tracked down two memorial commissions done for the Hatfeild-Harter family in the ancient village church of St Peter & St Paul at Cranfield, near Bedford.  What would I do without the internet?  Recorded in Max’s ledger and workbook in 1913, both commemorate James Francis Hatfeild-Harter, deputy lieutenant of the county and owner of Cranfield Court, a grand house now sadly demolished.   The first was a bronze plaque (pictured) and the second, carved by Max’s brother Eric Gill or perhaps his assistant Joseph Cribb, is in white marble framed in green.      



Sat 9th - Sat 23rd August.  Briantspuddle Centenary Exhibition in the Village Hall, Briantspuddle, Dorset DT2 7HT.  Open 1pm-4pm weekdays and 10am-4pm weekends.  Free Admission.  Refreshments available.  On 21st August 7.30pm Caroline Walker, Andrew and Angela Johnston will give a talk on the life and work of MacDonald Gill in the Hall.


Fri 15th August – Sat 12th November.  Exhibition: Maps to Memorials: Discovering the Work of MacDonald Gill at the Lettering Arts Centre, Snape Maltings, Suffolk IP17 1SP. Opening times: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 11am until 5pm. If you make a special journey to see the show on a 'closed' day, please ring the doorbell and if someone's there, you’ll be very welcome to view the exhibition.


Fri 5th September.  Chichester Literary Society.  7.00 for 7.30pm. Talk by Caroline Walker on ‘The Life & Work of MacDonald Gill’ with special focus on Gill’s Chichester connections, and his illustration/ graphic design for printers & publishers.  St George’s Church Hall, Chichester. Cleveland Rd, Chichester PO19 7AD.


Wed 15th October. London Ashridge Society.  7pm. Talk by Caroline Walker on ‘The Life & Work of MacDonald Gill’.  Trafalgar Room, Victory Services Club, Seymour St., London  W2 2HF.


The Map that Saved the Underground

On 10th January the BBC web magazine published 'The Map that saved the Underground', an illustrated essay by Emma Jane Kirby, who used Max's Wonderground Map of London Town as her focus to explore the pre-war world of 1914 London.   That evening Emma read the article as 'The Essay' on Radio 3.  You can find the article at: