About Britain

Dust jacket of W. G. Hoskins, 'About Britain No. 8: East Midlands and the Peak' (Collins / Festival of Britain: London, 1951)

Geoffrey Grigson (ed.), About Britain Guides, 1951 These books are from a set of thirteen travel guides published in parallel with the Festival of Britain. They were edited by poet, author, and naturalist Geoffrey Grigson. Grigson also wrote two volumes himself: West Country and Wessex. As with the examples shown here and other aspects of […]

Strawcraft Symbols

Fred Mizen, Strawcraft heart made for the Festival of Britain (MERL 52/73)

Fred Mizen, ‘Corn Dolly’ sculptures, 1951 Straw craftsman Fred Mizen made various sculptures for the Festival of Britain, including a large and much-celebrated Lion and Unicorn for the pavilion of the same name. As well as his sizeable designs, he also contributed a smaller series for the ‘Country’ pavilion. These were were displayed upstairs, tucked […]

Festival of Punch

Cover of Punch, 'The Festival of Punch: 1851-1951', 30 April 1951, featuring comical take on Abram Games' Festival of Britain logo

Punch, ‘The Festival of Punch: 1851-1951’, 30 April 1951 Punch, or the London Charivari was a long-running satirical magazine, which poked fun at contemporary society and culture. The cover of this issue offered an amusing take on the famous Festival of Britain logo, with Britannia’s head replaced by the features of Punch. With its roots […]

Fertile Soils

Spine view of Frank Newman Turner, Fertility Farming (London: Faber and Faber, 1951)

Frank Newman Turner, Fertility Farming (London: Faber and Faber, 1951) This book is one of a range of mid-century texts that introduced a wider readership to the emerging ideas of organic farming. Its author, F. Newman Turner, was a farmer and journalist who would later go on to work in herbal medicine. Fertility Farming owes […]

Town and Country

Cover from Clough Williams-Ellis, ‘Town and Country Planning’, 1951 (MERL Lib Pamphlet 2860 BOX 01/18)

Clough Williams-Ellis, Town and Country Planning (British Council, 1951) This pamphlet was the eighteenth in a series of booklets published under the auspices of the British Council. Called The Arts in Britain, these provided accessible summaries concerning different aspects of British cultural life, including architecture, art, music, drama, poetry, dance, film, design, and other forms […]

Countryside Cartoons

Michael O'Connell, Cartoon design for Diversity of British Farming artwork, Yorkshire panel (MERL 2009/64/5)

Michael O’Connell, Diversity of British Farming designs, circa 1950 These seven cartoons by artist Michael O’Connell were scaled-up to create a stunning artwork for the Country pavilion at the Festival of Britain. The finished textile panels from this can be seen here. In order to develop his designs, O’Connell travelled around observing and sketching to […]

Making Hurdles

This brake was used by a hurdlemaker when making wooden gate hurdles. It consists of a complex wooden frame supporting a toothed iron jaw. It was acquired from the 1951 Festival of Britain. Hurdle maker's brake (MERL 52/36)

Hurdle maker’s brake, circa 1951 This brake provided a frame on which to construct wattle hurdles from hazel rods. It is thought to have been displayed at the Festival of Britain. In the early 1950s, handmade hurdles were still in use for penning livestock but were becoming less common. Lightweight metal gates were growing in […]

Making a Museum

Detail of the final page of a draft, typewritten article by John Higgs entitled 'Making a Museum'

John Higgs, Making a Museum (edited proof, 1951) This draft, typewritten article details reflections on the formation of The MERL from one of its founders, the first Keeper, John Higgs. By his own admission, the Museum was destined to be ‘strange by normal concepts’ and geared towards gathering material to research the ‘far-reaching changes’ seen […]

Domestic Flowerpot

Quentin Bell, Decorated plant pot, 1951 (MERL 2010/69)

Quentin Bell, Decorated plant pot, 1951 This pot was made by Quentin Bell, the acclaimed art historian, academic, writer, and potter. It was produced in 1951 and dedicated to a member of household staff at a sprawling Sussex farmhouse called Charleston. It was in this rural locale that the maker’s parents—the painter Vanessa Bell and […]

Birds and Men

Detail of title page of Edward Max Nicholson, Birds and Men (London: Collins, 1951)

Edward Max Nicholson, Birds and Men (London: Collins, 1951) Published in 1951 and penned by conservationist Max Nicholson, Birds and Men was the seventeenth volume in the Collins New Naturalist series and the first of these influential texts to focus on birdlife. This iconic series is said to be the longest running of its kind, […]

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