There is something magical about the way illustration can conjure up a feeling that often photographs can’t. Ronald Lampitt was such an illustrator. Little has been written about him, but his work has touched many people. If you were brought up on Ladybird books then you would have seen it. He pursued his craft for five decades creating a highly romanticised view of post war rural Britain, on railway posters, books and magazine covers, where local shops and communities were cherished and the customs and character of our countryside were fiercely preserved.
This is a book that means a lot to me…
The Odhams Encyclopaedia for Children was given to me in the 50’s and I still have it. I would spend hours ogling the many different styles of illustration. The book inspired me to pursue a life in the creative world; simply through looking at the illustrations, I don’t think I read any part of it. Ronald Lampitt was one of the 30 illustrators involved in the creation of the book. He, like the others, was a humble ‘commercial illustrator’, as they were then called.
I came across these 1950’s John Bull magazines with covers illustrated by Lampitt. They exemplify his Betjemanesque vision of an England with its bicycles, bobbies, friendly postmen, the smell of Sunday roast, newly mown lawns and the distant sound of leather on willow on a lazy summer’s day.
He captured all that perfectly and beautifully. And his covers for John Bull throughout the 50s helped cheer up the still rationed burdened families that made up post war Britain. His springs were budding with the zest of new life. His summers were leisurely, lazy and hot, crunchy autumnal days were filled with the scent of burning leaves, and his winters were always topped off with a blanket of crisp snow.
When not in London I live in Dorset. Ten miles north of me is the new estate of Poundbury, the brainchild of non other than HRH Prince Charles. While on a visit to the US in the 80s he had seen the retro timber clad, apple pie oceanside town of Seaside in Florida…
Cheap, unimaginative design seems to be the alternative. Why do we find it so difficult to embrace modern domestic architecture in this country? Why is it that planning departments in most local authorities actively support pastiches of the past and condemn any advancement in domestic architectural design? Go to Holland and see how they tackle the issue.
But from what I have discovered, Poundbury is a huge success. As I write it is tripling in size. Houses sell the moment they become available. But strangely, when you visit, there is a complete absence of people interacting in a ‘normal' village-life way, unlike the classic organic village populated by generations of families creating the real backbone of village life. Poundbury may look the business with its thatch, stonework, porticos and a random juxtaposition and size realationship, but at its heart, it is not. The same concept could have been used featuring a really exciting range of modern archetecture. Now that would have been something. But who knows perhaps in a hundred years or more Poundebury might be viewed differently.
If you’d like to know more about Ronald Lampitt’s work and life, or see the work of other illustrators of the 50s and 60s, go across to Steve Holland's very informative site here.