Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Sandersons Wallpaper and Me

Just thrilled when I found a sample of this wallpaper from Sanderson's notable Palladio collection featured in World of Interiors March issue. I had longed to see it again because it resonates with my childhood at Dovercourt, the primary department of Portsmouth High School. It was an amiable gothicky building designed by architect Thomas Ellis Owen who added such distinction to Southsea in the mid 19th century.  

In the late 1950s I was amazed to find the Lower 2nd classroom had been converted into a restroom papered with this incredibly exciting design.  Moreover one wall was painted in a coordinating soft tangerine and the skirting boards in that putty colour.  Rather grandly at the age of nine,  I congratulated the art teacher on her inspired decorating instincts!   Miss Walden - a great woman with a matching putty coloured complexion, short hair, strong shoes and the kindest nature. I loved her.  I had plenty of time to savour the scheme when I was consigned to a little lie down in the restroom one day.  I had a dizzy spell. Probably a sugar rush from eating too many liquorice pipes at break-time.

But guess what, when I introduced my daughter to my old school in the early 80s, I raced up to the same room and found it still intact.  And Miss Walden still on the teaching staff.  This was the first of many nostalgia attacks about the 50s. 

The designer, Walter Hoyle was an artist and printmaker (1922-2000)  who was strongly influenced by his tutor Edward Bawden at the Royal College of Art.  Indeed he became part of the Great Bardfield  group of which Bawden was the doyen.  Including one of my favourites, Eric Ravilious, it was a brilliant school of figurative artists and illustrators (very much in contrast with the St. Ive's painters)  and  I have always felt that their aesthetic nailed the quintessence of Englishness.  

Here are some of Hoyle's block prints from the mid 1960s of Cambridge University. The images come from the Government Art Collection's website, worth a look in itself. (Although the site appears to be  under construction you can still search the collection.)

King's College

King's Chapel Porch


Senate House

St John's College

Wren Chapel Emmanuel College

Below:  more of the Sanderson Palladio collection courtesy of W of I.   

'Very Sanderson - 150 Years of English Decoration' runs at the Fashion  and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey St, London SE1  19 March - 13 June.


  1. Wonderful post, Rose, wonderful. We have two framed London Transport posters from about the same time. The pity of it is that we are not coming over until after the exhibition ends as I would love to see it. I'll order the catalogue.

  2. Thanks IDT!

    Blue, I thought this might resonate with you. So you are coming over,eh?
    Can I be one of your tourist must-sees?

  3. Pure enchantment. The unicorns resonate. My little neighbor girl had such a fondness for them. She and her best friend made up all sorts of wonderful games about them. One day while I was gardening in my front yard, she ran up to me with tears telling me her best friend, now 11, no longer believed in unicorns and couldn't believe how much time of her childhood she had WASTED on them. "How could anyone not believe in unicorns?" she wailed. Now at 13, so totally cool herself, I hope the unicorn is still it is with you.

  4. Home, I like this design for having two unicorns instead of one being a lion!

    Blue: I'll send a brochure!

  5. Those prints would make nice book covers as well.
    Has Brian Wildsmith ever made any wallpapers?

  6. rurritable, thank you for directing me to the dazzling Wildsmith illustrations and reminding me why I always loved his work. I like that speckly spattery effect he uses and the graphic lines generally. Deliciously 60s.

  7. So many of those wallpaper patterns could be hung today! Oh, why aren't they still made????

  8. AAL, I couldn't agree more. I would have to find a place for the unicorns.


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