Brighton WW2 Book of Remembrance comes to The Keep
11 November 2016
By Shona Milton
On Tuesday 11th November 1952, a service of dedication was held at St Peter’s Parish Church, Brighton, when a Book of Remembrance to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Second World War was unveiled. The project was commissioned by the town council and executed under the direction of Ernest Arthur Sallis Benney, principal of Brighton College of Art. The pages of the book were designed, written and illuminated by his eldest son, Derek Benney and the blue leather binding with its gold tooled decoration was designed and executed by William Matthews.
Until very recently, the Book of Remembrance was kept in a glass case in St Peter’s Church. Local historian and author, Douglas d’Enno, during his research for his forthcoming book on Brighton during the Second World War, was given access to the book and took his own digital images of its pages. He proposed that The Keep might be a more suitable home for such an important manuscript and set the ball rolling for its transfer here to join the other archives of the parish. It is currently in the care of our conservator but digital images are available on computers in the Reference Room at The Keep. (PAR 277/7/8/3)
It is a beautiful example of calligraphy and lists in alphabetical order the names of 968 servicemen, servicewomen and civilians from the parish killed between 1939 and 1945. Brighton College of Art was involved in many aspects of war work, including designing posters for the Ministry of Information and Women’s Voluntary Service and producing maps for the RAF, and it seems appropriate that they should have been so closely involved in the production of this Roll of Honour.
The list was compiled by Lieutenant Colonel C H Madden. A veteran of the First World War, in which he was almost blinded, he was a committed campaigner for the welfare of ex-servicemen. During the Second World War, he was one of the first leaders in what was to become known as the Home Guard. Sadly, he did not live to see the dedication ceremony. He was killed in a plane crash on a mountainside in Sicily at the beginning of 1952 on his way to visit his daughter in East Africa.
However, his name and those of others involved in the production of this book are included in one of the final pages of the Book of Remembrance. Their names, too, will not be forgotten.
We are currently transcribing the names of those in the Book of Remembrance to create a searchable database. Keep an eye on this blog for updates.
World Book Day at The Keep: Brighton by Moonlight
3 March 2016
By Shona Milton
Every day is Book Day at The Keep! Our Reference Room contains the combined libraries of the former East Sussex Record Office, Brighton History Centre and the University of Sussex’s Special Collections and Mass Observation reference books.
All the books are on open access on the shelves, organised by theme, (Archaeology, Architecture, Beliefs, Education, War, for example) and every day we recommend relevant books to customers, students, family historians and visitors to The Keep to give them more information on their particular interest or enquiry and to support their research.
Inspired by World Book Day, this is the first of a series of occasional posts in which Keep staff write about their favourite publications. The book I love the most is one that I first came across ten years ago when I was working at Brighton History Centre. First published in 1926, Unknown Brighton was written by George Aitchison, a Brighton journalist.
Although it’s in our Brighton History section at The Keep, the style of writing is definitely journalistic rather than academic, with very few historical references that would be useful for future researchers. The author focuses on the lesser known stories of Brighton, and mainly on the history of the town from before the arrival of Dr Richard Russell and the Prince Regent, later George IV. Each chapter reads more like a work of fiction, with romanticised stories of Neolithic tribes, Romans, Vikings and Saxons, smugglers, underground tunnels, houses hidden beneath the sea, a lost river and mysterious hauntings.
To complete the story book experience, it is beautifully illustrated with line drawings and aquatint reproductions. To be completely honest, the pictures are the reason why I love this book so much. They are also the reason, the author claims, the book was written in the first place. In his preface, George Aitchison writes, ‘The origin of this book is to be found in the pictures by Miss Stella Langdale. The pictures, haunted with a mystery not commonly attributed to Brighton, suggested the title “Unknown Brighton’.
Along with many line drawings illustrating the text, there are over twenty reproductions from aquatints in the book, each one showing Brighton in a new and original light. They are mainly dark, full of shadows and moonlight, slightly sinister and Dickensian in some, incredibly beautiful in others. Stella Langdale has managed to capture the effect of light escaping from windows in the narrow streets of the Lanes; of the moon on the sea and the silhouettes of boats; of the Downs at dusk, and the parks and gardens of Brighton looking more mysterious and beautiful than they might during the daytime or if not seen through the eyes of an artist.
Unknown Brighton was published by The Bodley Head, which had a reputation for producing beautifully illustrated books and publications, including Brighton-born Aubrey Beardsley’s Yellow Book periodical. Stella Langdale wasn’t born in Brighton. The youngest of four daughters of successful landscape artist Marmaduke Langdale and Emma Jane Rolph, she was christened Irene Stella Rolph Langdale in Staines in December 1880. The family moved to Brighton at the end of the 19th century, living in Queen’s Park Villa, originally called Pennant Lodge, and Stella studied at Brighton School of Art. By the time that Unknown Brighton was published, she was already an established and respected illustrator.
A friend bought me my own copy of Unknown Brighton and I have since bought other books that Langdale has illustrated to add to my collection. Despite being slightly obsessed with her, and being in the best job possible for doing more research, I haven’t really been able to find out very much more about her. I know that she travelled a great deal in Europe and North Africa; she moved to Victoria, British Columbia in Canada in about 1940 and became part of the artistic community there and I know that she later settled in California, where she died in 1976. She will probably continue to be an obsession for me until there is the time to investigate further: perhaps to explore the archives in Canada or to look in other contemporary periodicals where illustrations might have been published. Many nice obsessions start with a good book, and on World Book Day, I recommend Unknown Brighton.
The Keep News: historian Hugh Gault uses archives at The Keep to research new book
7th October 2014
By Shona Milton
Since The Keep opened last year, it has been used by many academics and researchers. Historian Hugh Gault was able to draw on some of our archives here for the recently published first volume of his biography of Sir Kingsley Wood – Making the Heavens Hum: Kingsley Wood and the Art of the Possible 1881 – 1924.
Sir Kingsley Wood was MP for Woolwich West from 1918 until his death in 1943 when still Chancellor of the Exchequer. For the first ten years of that time he lived in Brighton where he was a Justice of the Peace and a close friend of the flamboyant Harry Preston – hotel-owner and self-styled “King of Brighton”.
The University of Kent mounted an exhibition to accompany the book’s launch and a digitised version of the exhibition is available to explore on their website.