Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Badmin's England (2)
As a follow-up to my previous post about the book Village and Town, written and illustrated by S R Badmin, here is one more of his evocative illustrations. This is "A limestone village", Badmin's portrayal of the architecture of the limestone belt that sweeps up England from Somerset, through Gloucestershire, parts of Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, to the eastern part of Lincolnshire. From this broad band of stone country, Badmin has set his imaginary stone village in the Cotswolds – it is all rolling hills and golden walls.
The houses have the rows of parapetted gables typical of the region, together with the stone-mullioned windows and tall chimneys mostly placed at the gable ends. A church tower, reminiscent of the one at Chipping Campden, looks down on the scene, and the field in the foreground has a drystone wall. To the right is a large stone barn (based loosely on the barn at Bradford on Avon on the fringes of the Cotswolds in Wiltshire), on which the Cotswold stone "slates" are laid in the traditional way, large stones at the bottom of the slope near the eaves, smaller ones at the top, near the apex.
As with other illustrations in Village and Town, Badmin has brought together buildings and objects from different places to create his village scene. And not just the buildings. That cart in the foreground looks like something Badmin had spotted and drew and couldn't wait to incorporate into a bigger picture. (In the same way he incorporated a wonderful crane into a woodland logging scene in his Shell Guide to Trees and Shrubs.) But made-up as it is, this Limestone Village scene is convincing in terms of both architecture and landscape.
But does this scene represent an idealized view of England? It certainly looks very neat and tidy – neater and tidier than the Cotswolds I remember from my boyhood a couple of decades after the picture was made. Back then there was much poverty, houses were often badly maintained, and you were more likely to meet a heard of cows than a traffic jam. Now everything is tidier and in better repair, but there are cars everywhere.*
To be fair to Badmin, he does show us that this is a working place. The barn is in use; the cart stands ready; chickens are scratching around (it all becomes clearer if you click on the image to enlarge it). In the distance is the farmland that kept people alive in Badmin's time and brought prosperity to this area in the Middle Ages, making possible all this upmarket stone building. A mixture of cornfields and sheep pasture extends into the distance, over the hills, between the woods, and towards the far horizon.
*And it sometimes feels as if you have to have the income of a movie star to live here.