Peggy Angus part three.

Peggy Angus

Peggy Angus struggled to cope in the aftermath of the war, which along with Eric Ravilious’ death and her divorce all combined to send her into a deep depression. Help came in the form of the Pipers who came to stay at Furlongs in 1947. John Piper took Peggy on sketching trips, and they sketched the Seven Sisters Cliffs, resulting in Peggy’s famous painting ‘Coastguard Cottages, Cuckmere’.

Coastguard Cottages, Cuckmere’ 1947.

Back in London and living at 122 Adelaide Road Peggy would let out the rooms above her basement flat. Henry Swanzy a producer for the General Overseas Service of the BBC became a tenant. Tirzah Garwood’s three children (Ravilious) and Peggy’s children Victoria and Angus were of the same age and for a time after Eric’s death shared Peggy’s flat to take advantage of mutual childcare. Henry was introduced to Tirzah and on the 12th of March 1946 the couple were married, moving into 169 Adelaide Road. Peggy’s neighbour Ivon Hitchens had wanted to leave his home at 169 ever since the house next door had been destroyed by a bomb.

‘Peggy Angus Sat on a Bed’. Kiran Ravilious wrote: There is a painting by my husband’s grandmother Tirzah Garwood that went “missing”. My mother-in-law didn’t know where it was, someone else said she had it etc etc. My sister-in-law finally found it. It’s a painting of Peggy Angus sitting on a bed. The funny thing is, Peggy didn’t like how Tirzah painted her face so she touched it and her hair up! It seems that’s exactly the sort of strong-minded person Peggy was. I love a painting with a story behind it!

A welcome boost to Peggy’s morale came in 1947 being when she was appointed head of art at her old school the North London Collegiate School. Angus was a part-time teacher for much of her life and believed her teaching was as important as creating her own work.

Peggy now juggled her teaching commitments with her own creative work encompassing industrial designs, tiles and wallpapers. Her significant achievements included a tile mural for the Susan Lawrence School in war ravaged Poplar, East London, a ‘live exhibit’ for the Festival of Britain, a tile mural at the British Pavilion at the 1958 Bruxelles Exhibition, and tile designs for Sir Frederick Gibberd at London Heathrow Airport Underground Station.  She also designed a new form of marbling design for glass cladding for the original buildings at Gatwick Airport, which, produced by the firm TW Ide, was given the trade name ‘Anguside’. 

The Susan Lawrence School was built in 1949-51, designed by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall, as part of the ‘Live Architecture’ exhibition of the Festival of Britain. The lobby’s interior was clad with ceramic tiles by Peggy Angus.

With materials in short supply Angus got her pupils to make potato- and lino-cuts, inventing a deceptively simple set of design rules. The results were startling, and the architect FRS Yorke immediately recognised her gift as a pattern designer. By 1950 she worked with Carter of Poole, designing tiles to humanise the rather cold, unadorned interiors and exteriors of Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall’s commissions projects throughout the 1950s. This success led to a large number of orders from F.R.S. Yorke for tile designs, particularly for new schools and colleges. In 1952, she was made a member of the national Council of Industrial Design.

Tile designs from the early 1950’s.

At the North London Collegiate School for Girls Peggy believed in setting up communal projects where pupils’ works could be displayed to their best advantage. These projects also improved the school’s visual environment and expanded her influence beyond the art rooms. She wanted to encourage a sense of patronage and visual literacy for all, including those not thinking of following an artistic career.  She remained a teacher at the school until 1971 aged sixty-five.

The stairs of the NLCS in the new drawing school, tiles designed by Peggy Angus. The art room 1960’s with desks designed by Peggy. Endpaper and title page for the school magazine 1958-59.

The art-department block at North London Collegiate stands as a memorial to Angus’s zeal and continues to be staffed only by practising artists. Her former pupils remember it as a separate creative encampment, an autonomous zone in the school’s highly academic environment.

Old Pupils say……

Mary Lane, Huddersfield:  Here is my memory of art lessons with Peggy Angus at NLCS. I think it will have been the first project we did in the Upper Thirds. We made a magic art folder by making a two-coloured potato print onto thick card – two pieces, a front and back cover. It was covered in clear fablon and the two sides tied together with ribbon. I have very little memory of what we put in the folder but I still have it, 52 years later! Peggy had an air of difference about her!

Kate Clark:  In 1968, aged 11, I was fortunate to win a council scholarship to attend North London Collegiate School. The school had a large, separate art block, which over the following seven years became my place of refuge from the rigours of academia.  My earliest memories of creating there are those spent in the company of wonderful, inspiring teacher Peggy Angus. In the ground floor studio, we crafted and created an assortment of colourful pieces under her watchful eye. My favourite was a painted papier-mâché bird. We made the body, stuck it on a stick and added the wings with wires attached to the stick so they could be pushed up and down to make the bird ‘fly’.  What joy! Those early experiences led to Art A level, art college and an eventual lifelong career in design – and I am so grateful to Peggy and the other amazing art teachers we were lucky enough to be inspired by at NLCS. It’s only in recent years that I discovered more about Peggy Angus and the important legacy of art and design she left behind.

Jill Hall: As a very unworldly 11-year-old, Peggy Angus taught me at NLCS when I was a new girl and I certainly was unaware of her artist’s status – so, what a lucky little girl I was to have had her as my teacher, no less!”

Many of Peggy’s pupils visited Furlongs at the weekends and during the school holidays along with an ever-growing circle of friends.

One weekend Henry Swanzy and Tirzah visited Furlongs taking along with them artist/writer Olive Cook and photographer Edwin Smith. Olive and Peggy were to become lifelong close friends.

Another close friend was artist/potter Ursula Mommens. Peggy found a home to rent for her and sculptor husband Norman at Grange Farm, South Heighton, just over the Downs from Furlongs. Ursula had previously been married to artist Julian Trevelyan. Ursula’s mother, wood engraver and illustrator Elinor Monsell was a good friend of Virginia Woolf. Apparently, it was Elinor who encouraged Norman to take up sculpture; Leonard Woolf was an early patron, commissioning a work which still stands, though damaged, in the garden at Monk’s House.

Norman Mommens at work on a sculpture (at South Heighton) he did for Leonard Woolf – ‘Goliath’

Tragically the peace and joy of this circle of friendship was shattered in 1951 when Tirzah succumbed to the cancer which had first resulted in a mastectomy in 1942. Tirzah died suddenly and without pain on Easter Monday 27th March 1951, two weeks short of her forty-third birthday. She is buried in the Churchyard at Copford, Essex.

Tirzah Garwood (Ravilious) photographed by Edwin Smith 1951.

Peggy and Olive helped to look after Tirzah’s children, John, James and Anne, taking them along with Victoria and Angus on the train to Furlongs.

Peggy Angus: ‘Asham Cement Works’ with Peggy designed surround. Painted after the end of the war when Peggy was able to return to Furlongs.

Graham Bennison, July 2021. Eric Ravilious and Friends | Facebook

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