A Ravilious Christmas

A Ravilious Christmas

Christmas Card 1938. The Theatrical Costumer Shop lithograph from the book High Street.

We were as usual terribly busy sending Christmas cards and presents. The Christmas cards of our more sophisticated friends were every year getting more and more elaborate and as pioneers of this industry among the Bowker circle, we felt that we had to keep ours up to standard. We had started this phase in Hammersmith when we had sent birds made of folded paper which flapped their wings when you pulled their tails. Geoffrey Fry had taught me to make them and he told us how he had once made money for some charity by having a stall and charging people sixpence by being shown how to fold them. When we sent them for Christmas cards we made them of paper from an old geometry book and Eric painted red on their wing tips and they had paper clip eyes and guinea fowl features for a crest. Bowker herself made some very ingenious cards and Peggy one year sent the x-ray photograph of Victoria her first baby, inside her womb.

‘Snow’ wood engraving.

Guy* bought nine large Christmas trees which he put in the church, one in the middle of each of the three arches which flanked the centre aisle and the biggest one in the chancel. Eric helped him to decorate the trees with those lovely fragile glass balls from Woolworth’s  and with coloured electric lights, till he got such a bad electric shock that he came home and helped unpack a large hamper of goodies which Aunt Rose had sent from Fortnum and Mason We had never had a hamper before and felt like Porkie boy.

  • Guy Hepher, the Vicar. Guy and his wife Evelyn arrived at Castle Hedingham in the spring of 1935.

‘Halstead Road in Snow.’ 1935

On Christmas Day it was very cold and misty and we went for lunch to the Hephers.  We told them about the Christmas in Hedingham when Eric and I decided we wouldn’t give ourselves indigestion like everyone else and, having eaten an omelette. Eric went out and did a good pretty picture of the house at the corner of the road. All day the village was quite deserted till late in the afternoon when a few respectably dressed couples with glazed eyes came out of their houses with their children. They walked along quite silently because of the snow but Eric was pleased with the pretty pattern of lines on the snowy road made by the pram wheels and he put them in and came home and had a good Christmas supper.

Guy had been given two turkeys by parishioners, so he gave one of them to us and forgot to thank the woman who had presented it. When we came to the pudding, Evelyn hadn’t got any brandy so she poured some methylated spirits on to it and lit it, but it wasn’t a good idea because she put on far too much and the pudding caught fire and it was quite difficult to put out. It tasted strongly of methylated spirits and Guy teased and groaned at her while we ate and she defended herself, by saying that her mother had done the same.

Plate of cream earthenware printed with the ‘Christmas Pudding’ motif, designed by Eric Ravilious, made by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd, Etruria, 1938. V & A.

I went with Eric to hear them sing carols in the church on the evening of Boxing Day, and it was lovely to see all the Christmas trees lit up and to hear ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ and that Czech lullaby with its repeated ‘lullays’. On the day after that, we all went to follow a meet at Halstead.

Tirzah’s Nativity Scene for St Nicholas Church, Castle Hedingham.

A later Christmas in 1938 saw young John Ravilious making a snowman with the Hepher’s eldest David. This is Tirzah’s ink and wash on paper, you can make out the Castle in the background.

Winter Snow 1938.

90% of the text here is taken from Tirzah’s autobiography ‘Long Live Great Bardfield ISBN 9781910263099. Available here https://persephonebooks.co.uk/products/long-live-great-bardfield?_pos=2&_sid=96d3aa31c&_ss=r

OR If you are passing through Great Bardfield then do call in at the bookshop ‘Between the Lines.’ https://www.facebook.com/BetweenTheLinesBardfield

Graham Bennison, December 2022. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

3 thoughts on “A Ravilious Christmas

  1. A very interesting and at times, humorous article especially the Christmas pudding smothered in methylated spirits. Beautiful artwork throughout.


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