‘Twentieth Century Tudor Design in Britain: an ideological battleground’, in T C String & M Bull, (eds) Tudorism: Historical Imagination and the Appropriation of the Sixteenth Century, Proceedings of the British Academy, Oxford University Press (2010)
This research developed from an invitation to participate in a three-day symposium sponsored by the Colston Research Society and the British Academy. Held at at the University of Bristol in December, 2008, the symposium addressed the theme of Tudorism: Historical Imagination and the Appropriation of the Sixteenth Century. Its aim was to bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplines ‘to explore the ways in which the Tudor period, its monarchs (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I), its artistic expressions, and its cultural heroes (for example, Holbein, Shakespeare, and Byrd) have been appropriated by later generations. Its focus is thus ‘Tudorism’, which may be defined as the modern reception of the history, literature, art, architecture, design and music of the Tudor age.’
The purpose of my contribution to this interdisciplinary discourse was threefold: firstly, to examine the ways in which the Tudor era, with its historical associations with English power and influence in the world at large, proved attractive to many consumers for several decades in the twentieth century; secondly, to analyse the extent to which the term Tudor, or Mock Tudor, became associated more broadly with the term ‘olde England’ as a term of disapprobation by the cultural elite, an outlook that had its origins in the Victorian critiques of the encyclopaedic possibilities of mass-production technology; and, thirdly, to test a number of such considerations through a series of case studies, ranging from the Ideal Home Exhibitions, visual propaganda associated with the British Empire through to the King and Queen public house in Brighton, the Tudor Tavern bars and buffet carriages of the Southern Railway of the late 1940s, and Gremlin Grage at the ‘Living Architecture’ Exhibition site of the Festival of Britain.
The most systematic of recent researches into the ideas of Tudor architecture in the nineteenth and early nineteenth centuries has been undertaken by Professor Andrew Ballantyne with Dr Andrew Law, funded for three years by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. It set out to which examine the development of Tudor-revival architecture from Joseph Gandy’s eighteenth-century proposals through to early twentieth-century Ideal Home Exhibitions. Ballantyne and Law, whose findings will be published in Tudoresque by Reaktion in 2010, have stressed that the critical reception of the ‘Tudoresque’ has necessarily underplayed its social and cultural significance. It might also be argued that research into the Tudoresque and Mock Tudor of the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been dominated by architecturally-led research typified by Alan A Jackson’s pioneering (1973) Semi-detached London: Suburban Development, Life and Transport, 1900-39, Allen & Unwin, and the more design-inclusive, but less rigorous, (1983) Dunroamin: Suburban Semi and Its Enemies, Barrie & Jenkins, by Paul Oliver et al. Other associated propositions have been explored by Deborah Ryan in her PhD, ‘The Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition and Suburban Modernity, 1908-51' (1995), and illustrated book, (1997) The Ideal Home Through the Twentieth Century, Hazar, and David Matlass’s cultural geographical approach in (1998) Landscape and Englishness, Reaktion.’ My chapter on the Mock Tudor, although utilising architecture as a significant dimension, seeks to embrace concepts of national identity and British Empire, as well as graphic ephemera, ceramics, interior design, and the critical writings of design reformers. Whilst writing about the cultural elitism of the latter became unfashionable as design history sought to develop more sophisticated methodologies that were at a distinct remove from any notions of ‘good design’, it is timely to revisit such territory in the light of the ways in which other disciplines have approached its implications and the ways in which design historians have oversimplified such ideas as being ‘Pevsnerian’ in their outlook.
A number of the ideas that I have explored in this chapter have their origins in research that I have undertaken over a number of years, as evidenced in my Expo ’58 Portfolio entry (see EXPO ’58 below) on ‘Entre Pleusieur Mondes, Le Site Britannique/Caught between Many Worlds: the British Site at Expo ‘58’ in Rika Devos & Mil De Kooning, eds (2006). The Architecture of Expo 58, Dexia/Mercatorfonds, pp. 246-261. Other indicative references include: ‘Britishness in Design, Material Culture and Popular Artefacts’ in Alan Tomlinson & Jonathan M Woodham, (2007) Image, Power and Space: Studies in Consumption & Identity, Meyer & Meyer, pp.135-63; ‘A Brand New Britain?’ in Jane Pavitt (ed), brand.new, V&A/Princeton University, 2000; ‘Managing British Design Reform I: Fresh Perspectives on the Early Years of the Council of Industrial Design’, Journal of Design History, Vol 9, no. 1, 1996, pp 55-65; 'Design, Industry and Propaganda: British Exhibition Policy at Home and Abroad in the Nineteenth Century' in Ganci, M & Giuffrè, M (eds), Dall’Artigianito all’Industria: L’Esposizione Nazionale di Palermo del 1891-92, Palermo: Società Siciliana per la Storia Patria, 1994, pp.301-18; and ‘Fact, fiction and fantasy: design in Brighton between the Wars’, Southern History, vol 16, 1994, pp. 152-179.
My chapter takes its place alongside those of other disciplinary specialists invited to participate in the British Academy and Colston Research Society funded Bristol Symposium. They included Professor Stephen Bann (University of Bristol, ‘The Tudors Viewed by French Romantic Artists’`); Dr Sue Cole (University of Melbourne, ‘’Nationalism, Religion and the Early Twentieth-Century Revival of Tudor Church Music’); Professor Stephen Banfield (University of Bristol ‘Tudorism in English Music, 1837-1953’); Professor Patrick Collinson (University of Cambridge,‘Through Several Glasses Darkly: Historical and Sectarian Perceptions of the Tudor Church’); Dr Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester, ‘Performing the Tudors: Enactment and Re-enactment in Contemporary Popular Culture’); Professor Russell Jackson (University of Birmingham, ‘Framing Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen and the Movie Stars’); Dr Peter Mandler, University of Cambridge, ‘The Popular Cult of the “Olden Time”’); Professor Billie Melman (Tel Aviv University,‘The Pleasures of Tudor Horror: Popular Histories, Modernity and Sensationalism in the Long Nineteenth Century’); Professor Greg Walker (University of Edinburgh, ‘“A Good Man with his Chopper”?: Representing Henry VIII on Screen’; and Professor Andrew Ballantyne and Dr Andrew Law (University of Newcastle, ‘Mock Tudor Architecture in India, Malaysia and China’).
The book designed around this interdisciplinary seminar will be published as Proceedings of the British Academy by Oxford University Press, ensuring its presence in most major University libraries throughout the world as well as recognition that it represents high level research.. From 1905 the Proceedings have provided a unique record of British scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and, since 1992, have included thematic volumes stemming from symposia specially convened to address particular subjects such as ‘Tudorism: Historical Imagination and the Appropriation of the Sixteenth Century’. The book will influence future approaches to the Tudor historical imagination across a wide disciplinary front; my chapter on ‘Twentieth Century Tudor Design in Britain: an ideological battleground’ embraces both the ‘Tudor imagination’ and ‘the appropriation of the sixteenth century’ and will play a role in situating the history of design as a potentially significant contributory discipline in a number of academic fields.