I began serious linocutting and wood engraving in about 1956, when I was nineteen, and carried on for ten to fifteen years until, with my growing architectural practice to see to, the time could not be afforded. Little can be precisely dated. Many cuts that were done have not survived, or exist only as prints.
The cuts fall into five groups: (1) plain inscriptions, which were among the first cuts to de done, (2) imagined cities, (3) love poems − courting couples dallying in orchards and beds, (4) country churches, and (5) historic hymns and verses celebrating the age-old festivals of the Christian Year. There are designs for Christmas cards, a wedding invitation, lines from a poem by Charles Williams, a Noah’s Ark, and others, many of which are in A Vision of Order printed and published by John Randle at the Whittington Press in 2011. The wood engravings are collected in Enclosures: Times and Places, with a foreword by Dr Alan Powers, printed and published by John Grice at the Evergreen Press, in 2009.
The linocuts, in a sense, just happened. To begin with, it was my good luck in 1955 to encounter a fellow student, Quinlan Terry, who had a passion for linocutting (he had been at school with Richard Bawden). Five years later, returning to Norfolk − a county surrounded by the sea and full of inland waterways, green lanes, pantiled farm buildings and ruined abbeys − I happened by chance to find myself living a few yards from a mediaeval cathedral with a tradition of sacred church music. By chance, needing to earn a living, I was offered a job that involved visiting, in all weathers and at all times of the year, four hundred rural churches stretching from the Wash to the Stour Valley. You have only to step inside the door of a country church to enter an ethereal world of saints and angels, ladders and cleaners’ buckets, of bells, flags, cross-legged crusaders, and slowly ticking turret clocks. Above all, a country church is a place where there is lettering everywhere − on the walls and floors, in the windows, and in the churchyard. It was out of this arcane environment of ideas and images, sights and sounds, that the linocuts emerged.
I am an architect, not an artist. The skewed viewpoint in many of the cuts − isometric projections of the kind used in architectural drawings to illustrate buildings − shows this. For thirty-five years my daily job was not cranking the handle of a printing press but scaffolding towers and spires, repairing stone and flintwork, releading roofs and glazing, rehanging bells, restoring wallpaintings and rood screens, and relaying drains. By contrast, linocutting was a more homely affair, sitting at the kitchen table (or, if I was staying with friends, on any surface that came to hand), my only equipment a Stanley trimming knife, an elementary set of pressed steel cutting tools from a handicraft shop, and sheets of 4.5mm brown cork lino bought by the roll from Butchers, the Norwich drapers. Later, following my acquisition of more solid groovers, veiners and hollowers from T. N. Lawrence, the engravers’ suppliers in Clerkenwell, the letter forms became less primitive.