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Watercolour - Snape Bridge
  • Snape Bridge
    Hardie, Martin, born 1875 - died 1952
  • Enlarge image

Snape Bridge

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Snape (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1940 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hardie, Martin, born 1875 - died 1952 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour drawing on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case RB, shelf 27, box B

The Suffolk village of Snape is best known today for its associations with the composer Benjamin Britten, but throughout the nineteenth century its bridge was its most salient feature. Snape sits near the mouth of the River Alde, and its bridge is the first one inland from the mouth. Smugglers used the bridge to move goods across the river; in fact, the dormer window in the Crown public house was used to signal the all-clear to smugglers once the militias who guarded the bridge were in the bar below seeking refreshment. The red brick hump-back bridge depicted by Hardie was replaced in 1960 by a structure that could better accommodate cars.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of Snape Bridge seen from a distance, with a view of the houses and trees on the bank at right. Three small, brightly painted boats glide past the bridge towards the foreground.

Place of Origin

Snape (painted)


ca. 1940 (painted)


Hardie, Martin, born 1875 - died 1952 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour drawing on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Martin Hardie'
Signed by the artist, lower right corner (barely distinguishable).


Height: 10 in, Width: 15.50 in

Object history note

This work is from the 'Recording Britain' collection of topographical watercolours and drawings made in the early 1940s during the Second World War. In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme ran in Scotland.

The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.

Historical context note

Snape Bridge, the first bridge across the River Alde inland from its mouth, was of strategic importance to smugglers. The 1802 hump-back bridge depicted here was replaced in 1960 by a structure better able to accommodate cars.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, 'Snape Bridge', by Martin Hardie (Recording Britain, Suffolk).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of Drawings in the ‘Recording Britain’ Collection given by the Pilgrim Trust to the Victoria and Albert Museum published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Prints, Drawings and Paintings Department, 1951.
Palmer, Arnold, ed. Recording Britain. London: Oxford University Press, 1946-49. Vol 2: Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Northhamptonshire and Rutlandshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire. Introduction to Suffolk, p.49.


Watercolour; Paper


Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Topographical views; Bridges


Recording Britain Collection; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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