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The Cricket Green, Great Bentley; Recording Britain Collection

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Bentley, United Kingdom (painted)

  • Date:

    1940 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bayes, born 1869 - died 1956 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink and watercolour on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case RB, shelf 10, box B

Great Bentley is said to have the largest village green in England, at 43 acres. Cricket has been played on it since the later eighteenth century. Walter Bayes captures a typical match on the green, which is surrounded by many village landmarks, including the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin. This corner of the village landscape has changed little since this watercolour was painted.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of a cricket match taking place on the green. Two small groups of spectators sit on the grass in the foreground. Signed.

Place of Origin

Great Bentley, United Kingdom (painted)


1940 (painted)


Bayes, born 1869 - died 1956 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink and watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'W. Bayes'
'Gt. Bentley'


Height: 12.25 in, Width: 20.25 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

Great Bentley is said to have the largest (43 acres) village green in England. Cricket has been played on the green since the late eighteenth century.

Descriptive line

Watercolour', 'The Cricket Green, Great Bentley', by Walter Bayes; from the 'Recording Britain' Collectoin (Essex); England, 1940.

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.
The full text of the entry is as follows:

BAYES, Walter, R.W.S.


The Cricket Green, Great Bentley, [ 1940 ]
Signed. W.Bayes.
Pen and ink and water-colour. (12 ¼ x 20 1/4)
(Reproduced Vol.II)

Palmer, Arnold, ed. Recording Britain. London: Oxford University Press, 1946-49. Vol 2: Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Northhamptonshire and Rutlandshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire. pp.10-11, illus.
'One of the finest greens in the country, it is divided by roads into several pieces, any one of which would be a godsend to an ordinary village. Cricket could be, and indeed is, successfully accommodated on two or three of the portions, the annual and celebrated fair for lambs having had, no doubt, through the centuries, a beneficial influence upon the turf.

The green is fringed by the little orchards, gardens, and dwellings of the villages - weatherboarded shops and cottages, dignified brick buildings of the eighteenth century - and overlooked from the south by the church of St. Mary. Buttercups grow upon it; there is a pond. It is, in short, a noble green, so ample that a resident living opposite the post office or the grocer may be nearly a quarter of a mile from stamps and vinegar.

On every sort of pretext the enclosure of commons continued for at least five centuries, and probably for much longer. 'The movement...was halted at last in the decade between 1865 and 1875. It was characteristic of the altered balance of society that enclosure of commons was ultimately stopped by the protest not of the rural peasantry, but of the urban population, who objected to exclusion from its holiday playgrounds and rural breathing spaces. The Commons Preservation Society effectively opposed the destruction of the remaining commons, in the interest, nominally and legally of the vanishing "commoner" of the village, but really of the general public in quest of "air and exercise".' (English Social History: G. M. Trevelyan.) The happy scene here displayed thus conceals an adventurous past, and the chances that an artist would depict it in the twentieth century must often have been remote indeed.'

Palmer, Arnold, ed. Recording Britain. London: Oxford University Press, 1946-49. Vol 2: Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Northhamptonshire and Rutlandshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire. p.1.
'In 1940 Essex seemed in more urgent need of recording than any other county except Kent. Apart from being an easy target for air-raiders and a convenient dumping-ground for bombs from machines which had failed to reach objectives farther inland, it was also a likely area for invasion, and consequently sure of priority in the attentions of the War Office. Records of Essex, then, were wanted, and quickly, before the county was occupied by the British, or the German, Army.'

Exhibition History

Recording Britain (DLI Museum & Durham Art Gallery, Durham 29 March 2013-30 June 2013)


Paper; Pen and ink and watercolour


Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Topographical views; Sport; Cricket fields; Great Bentley


Recording Britain Collection; Paintings

Collection code


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