Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

House on the Square, King's Lynn; Recording Britain

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    King's Lynn, United Kingdom (painted)

  • Date:

    1942 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jones, Barbara, born 1912 - died 1978 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and bodycolour painting on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RB, shelf 21

The unusual decoration of the facade of this house is chequered flint, a type of decoration commonly found in Norfolk. Barbara Jones was probably attracted by the unexpected clash of traditional local craft and the bizarre later addition of a Neo-Classical doorway complete with Corinthian columns. Many of her contributions to the Recording Britain project celebrate time-honoured crafts while mourning their passing in an increasingly mechanised world.

Physical description

A watercolour of a house with an elaborate facade (possibly Tudor) and an incongruous neo-classical door flanked by a timberyard and another, less flamboyant house.

Place of Origin

King's Lynn, United Kingdom (painted)


1942 (painted)


Jones, Barbara, born 1912 - died 1978 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and bodycolour painting on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Barbara Jones 1942'
'House on the Square. King's Lynn'


Height: 15 in, Width: 22.125 in

Object history note

The elaborate facade decoration on the house was probably what attracted Barbara Jones to this particular subject; she was notably fond of traditional crafts, excessive architectural ornamentation, and follies.

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

The flint chequer decoration on the facade is typical of Norfolk.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, 'House on the Square, King's Lynn', by Barbara Jones (Recording Britain, Norfolk).

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:
JONES, Barbara.


House on the Square. King’s Lynn.
Signed and dated Barbara Jones 1942.
Inscribed with title.
Water-and body-colour (15 x 22 1/8)
(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. Introduction to Norfolk, p.145.
Palmer, Arnold, ed. Recording Britain. London: Oxford University Press, 1946-49. Vol 2: Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Northhamptonshire and Rutlandshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire. pp.166-167, illus.


Paper; Watercolour; Bodycolour


Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Topographical views; Architecture; Norfolk; Town houses; King's Lynn


Recording Britain Collection; Paintings

Collection code


Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.