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Watercolour - Riverside, Beccles

Riverside, Beccles

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Beccles (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1940- ca. 1942 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Walker, Edward, born 1879 (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

Beccles, a peaceful riverside town at the southern extreme of the Norfolk Broads, basks in summer sunlight. The strong light and almost photographic quality are typical of the watercolours of Edward Walker. This is the only East Anglian scene he contributed to the Recording Britain project; most of his works for the project focused on Richmond, Surrey, where he was living at the time.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of several houses, crowded together, seen from the reedy riverbank opposite. A barge is moored in front of a dark frame house situated on the bank. Strong sunlight bathes the scene.

Place of Origin

Beccles (painted)


ca. 1940- ca. 1942 (painted)


Walker, Edward, born 1879 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour drawing on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Edward Walker'
Signed by the artist, lower right corner.


Height: 10.25 in, Width: 14.25 in

Object history note

This is the only Suffolk subject by Edward Walker for Recording Britain; most of his contributions to the scheme are views of Richmond, Surrey, where he lived at the time.
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

Beccles was founded in the tenth century, but most of the town today does not date back further than the eighteenth century, owing to extensive fires in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Today it is best known as a point of access to the Norfolk Broads, although the town itself lies in Suffolk.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, 'Riverside, Beccles', by Edward Walker

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; Rivers


Recording Britain Collection


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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