Rowland Hilder and Cornwell revisited

I had a lovely conversation with John Iddon, a fine art dealer, at a show in January 2013. It was held unusually in the Science Museum and I had a great time. I had previously bought a Roy Wright original from him. This time he had, on display, the very Rowland Hilder I wrote about in a previous blog article! It shows the Co-op store in Cornwell, a tiny hamlet in Oxfordshire. here it is again….

Cornwell Co-Op by Rowland Hilder

Cornwell Co-Op by Rowland Hilder

At the show I asked John for permission to take a couple of snapshots on my phone for my reference and here there are – crude in quality, which you’ll have to forgive

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Cornwell Co-op by Hilder in colour

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The caption accompanying the watercolour

The latter states:

Cornwell Store
Featured in the national Press in 1950
this watercolour was presented to Lord and Lady Robert Crichton Stuart by the C.W.S. Directors
The painting was originally commissioned by the C.W.S. Publicity Department
for the series, “Windows to a new world”

CWS of course stands for Co-operative Wholesale Society, which still exists and the Internet tells me that “Lord Robert Crichton-Stuart (12 December 1909 – 1976), married Lady Janet Egida Montgomerie (1911–1999), daughter of Archibald Montgomerie, 16th Earl of Eglinton “and they had issue” – as it formally states.

My wife and I, on the way home from Tewkesbury recently, decided to head to Cornwell to check out what the place looks like and if the store still stood there. I’m pleased to say, the building remains and we were very fortunate to get there in sunlight!  It is so quiet a spot in Oxfordshire and we saw one person the whole time we were there. I see that the manor House is actually detailed (we couldn’t approach it as it stated it was very private property!) and can ‘be hired’ Here are our photos of the village:

Approaching the store

Approaching the store

First view of the store

First view – easily recognizable

Close-up of the store

Close-up of the store as it is now

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The view after walking past – looking back

My ever patient wife asked me why I wanted to visit Cornwell and I admitted it was a childish detective work that gave me a thrill. I discovered the picture accidentally in Lilliput magazine and then the original at a show I attended and wanted to see the site itself. At least she’s not married to someone whose obsession is the pill boxes of France from World War Two!

Lilliput – Rowland Hilder

In a previous post I showed an advert for the Co-operative Society drawn by Rowland Hilder. I loved the line work and I’ve found a few more.

This time in Lillput November 1950 page 20 we see the mysterious village of Cornwell, Oxfordshire.I say mysterious because a search of the Net shows not much about the place. A blog entry by the widely travelled Philip Wilkinson shows that it is an “estate village”. Another search brings up Francis Frith (the photographer who captured Britain for posterity in the past). I think we are looking from the other end of the street here but I can’t find much more of value. Panoramio normally has splatterings of photos on Google maps, but luckily this one shows another view of Hilder’s drawing.  British Listed Buildings has an entry but very thin! A mysterious place indeed!

Cornwell, Oxfordshire by Rowland Hilder


Rowland Hilder

I love Rowland Hilder’s naturalism – paintings of the countryside. His watercolours show a light touch and a person who knows the English light in all seasons.I realised who he was from the style of his art

But this was new to me. Hilder as an architectural artist? This appeared in Lilliput February 1951 and I liked the clearly delineated Art Deco building. Imagine my surprise to find it still exist – but only just!

Lilliput 1951 February p12

Lilliput 1951 February p12 Rowland Hilder


I managed to capture the building – which looks run down – from Google Streetview


Royal Arsenal's Co-operative Society building, Powis Street


and then it occured to me to look further….

Francis Frith have an old shot of the building, the ‘True Londoner’ has scanned an old postcard and thanks to JinnytheSquinny we have a wiki photo showing how run down it is and thanks to urban adventurers we have some of the decaying inside captured!

How sad that it’s been left to decay so badly, and will soon be knocked down if Greenwich Council gets its way. Mind you it would take loads to re-develop!

Secret London tells us: This Art Deco extension was opened in 1938, designed by the company architect SW Ackeroyd. The metal Crittall windows are a notable Art Deco feature – the firm did windows on the Titanic. Sadly, by the mid-1980s, RACS had over-extended itself and had to sell out to the Co-operative Movement. 136-152 Powis Street SE18