Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: August 2019


c. University of East Anglia

Writer’s born-digital creations pose unique challenges for literary archives. Copyright UEA.

Back in June we reported that an article on writers’ born digital archives had been accepted for publication. The article from Paul Gooding, Jos Smith and Justine Mann on the challenges of capturing the creative process in born digital literary archives has now been published in a special issue of the Taylor and Francis Journal ‘Archives and Manuscripts’ the professional and scholarly journal of the Australian Society of Archivists. It is based on a paper given at an AHRC funded conference in January 2017.

The forensic imagination: interdisciplinary approaches to tracing creativity in writers’ born-digital archives by Paul Gooding, Jos Smith & Justine Mann. Pages 374-390. Published online: 11 Aug 2019. Read the article.

Enquiries & Visits

Literary collections

Requests have centred on the history of UEA’s Creative Writing course, Doris Lessing and Malcolm Bradbury Archives.

A photograph of a cat and chess set has been requested for a website on the history of chess (from the archive of Anthony Grey, journalist). More.

Pritchard Papers

A London museum has requested an Isobar restaurant dinner menu from the period of the Spanish Civil War for their exhibition on how art influences politics.

A photograph of a bedroom in a 1930s minimalist flat has been requested for an article on Hilary Hinds’ book The Cultural History of Twin Beds; the same image has been requested by the University of Zagreb.

PP.Blythburgh 001

The Pritchard’s Blythburgh house built in the early 1960s by Colin and Jennifer Jones. Courtesy Pritchard Papers.

Photographs of the Pritchard’s early 1960s designer house in Blythburgh, Suffolk have been supplied for a new website.

We’ve also been helping the Bauhaus Foundation with their exhibition on modernist furniture following their visit to our Archives.

Zuckerman Archive

Enquiries and visits have concerned the 1941 bombing of the Café de Paris in London and the national casualty survey conducted by Zuckerman; the UK’s purchase of nuclear weapons from the US; the civilian casualty response to the German bombing in WWII; and the breeding of endangered species in captivity.

The enquiries have come from a journalist and researchers from King’s College; the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) at the University of Manchester; the University of Waterloo in Canada; and the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies (PPL) at UEA.

Beyond the Bauhaus: Walter Gropius in the UK and US

Display in UEA Archives Foyer, 8 July – 6 September 2019

DSCF37822019 marks the centenary of the founding of the unique and legendary Bauhaus school of art. Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919 the Bauhaus then moved to Dessau and Berlin. In 1933 it was closed by its governing body under pressure from the Nazi regime, having been painted as a centre of communist intellectualism.

The school had three different architect-directors and was hugely influential in modern design, architecture & art. The tensions leading up to WWII meant that many of its former staff left Germany, taking with them their ideas and passion for design. The Bauhaus style spread around the world and became noteworthy in modern art, design and typography through subsequent decades.

UEA Archives holds the papers of Jack and Molly Pritchard, two visionary friends who helped and housed Walter Gropius from 1934-1937 in London. Jack Pritchard was a furniture designer with an entrepreneurial spirit. He and Molly believed in a liberal, simplistic and convenient way of living, free from the trappings of domesticity with time and outlets to develop one’s talents and social connections. They set about building the Lawn Road Flats (the Isokon Building). Opened in 1934, the flats became the home of Walter and Ise Gropius from 1934-1937.

Extracts from the archive shine a light on Gropius’s stay in the UK, as well his subsequent years in the US. His friendship with the Pritchards continued into his twilight years.

Today, The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, founded in 1994, is a centre of research, teaching and experimental design.

Documents included in the Archive display:

Letters showing the English architect Maxwell Fry assisting Gropius in coming to the UK. Gropius was able to leave Nazi Germany in 1934, on the pretext of making a temporary visit to Italy for a film propaganda festival; he then fled to Britain and was met by Jack Pritchard at Victoria Station on 18 October 1934.

A letter from Jack Pritchard extending a hand to Walter Gropius and arranging his employment in the UK with architect Maxwell Fry (working on the Manchester flats project). Pritchard also offers Gropius a place to live at Lawn Road Flats. “I shall be very glad to put one of our flats at your disposal while you are in England.”

A photograph of the Pritchard family at the opening of The Lawn Road Flats, July 1934.

Letters showing Maxwell Fry and Jack Pritchard applying to the Ministry of Labour for Walter Gropius to work in the UK. The application outlines Gropius’s assistance with a special design project – ‘Ioskon 2’ in Manchester. Although all aspects of the scheme were covered, the flats were never built.

A photograph of an aluminium waste-paper basket designed by Gropius in 1935 and made in 1936 by Taylor-Law of Birmingham.

A photograph of Gropius’s prototype chair in solid wood. Designed for Isokon in 1936, five years before Eames’ and Saarinen’s iconic double-curved pieces, the A1 proved impossible to make. It was designed to be made from as few pieces of plywood as possible but greatly reinforced. Its complex curves on the back proved too much for manufacturer Venesta who concluded that it was so complicated it couldn’t be made in one piece. The design represented a radical departure from existing plywood moulding capabilities, and despite its failure, it marks a significant stage in the history of 20th century furniture.

A pamphlet on the Kendal Flats in Manchester (1937). A flat designed “to satisfy one’s need for relaxation and stimulating diversion. Living free from the friction caused by unpractical surroundings is essential for the attainment of the maximum amount of personal liberty and independence.”

A photograph of Impington Village College. During his three years in England Walter Gropius worked in partnership with Maxwell Fry and designed the Impington Village College in Cambridge, completed in 1939.

A letter where Gropius battles to pay his rent and asks if he can pay in German marks. After six months work he would have hoped not to be in this situation but after the cancellation of the Manchester flats scheme he had to look for new assignments.


Dr Markova, Marcel Breuer, Ise and Walter Gropius. Photo by Edith Tudor-Hart, Pritchard Papers

Photograph of Ise and Walter at Lawn Road Flats’ 1st birthday, 1935.

Letter by Gropius while a tenant at Lawn Road Flats. He likes his flat but makes several suggestions as to how it may be altered. This includes structural changes and furniture for flat no. 15 in order to make it more suitable for socialising.

A chart by the Design and industries Association relating some of Walter Gropius’s work to contemporary events to give some measure to his pioneering achievements.

Gropius’s farewell speech, 9 March 1937 in which he praises the UK for holding back on short-term gains in the interests of more long lasting progress.

DSCF3787Seating arrangement, menu and guest list at Gropius’ farewell, 1937.

A photograph of Gropius saying farewell to László Moholy-Nagy at Waterloo station, before making his way to Southampton to board a ship to the US, 1937. Later that year Moholy-Nagy would move to Chicago and become Director of the New Bauhaus.

A press-cutting describing Gropius’s 1937 move to the US to take up the appointment of Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard; he became Chairman of the Department of Architecture in 1938 and Professor Emeritus in 1952. He was in partnership with Marcel Breuer (1937-40) and designed a number of buildings including his home in Lincoln, Mass.

Postcards and letters between the Pritchard and Gropius families as they kept in close touch.

Brochures and picture postcards of ‘Gropius House’, Lincoln Massachusetts. Built in 2937, the former family home is now open to the public as a property of Historic New England. The house exemplifies the introduction of the European modern movement to the US. It is a successful hybrid of Bauhaus principles, American mass-produced components and conveniences.

A letter from Julian Huxley (biologist) accepting his invitation to a dinner celebrating Walter Gropius’s conferment of the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, 1956.

Guest list, seating arrangement and speakers for a dinner celebrating Gropius’s conferment of the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, 1956.

Gropius’s speech on receiving the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, 1956 wherein he remarks on friendships, his anxieties about Germany in 1937, and his apprehensions about moving to the US.

Photographs of the restored Lawn Road Flats. In 1997 a single flat, no. 22, was fully restored. This is similar to Gropius’s former flat no. 15. All 32 flats were fully refurbished by 2004 and sold. Nowadays one can visit the Isokon Gallery (the former garage) which is open on weekends http://www.isokongallery.co.uk

A memorial leaflet for Gropius (1883-1969) which includes a quote wherein he urges friends to celebrate.

A press-cutting on Ise Gropius and how she revitalised the Bauhaus / Gropius legacy in the years following his death. She played a key role in international exhibitions, in educating young people and in opening her home to the public. She reflects on the Bauhaus having been something which quite possibly might not have happened had thy known what was to follow, the arrival of Hitler, the war. She urges young people to live life to the full.

In summary, Jack Pritchard remarks on Walter Gropius’s influence:

“It is difficult to pinpoint any special influence Gropius had on me. … It was the total scene that he was concerned with. He made as it were, a synthesis of life’s work. He was concerned with all the various activities of the whole person in a community.”

Contact us: UEA Archives at University of East Anglia Library archives@uea.ac.uk Tel: +44 01603 593491

Bridget Gillies

Plywood: Material of the Modern World

This exhibition opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 15 July 2017. ‘Featuring groundbreaking pieces by Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer and Charles and Ray Eames, alongside an incredible range of objects from planes to skateboards, this exhibition tells the story of how this often-overlooked material made the modern world.’

On display from UEA Archives are printed designs showing plywood profiles for railway carriages. These were produced by Estonian furniture maker A.M. Luther Ltd, circa 193? They form part of the Pritchard Papers, an archive rich in the history and development of the use of plywood in furniture making.

Plywood in the Pritchard Papers

Jack Pritchard began producing plywood furniture from 1933. The first products were modular shelf units designed by Wells Coates and manufactured by Venesta (Pritchard’s then employer). Venesta was a useful introduction to the industry, with its factories in Estonia, Latvia and Finland. A couple of years later Pritchard set up Isokon Furniture Company. They marketed the designs of other companies such as Finmar and PEL, and with the arrival of European designers Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius expanded their own range of furniture with a particular emphasis on plywood. Marcel Breuer’s Long Chair was a resounding success and is still manufactured today by Isokon Plus.

Other noteworthy items include Egon Riss’ Penguin Donkey book-case and Bottleship, both re-designed after the War by Ernest Race; and Breuer’s nesting tables.

Pritchard not only worked with plywood but he also surrounded himself with it at home. He and his wife Molly built the iconic Lawn Road Flats in Hampstead, London. A block of flats built for minimalist living, complete with built-in wardrobes, modular shelf units, nifty partitions, and a love of all things light and portable which facilitated an unencumbered lifestyle. Plywood did all of this. The Isokon flats are now grade I listed and include a gallery celebrating the buildings’ history, including the history of its members’ only Isobar restaurant.

A search for ‘plywood’ in the catalogue delivers over 200 results. It includes patents; details of the supply of furniture and raw products; customer orders; sales; correspondence; and Pritchard’s 1939 lecture ‘Design in Plywood’. Here he highlights the qualities of plywood, and the opportunities which arise when making full use of its “natural whippiness and springiness”, most evident in a new area of development involving the creation of built-up timber. He refers to Breuer’s Long Chair as being the greatest achievement in the use of plywood to date.

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Photographs: Pritchard Papers, University of East Anglia.

Pritchard Papers and online guide
Isokon Gallery
Marcel Breuer Digital Archive
Plywood exhibition at the V&A

If you would like to know more about the collection please contact archives@uea.ac.uk

Bridget Gillies

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: May 2017

British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW)

  • Around 40 international agents (UEA ambassadors) visited the Archives in May to hear about some highlights including the Storehouse model, the Publishing module, the Unboxed project and the Literary Festival collection.
  • At UEA’s Learning and Teaching Day the BACW held a joint workshop with the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) ‘Digital Heritage: Equipping Students for the cultural and creative industries’.
  • Richard Beard (writer) was interviewed by Jos Smith (Director of BACW) at UEA’s Enterprise Centre. This was part of an all-day seminar for MA Creative Writing students. Beard spoke of the writing and publishing process and the rationale for placing his papers on loan in the Archive. Richard Beard Archive.

Three new blog posts have been published by our LDC (Literature, Drama & Creative Writing) students:

Permission requests for forthcoming publications by users of the archives have related to the suffragettes (Kenney Papers) and to the history of climate change (G.S. Callendar Archive).

John Hill Archive
We’ve been looking at agricultural land in Haddiscoe, Norfolk and how it looked in 1961 when it used to operate as a pea vining station.

Pritchard Papers
Researchers have been interested in the journalist and architectural critic Philip Morton Shand (grandfather of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall); and the archaeologist Gordon Childe (former tenant of Lawn Road Flats).

Roger Deakin
Research has concentrated on Deakin’s income and letters of refusal from agents and publishers.

Zuckerman Archive


Committee on Research & Development.

Researchers have been interested in:
• The use of dogs to detect metal explosives 1955-1970.
• The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and international scientific cooperation during the Cold War (SZ/IIASA).
• The Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development. This is a valuable resource documenting the early articulation of Applied Science in the UK (SZ/MR).
• The Bombing Analysis Unit of the RAF (SZ/BAU).


Special Collections: 13 enquiries.

Sailing – The Theta Club (1944- )

A sparkling stretch of water dotted with sail-boats; a sense of calm purposeful activity of sailors enjoying the precious days of summer. This is the timeless back-drop against which a small yet successful Norfolk sailing holiday camp for youngsters launched itself around 70 years ago.

Keen sailors, Jack and Molly Pritchard

Keen sailors, Jack and Molly Pritchard

The Theta Club was the brain-child of entrepreneur John Craven (Jack) Pritchard (1899-1992).

Its purpose was “to encourage, through holiday camps for young people, the art and practice of sailing including the maintenance and care of boats.”

Importance was placed on providing high efficiency sailing craft with convenient and comfortable living conditions. The embryonic club consisted of friends of Jeremy Pritchard (Jack’s son) and children of the friends of Jack Pritchard.

Objectives, plans and facilities, Nov.1944

Objectives, plans and facilities, Nov.1944

The earliest document among the papers held is dated November 1944. It details the objectives of the camp, its plans and aims, facilities, revenue and expenses. Plans (all by 1946) included:
– A wherry for 10-15 people
– Moorings
– Three 25ft hard chine sloops with sleeping for two and auxiliary sleeping for two others
– Three 12ft hard chine unsinkable high efficiency craft primarily for young people to learn sailing by themselves.

A former member has added her recollections to the papers. Ann Venables tells us that the first informal gathering took place at Thurne on the Norfolk Broads in the summer of 1945 (or 1946). Here Jack tried out his principles on this small band of friends who lived either in boats or in Jack and Molly’s cottage. The first meeting was so successful that arrangements were made for an Easter camp and by the following summer an additional week for infants (under thirteens) had been added, the Theta Club was truly born.

Thurne, Norfolk

Thurne, Norfolk

By 1947 there was a real Club House – The Ark – a converted landing craft with 12 bunks and a cooking and eating area. Boats were either hired or owned by the club and included half-deckers and small yachts. Expert tuition was provided under Jack’s guidance, there was cooking, catering, socialising and a lot of singing.

“Each week was organized in such a way that everyone was part of a working-party one day in the week. They catered, cooked and cleaned and didn’t sail at all on that day. This seemed to work well and no-one was poisoned.”

Venables recalls a lovely yacht called Nyanza, a lug-sail rigged half-decker called Albatross, and fun boats – little prams called Tiddlers.

The occasional papers from 1944-1963 include correspondence, news of summer events, minutes of the club’s Annual general meetings and the club’s 1951 constitution.

The Theta Club in Thurne, Norfolk is still active today.

UEA Archives holds the wider collection of design and architectural papers of Jack Pritchard. The Theta Club, being just one of Jack and Molly’s interests, comprises one file within the Pritchard Papers.

The Archive picture gallery: #4 Isokon Furniture Company

Yellow marketing leaflet of furniture company

Marketing leaflet. Pritchard Papers, UEA

Isokon Furniture Company was established in 1935 by Jack Pritchard (1899-1992).  Early designers included Walter Gropius (architect and founder of the Bauhaus School), Marcel Breuer (architect and designer of the long chair) and Egon Riss (Penguin donkey bookcase). With an emphasis on plywood, the company focussed on lightweight modular furniture, promoting comfort and minimalism.

Small bookcase

Penguin donkey bookcase mark 1, designed by Egon Riss and Jack Pritchard 1939.

Pritchard’s progressive ideas on urban living were further realised in the fitted and serviced flats he built in Lawn Road, Hampstead. These iconic pieces from the 1930s are still being handmade by Isokon Plus™ today.

Pritchard Papers

The Archive picture gallery: #3 Lawn Road Flats

Lawn Road Flats, Hamptead, London circa  1950. Photograph by John Maltby, copyright Pyrok Ltd.

Lawn Road Flats, Hamptead, London circa 1950. Photograph by John Maltby © Pyrok Ltd.

Lawn Road Flats, designed by Wells Coates and commissioned by John Craven (Jack) Pritchard opened in 1934 representing a key landmark in British social and architectural history. The serviced flats provided a residence to leading lights from the Bauhaus fleeing Nazi Germany, Walter Gropius (architect), Marcel Breuer (designer) and Moholy-Nagy (graphic designer). Artists and writers included Agatha Christie, Henry Moore and Kenneth and Diana Rowntree. The grade 1 listed building in Hampstead London is now known as The Isokon Building. It was beautifully restored by Avanti Architects in 2004 and now includes The Isokon Gallery which was opened to mark the 80th anniversary on 9 July 2014.

The Archives holds detailed papers on the flats and its tenants. From missing laundry complaints (Agatha Christie’s knickers to be specific) to the menus and rules of the Isobar Half Hundred dining club.

More seriously in this collection are papers relating to prominent designers and architects from the 1930s, wartime activities including the assistance of prominent European émigrés, papers of Political and Economic Planning (PEP) and the Furniture Development Council.

For detailed guides to the papers or to visit the Archives see Pritchard Papers and Isokon Trust