Tuesday 21 May 2024

Frank Bellamy and 1951 Coach Guide

Summer 1951 ABC Coach Guide

Let's celebrate Frank Bellamy's birthday (21 May 1917) by looking at a newly discovered piece of early Frank Bellamy artwork!

The Summer 1951 "The Official A B C Coach Guide for Great Britain Complete Timetables & Fares" cost 2/6 (12.5p) and had 273 pages plus a fold-out map of Great Britain. I presume that Victoria Coach Station and bus depots all over Britain will have bought this meticulous guide in 1951. The contents page shows us that this year was the year of "The Festival of Britain" - an important cultural event in post-war Britain which was staged primarily at the South Bank and as one book states it "left behind more memories than solid structures". It ran from May to September 1951. A cursory search shows how exciting the event was and how local events also took place around Britain. What better way to travel than coach. 

I bet you're asking "Norman, what's this got to do with Frank Bellamy?"

Well, I was stunned to see on eBay, the above book for sale with a description saying "containing artwork by Frank Bellamy". The seller showed the said artwork and indeed it is by our favourite artist. I've scanned the page so you can see the detail

Artwork by Frank Bellamy
The piece is clearly signed up the top left - F(rank) A(lfred) Bellamy and has elements of Bellamy's early cartoon style art. At the time he would have been working for the Norfolk Studio where he worked from late 1948 through to December 1951 when he began to be represented by International Artists. 

The page above show coaches around Britain's insignias plus the Festival of Britain emblem designed by Abram Games. Looking clockwise around the piece, we also see the Skylon tower (the needle shaped tower to the right of the insignia, a 90m high ‘floating’ tube of steel), the Dome of Discovery, plus Nelson's Column and various coaches (and a car!). We see St. Paul's Cathedral, what looks like Durham Cathedral with its twin peaked roofs and tower behind. We then see a bucket and spade and starfish (for seaside holidays) and the profile of Windsor Castle above the lion and unicorn. We return to Victoria Coach Station, and see the sun shining behind the Welsh dragon. I couldn't find any images to map Bellamy's "Majestic Hotel" - a generic name.  Finally we get back to the South bank - where the Shot Tower stood, followed by a partial drawing of the only still extant building from the Exhibition: the Royal Festival Hall.

I always wondered whether Bellamy and family attended the Festival as they lived in Morden, South London and the journey would have been very straight forward - especially as he could have dropped off artwork in town at the same time. I wish I'd asked Nancy Bellamy but that one more question that remains unanswered. At least I now know Bellamy drew part of the Festival architecture.

It's been 48 years since Frank's untimely demise at 59 but today we remember the birth of one of the most influential artists.

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