The Father of Modern Calligraphy

Edward Johnston was born on 11 February 1872 and is often regarded, with Rudolf Koch, as the father of modern calligraphy.


Johnston has been credited with reviving the art of modern penmanship and lettering through his books and teachings. His book Writing & Illuminating & Lettering, 1906, sparked a renewed interest in the art of calligraphy. Inspired by William Morris’s admiration of medieval manuscripts, he studied historic calligraphic scripts and devised the simply crafted round calligraphic handwriting style, written with a broad pen, known today as the foundational hand.



He is probably most famous for designing the London Underground typeface. In 1913, Frank Pick commissioned him to design a typeface for the Underground, and the simple and clear sans-serif Johnston typeface was the result. It was used throughout the London Underground system until it was re-designed in the 1980s.


Not all his students were happy with his decision to create a sans-serif design for the Underground, in a style thought of as modernist and industrial. His pupil Graily Hewitt privately wrote to a friend:

In Johnston I have lost confidence. Despite all he did for us…he has undone too much by forsaking his standard of the Roman alphabet, giving the world, without safeguard or explanation, his block letters which disfigure our modern life. His prestige has obscured their vulgarity and commercialism.

As well as the typeface, Edward Johnston also designed the famous roundel symbol used throughout the system:


Both practitioner and teacher, Johnston mentored many famous calligraphers and type designers including Eric Gill and Anna Simons. His link with Hammersmith and why he is included in the Hammersmith & Fulham Archives is that he lived at 3 Hammersmith Terrace from 1905 to 1912. Near neighbours were Emery Walker and Douglas Pepler.


Note that the font used on this plaque is not “English Heritage’s own unique font” to quote English Heritage but London Underground’s New Johnston sans serif, the 1979 version of the font designed by Johnston and introduced in 1916. Three other Underground-related blue plaques use this font: Frank Pick, Lord Ashfield and Harry Beck.




Fiona Fowler

Volunteer, Archives & Local History Room





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Ben Aaronovitch at Hammersmith Library

Hammersmith Library was very lucky to host a visit from author Ben Aaronovitch, part of his tour to promote the latest novel featuring Peter Grant, “The Hanging Tree.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Ben’s books, the “Rivers of London” series has been described as “a unique blend of police procedural, supernatural mayhem and threads of fascinating hidden history woven through the very fabric of the plot” and “fast-moving, funny, full of warmth and features one of the greatest and most historically rich cites in the world: London.”

A very active supporter of public libraries, Ben is quite happy to give a talk for free (in return for coffee and cake).

Ben delivered a characteristically energetic Q & A session, to an audience of thirty people. He covered subjects such as story arcs, finding the right voices for his audio books; and how some characters who he brings to life for one scene then refuse to go away!

He also spoke about his adventures as a bookseller, including the practice of “Meerkatting” or in other words looking around expectantly for customers to help/pounce on (Ben does a very convincing Meerkat impression).

As a bonus Ben also treated us to an impromptu dance routine!
Thanks to Ben from all at Hammersmith Library for a most entertaining talk.

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Hot off the press: Newsbank

Have you heard of Newsbank? I would like to introduce this valuable online reference resource which is available (at no cost!) to Hammersmith & Fulham library members.


NewsBank (which can be accessed here from our page of online resources) is a vast searchable database of news worldwide from over 9000 local, regional, national and international sources, including print and online newspapers, blogs, newswires, periodicals, broadcast transcripts and videos. Search either by publication title or by using search terms (note that any results with the exception of videos do not contain illustrations as the text is displayed as a transcript of the original text and not a facsimile of the newspaper page).

An example of a subject search illustrates a local slant to national match reports of the England v Wales 2016 Six Nations rugby match:


What can you use Newsbank for?

  • Residing in London and missing news from your home town? Use NewsBank to catch up with events.
  • Planning to expand a business outside London either nationally or abroad? Use NewsBank to get a feel of the new location from the local and regional press.
  • Student gathering data for a dissertation? Use NewsBank to obtain background information and data by using selected search terms in NewsBank.
  • Researcher? Find useful links to current events: try NewsBank’s special reports on topics including the American Presidential election or the last June’s British EU membership referendum.

And a bonus feature: if you are using this resource on a continuous basis for a specific topic there is no need to repeatedly access NewsBank on the off-chance that new entries have been added to the database – simply select your relevant search terms and use these search terms to set up a NewsBank email alert facility for any future added entries.

Francis, Tri Borough Reference Service

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Naxos Music Library

With an unparalleled depth of classical music content, extensive background information, and improved search facilities that remain simple and effective, Naxos Music Library (NML) is a pleasure to use regardless of your prior music and/or technical knowledge.


Hammersmith & Fulham Library Service has just added the Naxos Music Library to the collection of online reference resources available to library members. This is a free streaming service of original recordings from Naxos and other recording labels. Users of this resource can search for individual performers and composers from a wide range of musical genres ranging from classical, jazz & blues, Chinese music to rock and pop recordings.


Library members can access Naxos and the other online resources, apart from Ancestry, from any computer by simply using their library card number. Click here to access Naxos Music Library (you will need your library membership card to hand). Happy listening!

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Hammersmith’s War Memorials: Mortlake Cemetery

During the time of the Second World War the present London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham was in fact two separate Boroughs.

The cemetery that most of us know as Mortlake Cemetery was originally opened in 1909 as Hammersmith New Cemetery (North Sheen Cemetery was known as Fulham New Cemetery).

On 18th April 1953 The Mayor of Hammersmith unveiled and dedicated a memorial, in Mortlake Cemetery, to the 488 civilians from the Borough who were killed by enemy action during the Second World War.

The memorial also marks the spot of a communal grave that contains the remains of 156 people.


LBHF Archives document Showing details of the unveiling and dedication

The actual memorial is very plain and simple. Behind the memorial is a stone plaque bearing the names of all the casualties buried in the communal grave.


Memorial with plaque behind


LBHF Archives document List of all the civilian casualties in the communal grave


Mortlake Cemetery also contains 109 Service burials. Some are buried in private plots which have the distinctive white headstones. The others are buried in a special service plot marked by the Commonwealth War Graves Memorial which is just to the left of the Civilian Memorial.



The curtain wall behind the memorial lists all 109 casualties plus the names of 77 Commonwealth servicemen cremated at the Crematorium.


The Commonwealth War Graves Memorial With the curtain wall behind


If you have relatives who might be commemorated on either memorial or maybe want to visit and pay your respects the following map will help you find the location.


Hammersmith’s War Memorials: west side of the cemetery in area C1

 You can find out more about Hammersmith and Fulham’s Local Studies and Archives collection here.

Peter Trott

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Rose Witcop

When I first came across the name Rose Witcop I was amazed to discover that a female Russian anarchist was advocating feminism and pioneering the cause of birth control from Shepherds Bush over a hundred years ago.

Rose (originally Rachel Vitkopski) was born an orthodox Jew to Freda and Shimon Vitkopski on 9th April 1890 in Kiev, Ukraine, which at that time was part of the Soviet Union. She was one of four children.

Her eldest sister Milly, born on 3rd March 1877, travelled alone to London in 1894. She worked in a tailoring sweatshop and managed to save enough money to bring her parents and Rose to England the following year.

Milly’s involvement in a bakers strike had led her to become involved with a group of London based Jewish anarchists. She went on to become the common-law wife of the German born anarchist Rudolf Rocker.


Rudolf Rocker sitting behind Milly Witkop (front left). Photo from m

Rose Witcop (different surname spelling from her sister Witkop) became a member of the anarchist Jubilee Street Club with her sister Milly and her partner Rudolph. At this club Rose met Clerkenwell born Guy Aldred. Guy, apparently named after Guy Fawkes, was the founder of the Bakunin Press publishing house and he edited five Glasgow based anarchist periodicals; The Commune, The Council, The Herald of Revolt, The Spur, and The Word.



Rose and Guy set up home in 103 Thorpebank Road (at the far end on the left in this old photo)


In 1907 Rose and Guy first started living together in Thorpebank Road, Shepherds Bush. A year or so later they moved to Richmond Gardens and Guy set up the Bakunin Press there. In the middle of a May Day parade on 2 May 1909 the heavily pregnant Rose was whisked off to Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, where she gave birth to their son Annesley.

Later that year Guy re-printed a controversial August issue of The Indian Socialist, which had advocated the independence of India and supported political assassination. Aldred was arrested and later found guilty of seditious libel and was sentenced to twelve months hard labour, which he served in Brixton Prison.

As a committed feminist Rose also contributed letters and articles arguing for women’s sexual, as well as political and economic liberation, to such journals as the Voice of Labour and The Freewoman.

She was once quoted as saying:

“The vote meant little to working-class women. She would not qualify for it anyway, so why should a woman who slaved all week in an ill-conditioned factory for paltry wages care whether middle-class women had the vote or not? Even if she had the vote, how many working-class women would bother to use it? And if they did use it, would it make any difference? What was required was the organisation of working women in an agitation for general emancipation; to make women understand that it is not the want of voting rights that creates bad conditions for her, but that social attitude which regards her as a slave, both in the factory and in the home.”

In the autumn of 1914 a woman named Margaret Sanger was due to stand trial in America for sending what was deemed to be an obscene publication through the post, namely a 16-page pamphlet containing graphic descriptions of various contraceptive methods. Margaret fled to England and for a short time stayed with Rose. Whilst in England she gave lectures on birth control to various workers groups. She later returned to America and in October 1916 opened the first American birth control clinic, in the in the Brownsville area of Brooklyn.

Guy was imprisoned from 1916 to 1919 as a conscientious objector and spent parts of his sentence in Wormwood Scrubs and Wandsworth Prisons. During his imprisonment Rose took over running The Spur and published several articles that Guy managed to get smuggled out of prison.

After Guys release from prison Rose started to concentrate her efforts on the issue of birth control. In 1923 Rose and Guy were arrested and charged for publishing and distributing Margaret Sanger‘s publication entitled ‘Family Limitation’. The illustrations and a reference to abortion in it were deemed to be obscene. However, the publication was later allowed to be printed without the disputed content.

There was a huge amount of press attention and Rose and Guy were supported both morally and financially at their appeal by Dora and Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. In spite of all the support they lost the case. Shortly after this Rose and Guy separated.

Not deterred by her earlier prosecution Rose went on to re-published the Sanger text in 1925 but this time avoided prosecution. However, she had attracted the attention of officials at the Home Office, who were now threatening to deport her back to Russia.

Despite living apart from 1921, but to avoid deportation, Rose and Guy quickly arranged a legal marriage which took place in Glasgow on 2 February 1926. Both gave their professions as journalists. Rose’s address on the marriage certificate was given as Sinclair Gardens, Shepherds Bush.



Guy Aldred and Rose Witcop (this old photo of the couple was reproduced in The Glasgow Daily Record on 3rd February 1926)

In the same year Rose enlisted the assistance of Margaret Sanger and the Fulham Labour Party to open ‘The People’s Clinic’ in London. Unfortunately due to lack of funding she was forced to close it down in 1928.

Rose died on 4th July 1932 in St George’s Hospital, London from gangrenous appendicitis and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.


Extract of a copy of Rose’s death certificate


Rose’s husband Guy Aldred died in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow on 16th October 1963. It was reported that when he died he had just 2/- (10 pence) in his pocket. Their son Annesley Guy Aldred died in 1979.


Peter Trott




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Hammersmith & Fulham Coats of Arms

The ancient parish of Fulham occupied broadly the area covered by the present borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In 1834 it was split into two parishes, Fulham and Hammersmith, both administered by their respective Vestries but in 1855 they were again combined for civil purposes under the Fulham District Board of Works. In 1885 this was dissolved and their powers returned to two separate reconstituted Vestries.


In 1886 the Fulham Vestry adopted this coat of arms:


This was a quartered shield, with a depiction of a bridge in the first and fourth quarters. The bridge in the first quarter was the original wooden Fulham Bridge, opened in 1729 with its toll houses. Its replacement, the present Putney Bridge, constructed of stone, was shown in the fourth quarter. The new bridge was opened in 1886, the year the arms were designed. The second quarter showed crossed swords, from the arms of the Bishop of London. The manor of Fulham was held by the bishop from 691 and his official residence, Fulham Palace, was built in the area. The third quarter was the arms then associated with the county of Middlesex, in which Fulham lay until 1889.

In 1889 the Vestry was again abolished and the Metropolitan Borough of Fulham was created. It did not initially design a new coat of arms but carried on using the unofficial arms adopted by its predecessor.

However, in 1927 Councillor F. H. Barber, proprietor of Barber’s Department Store, offered to pay the costs of a grant of arms and new civic regalia. Accordingly, an official grant was obtained from the College of Arms on 12 October of that year:


The silver and blue wavy field represented the River Thames, the swords and mitre signified the Bishop of London. The crest rose from a gold mural crown, resembling a city wall, and thus municipal government. The crest itself was a black ship, recalling an expedition to Fulham by the Danes in 879. The main sail was charged with a Tudor rose, recalling the importance of the area in that era, when Fulham Palace was rebuilt.  The Latin motto, Pro Civibus et Civitate, was translated as “for citizens and state”.


The coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith was granted in 1897.



The cross crosslets come from the arms of Edward Latymer, who founded schools in Hammersmith in the seventeenth century which later evolved into Latymer Upper School and the Godolphin and Latymer School (both feature cross crosslets in their coats of arms). The horseshoes come from the arms of brickmaker Nicholas Crisp, who introduced his technique into Hammersmith and who helped build a chapel, which was to become Hammersmith’s parish church of St Paul. The scallop comes from the arms of George Pring, a surgeon and great supporter of the first Hammersmith Bridge although he died three years before the project was completed in 1827. This suspension bridge contributed greatly to the town’s development: it was replaced by a new suspension bridge at the same site in 1887. The crest was a castle tower surmounted by two hammers, a pun on the name Hammersmith.

Hammersmith & Fulham

In 1965 there was more local government reorganisation and the two metropolitan boroughs were superseded by the London Borough of Hammersmith, renamed the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham on 1 January 1980. The arms were granted on 1 March 1965 and incorporated features from both boroughs. The subsequent change of name to Hammersmith and Fulham did not affect them.


The wavy lines in the main field of the shield are taken from Fulham and is a symbol for the River Thames and its water. The hammers and horseshoe are a pun on the name of Hammersmith and come from the coat of arms of Hammersmith. There were also horseshoes in the arms of Sir Nicholas Crisp, whose works in Hammersmith in the 17th Century contributed significantly to the growth of the town. The crossed swords are taken from the coat of arms of the Diocese of London and the mitre stands for the Bishop of London.

The crest consists of a mural crown, a common heraldic symbol for a town or a city, and the ship brought from the former arms of Fulham. The supporters are male griffins, their gender easily spotted since they are wingless, whereas female griffins, which are more common beasts in heraldry, have wings. The griffins have a cross crosslet and an escallop shell respectively hanging around their necks. The cross is from the coat of arms of Edward Latymer, and the escallop is for George Pring.


Fiona Fowler, volunteer Local History Room and Archives


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