Warsash Art Group was founded in 1958, originally under the name of Warsash & District Art Group. In 1957, the Chairman of Southampton Art Club and newly qualified art teacher, Phillip Lambert, was invited by the local Further Education Authority to give tuition to the local Women's Institute Group at Warsash. Hampshire County Council agreed to pay his tutoring fees if there were at least 12 students. Weekly classes were initially held at Miss Drummond's house and then at lady Charmier's house ('Farthings') in Shore Road with an average attendance of 20. Mr Lambert suggested that an art group should be formed although he played no part in its formation.
Formation of the Group
On 28th November 1958, at an open meeting held at 'Fairlight', Brook Avenue, it was decided to form an art group to further the interest of its members in the visual arts. The first committee comprised Mr C. Delmar–Morgan (Chairman), Mrs D. Taylor (Vice–Chairman), Mrs H.A. Rosier (Secretary), Mrs R. Spencer (Treasurer), Mrs M. Bradby, Mrs C. Bond and Master Peter Jenks. At the first committee meeting, draft rules presented by the Chairman were approved for presentation at the first Group AGM when they were adopted. The second AGM was held at the Silver Fern Restaurant on 18th January 1961. The new committee comprised Sir Adrian Charmier (Chairman), Mrs H.A. Rosier (Vice–Chairman), Mr J.E. Ormond (Secretary), Mrs R. Spencer (Treasurer), Mrs J. Ormond, Mrs Delmar–Morgan, Mrs E. Peters, Mrs Smith and Mrs Bond. Committee meetings were held mainly at 'Farthings'.
All our activities and associated expenses are funded by members paying an annual subscription, with additional fees to attend our classes and show their work in exhibitions. These have steadily increased over the decades with inflation. Initially the annual subscription was 15 shillings (75p) with junior members (under 18 years) paying half price. The current fee is £10 (rising to £12 in 2009) and sadly there are no junior members. The first Exhibition in Victory Hall (hire charge for four days, £5, generously paid by Mr E.V. Edwards) and the catalogue was 6d (2.5p). Nevertheless, the exhibition made a loss of £2.11.2 (£1.30). In 2007 the Exhibition made a surplus of £293. In 1961 the bank balance stood at £18.7.10 whereas in 2007 it was £8370. Lecturers at evening meetings were initially paid 2 guineas (£2.20) but by 1962 the fee had increased to 3 or 4 guineas, especially if the speaker had to travel from London. Now speakers ask a fee of £150 or more. In 1960 the fees for each term of painting class was 10/6 (52p) for members and 12/6 (62p) for non–members. At the time of writing (2021), the annual subscription was £20.
Membership numbers grew steadily after the Group's founding: 28 in 1959, 36 in 1960, 65 in 1961, and 88 in 1962. Numbers during the first two decades of the twenty–first century were 150–180, peaking at just over 200 in 2017–18. They dipped in 2020 due to the Covid–19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of all our planned events.
A competition to design a logo took place in 1962. It was judged by Peter Folkes, a well–known artist and lecturer at Southampton Art College. There were seven entries and the winner was Mrs Frances Smith who designed a lobster on a palette floating on a choppy sea, inspired by the trade in crab and lobster teas served in a converted wooden ship, the 'Gipsy Queen' and in a restaurant situated where the car park now sits in front of the 'Rising Sun'. Over the years this logo has been modified and the most recent version now graces our Newsletter.
Early talks, held at the Silver Fern Café and subsequently Horseshoe Lodge, covered a great diversity of topics including sculpture (from cave drawings to contemporary works), drawing from memory, pottery, Goya, 18th C porcelain, architecture, Southampton Art Gallery and its collections, lithography, printing, lettering and illustration, fabric printing, Byzantine mosaics, Gothic stained glass, psychology of painting and work done by Southampton College of Art. In 1962 topics included mural painting, colour and tonal value, and heraldry. By 1963 the room at Horseshoe Lodge was becoming too small and members complained that it smelt of cats!
There is no record for most of the 1970s and 1980s and not much from the 1990s. In December 1988 Mollie Dicker gave a critique of members' work, in May 1991 J.F. Lewis talked on 'Original Victorian Panto' and in October 1991 there was a demonstration of portrait in oils by Tom Coates at Warsash Maritime College. In recent years, at our meetings at St. Mary's Church Hall, we have had a mix of talks on painters or history of painting and demonstrations of techniques. Attendances are normally 50–70 including a handful of visitors.
In the 21st century we have taken advantage of current audio–visual technology. We now have a microphone amplification system for use at evening meetings for the benefit not only of the speakers but also for members. We have a camera and digital projection system. Even when the demonstrator insists on painting on a horizontal surface, we can project the image onto the screen for all to see. Speakers now present slideshows digitally via applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint.
It was painting classes that led to the formation of the Group and they continue to play an important role on our activities. In 1961, Mrs Drummond offered the use of one of her rooms at Warsash Court for the cost of electricity used and with the proviso that the Group supplied a covering to protect the floor! There were still life classes on Friday afternoon and evening. In addition, there was a portrait class and a still life class on Tuesday afternoons at Victory Hall, all tutored by Mr Lambert. Attendances fell from 48 in 1961 to 25 in 1962 and classes were reduced from three to two.
Following an interview with Antony Butler (Chairman), John Ormond (Secretary) and Sheila Perkins, Hugh Knollys was appointed tutor from 1973 until 1979 and classes were held in St Mary's Church Hall. Whenever the weather allowed, the classes painted en plain air. Hugh recalled that one day an elderly lady was blown off her stool into the ditch by 'a gentle zephyr'. He helped her up and she showed him her painting saying, 'It's not very good but I didn't start painting until I was 70'. He thought it was pretty good for a 72 year old and then he found out she was 82! Among the painters in this year were Ellen Peters, Gwynne Clare, Josie Cutcliffe, Ros Butler and Doreen Pullen. Our current tutor at the Tuesday painting classes is Kay Le Poidevin.
Painting out days
The first tutored painting weekend (tutor Anthony Atkinson), took place on 13 June 1959 at Titchfield Drill Hall in conjunction with Fareham and Gosport art groups, and was funded by the Carnegie Trust. Early venues included Botley boatyard (now Botley Quay), Roche Court, and Camper & Nicholson, Gosport. More recently, painting days (sometimes tutored but normally not) have visited Hillhead Harbour, Netley Abbey, Porchester Castle, Fareham Creek, Wickham Square, Warsash strawberry fields, Hamble foreshore, Titchfield Abbey, St. Margaret's, and Titchfield. The recent tutored painting out day at Swanwick nature reserve attracted a full complement of 15 artists – well above the normal take up (tutor Alan Truswell).
In 1960 there was an outing to the Tate Gallery Picasso Exhibition (the coach hire was £14). Suggestion from the AGM for outings in 1962 included Longleat, Arundel Castle, the RA Summer Exhibition, Stonehenge and Wisley; the RA trip was cancelled through lack of support. However, in 1989 the trip to the RA was very popular and the cost of the coach travel was £5 per head.
In 1988 the Group went on a coach trip to Paris and Marjory Wanklin recalls: 'According to the driver, the coach company apparently were instructed to provide a more superior hotel than for their usual tours to cater for a select group from Warsash. When he eventually found the hotel, it was sandwiched between cinemas showing rather saucy films to judge by their posters. My room was covered completely in green velvet apart from a mirror on the ceiling. Not the sort of hotel for a staid group from Warsash. We all thought it a huge joke, but it was so convenient for the centre of Paris'. On another trip to Paris in 1994, the hotel was on the outskirts, but the driver took the group to the centre of Paris each day. The tour included Monet's garden at Giverny. An attempt to make a further trip in 2006 was abandoned through lack of support.
The Group continued to organise occasional coach trips through to the early 2010s but have since been discontinued because it's become increasingly difficult to fill a coach and cover the cost of it. Nevertheless, members always encouraged to organise trips more informally through car sharing.
As now, the first exhibition was held at Victory Hall. The screens were loaned from Fareham Art Group and 125 exhibits were put on display. Two screens were later made (at a cost of £1.12.5 per board). The Secretary ordered two dozen bottles of sherry for the 1961private view; it was suggested that this was insufficient so he ordered a further dozen! A total of 127 exhibits were on display and 17 pictures were sold (20 in 1960) but attendance was higher (100 per day) and 275 catalogues were sold. 1962 saw an increased attendance (550) and sales increased. In 2007 and 2008 there were 356 and 360 exhibits respectively.
The continued success, and existence, of Warsash Art Group will depend on the active support and enthusiasm of its membership. The Group has always been run entirely by volunteers. All our activities therefore depend on people being willing and able to organise them. Considerable work goes on behind the scenes, including Treasurer managing the Group's finances, along with the Secretary and others tackling various pieces of admin. Members need to be kept up to date through newsletters and information disseminated online. We need to continue, then to recruit new members. Our evening meetings, painting classes and annual exhibition are well supported. At some point we will need to refurbish the heavy display screens used at the Annual Exhibition. Help on the “Heavy Gang” to assemble and dissemble them at the start and finish of the show in Victory Hall is always wanted. In between exhibitions, screens are currently stored – free of charge – by a resident in Warsash. As that's something we cannot take for granted indefinitely, we will need to seek alternative, and affordable, storage space soon. We also need volunteers to serve tea and coffee at evening meetings and to run the desk at the exhibition. Finally, we are trying to encourage people to put themselves forward to serve on the committee as new members bring new ideas. Without management the Group will founder. Please help to make it to continue to be successful into the next half century.
- 1961–1962 Sir Adrian Charmier
- 1963–1967 Mr D.M. Mackinley
- 1968–1973 Mr A.B. Butler
- 1984 Mrs K.M. Woodsford
- 1985–1986 Mrs H.G. Clare
- 1986–1987 Mrs E. Peters
- 1987–1990 Mr. E. Battersby
- 1991–1994 Mrs D. Scotts
- 1995–1997 Dr E. Hendrikz
- 1998–1999 Cdr P.F Martin
- 2000–2003 Dr T. Wade–West
- 2003–2007 Mrs B. Maybury
- 2007–2013 Dr T. Wade–West
- 2013–2015 Mr P Cope
- 2015–2019 Mr V Bettridge
- 2019 – Mr C Francis
The sources of information include the (incomplete) records of Minutes and recollections of founder members (Ellen Peter, Josie Cutcliffe, Elizabeth Orton, George and Joan King, Pat Newman, Elizabeth Hendrikz, Kathleen Woodsford and Hugh Knollys). The first draft was prepared by Peter and Jo' Ball with additions by Olive French. Rewritten by John Murray (2008), with updates and minor edits by Joan Lee (2021).