Monday, 11 December 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Frank Bellamy and the Corby Pole Fair 1947


Kettering Leader and Guardian May 30 1947
Thanks to Tony Smith for the image above
I promised something new for the last of my Frank Bellamy Centenary articles, and this comes courtesy of Tom Bingham, a "Corby-based man, well known for his connection to the arts and his hand-made guitars" - it said in a recent local article!

For those of you who don't like Bellamy's older work, be patient, immerse yourself and enjoy a good laugh, appreciating the ink work, the use of blacks and above all the imagination.

Since the 13th century a "pole fair" has been held in the Northamptonshire town of Corby (the town's name derives from 'raven' as can be seen on the coat of arms). Why a 'pole' fair? Apparently men who were to be punished would "ride the stang" or pole - "no toll- you ride the pole".  Like many British traditions there are varying accounts. In recent years two poles have appeared - one a greasy pole with a ham to be won at the top, and the 'stang' on which men ride held in place by two strong men. How the village of Corbei - now Corby, was granted its Royal Charter (in 1568) is also debatable - but one romantic origin is that Queen Elizabeth I was riding in Rockingham Forest and either her horse got stuck in a boggy piece of ground or she fell off her horse and was helped by the good men of Corbei. Or it might have been granted as a favour to Sir Christopher Hatton (an alleged lover of the Virgin Queen!). How it happened was less important than the rights given under it to escape taxes of various sorts as well as avoid conscription. I can't find why the fair did not start back in Elizabethan times, but like many things we think are traditional, it began with the Victorians since 1862. *

According to Margaret Marshall's article   
Queen Elizabeth granted that the ‘men and tenants’ of Corby should be quit of the customary dues of ‘toll, pannage, murage, and passage’, and other exemptions enjoyed by ancient demesne manors.

Though largely symbolic, the charter was a significant element in Corby ’s developing sense of community, identity, and self-governance, and may have been issued to allay villagers’ concerns at the manor’s acquisition by a powerful courtier.
Likewise, it was probably no coincidence that Corby ’s tenants successfully petitioned Charles II to confirm the charter in 1670, when the manor passed from the Hatton’s to the equally powerful Brudenells

If the fair started in 1862, and happened every twenty years, I can't find any reference for the 1882 fair. There are photographs of the Fair in 1902 and 1922. Following the pattern the 1942 fair would have occurred in the War so it appears to have been moved to 1947 and amazingly footage exists on Youtube of the 1947 Corby Pole Fair.



The appearance in this video of a couple of gentlemen dressed in full Scottish regalia might make you wonder,  but the town attracted lots of Scots workers when the post-WWII demand for steel increased.

The fair returned to its normal pattern and was again held in 1962, (although 1968 was the 400th anniversary of the granting of the charter) and was next held in 1982 and 2002. Preparations are underway now for the next one in 2022 after a court case was settled in 2006 - a man was injured climbing the greasy pole in 2002!

Corby Pole Fair 1947 A5 booklet cover

The image at the top of this article shows Frank Bellamy's review of the Pole Fair that took place on May 26 1947 which was Whit Monday (or Spring Bank Holiday as we say now!). He also illustrated a 16 page A5 sized booklet, which contained many advertisers from the local area. I have included all the pictures cleaned up here (the cover above) - see below for access to the complete work.**


A self-explanatory cartoon of welcome and warning!

Step over the Corby boundary at your peril!
Note the chimneys of the steelworks

The enthusiastic men with the pole, or stang, race to an objector!
No toll, you ride the pole!

The Danes started it by raiding up the Nene and Welland rivers!
Anyone know what the "No B-U's" comment means? Is it "No Broken Ups" as in chaper bits of unbrunt cake? Or am I trying to be too clever?
A lovely cartoon of the Danish settlements!

A long and busy day with loads of sadism and fun!

"Unsavoury missiles" adding to the punishment

Good Queen Bess bored after no assassination attempts on her life for 2 years

The stocks teach a lesson in history!

A naughty husband suggests bringing back the ducking stool too!
I've always found Bellamy's 'big foot' style of cartooning fun and it's interesting how he didn't really return to it at all in his career. And I guess he was provided with some notes or guidance as to which topics to cover in creating this artwork, imagine if we found them after all these years!. 

If you wish to join in the next Pole Fair in 2022 join the Facebook group here

Lastly, many, many thanks to Tom Bingham for his generosity in sharing this.

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* "The Corby 'Pole Fair' is an ancient custom held every 20 years with the fifth Pole Fair attracting crowds of 30,000 in the summer of 2002" - History of Corby [Emphasis mine as I think there is evidence for at least 7]

**  If you want a copy of the raw scans and the full text of the booklet, download it from my website here

Monday, 4 December 2017

Frank Bellamy and his studio references


Radio Times (21/12/1974 - 03/01/1975) Bridge on the River Kwai p.46
"Bridge on the River Kwai, one of the most 
Oscar-laden films ever produced is the big film for 
Christmas night on BBC1 at 8.45"

Recently in conversation with David Jackson I mentioned a scan he sent me had enabled me, for the first time, to be able to read the titles of books on Frank Bellamy's studio shelves.

Photo of Bellamy taken by Radio Times photographer, Jeremy Grayson
 Now, if you click you will, at least be able to make out:
 Coincidentally David has a copy of some of these and kindly sent me this page from A Pictorial History of War Films by Clyde Jeavons - page 94. So Bellamy owned a copy and had to produce an image to accompany a Radio Times TV listing for the Christmas issue. Back then such films were a big event (remember we only had three channels!) and it would be things like Magnificent Seven, Sound of Music or Bridge on the River Kwai. I recently read A Town like Alice by Nevil Shute for the first time - a present from my retiring line manager, and was amazed how much I enjoyed it. It still reads very well. It's not about the bridge directly but about the Japanese treatment of some women who march around Malaya (the real incident was in Sumatra, states the author's afterword).

Clyde Jeavons A Pictorial History of War Films p194

It's interesting to see how Bellamy has not copied the images available to him here, but used them to inform his work.His portraiture of actors and actresses are very accurate. Below is the page on which the picture at the top of this article appeared. (The linework of Frank Spencer is by Peter Brookes whose work appeared around this time in the Radio Times).
Radio Times Dec 21-Jan 3 1974-1975 p46
Thanks again David for sparking another article!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Frank Bellamy and the Mexican Bandit


Mexican bandit by Frank Bellamy
I love it when I get someone write to me with something I'm certain most people will not have seen. I also love it when I have permission to share, so here you go courtesy of Chloe Tideswell.

Chloe said:
Feel free to share the picture on your blog it would be lovely to share it with people and I am sure my Grandad would have wanted that too.

I have measured the picture it is 30cm in length and 24cm in width to be honest I have never taken it out, or seen it out of the frame. I have attached a  picture to show you this.
 It almost looks more amazing without the frame as the rest of the picture is white it is also painted on some line board? I always thought it was on paper. Amazing.
Rear - CS10 Bellamy's preferred artboard

It has been on the wall for 30 years I have always admired the picture (I'm 32) and last Christmas my Grandad, who passed away in July with a short battle with cancer, gave it to me as a gift. He always called the picture 'most unusual'  and was a fan of Bellamy's work and in his lifetime had quite a lot of Bellamy's work in his office. He would often tell me that the Mexican Bandit was an unpublished picture and was quite special.
Before his passing he gave me a typed up letter written by himself explaining the background for his Bellamy pieces and as my Nana is still alive agrees with what he wrote.
Here's the story:
In the 70s my Grandparents owned a Buy and Save Supermarket in a place called Clifton in Nottingham (where we were from) One of their regular customers was the late Frank Bellamy's sister in law. She asked if they were interested in comic strip art and arranged for them to visit Frank's widow in her bungalow in Kettering, this was around 1982, six years after he died.

She was a lovely woman, they said, and showed them a great deal of Bellamy's work and in conversation mentioned the good relationship he had had with the creators of Thunderbirds. They purchased 9 pieces that day including the Mexican Bandit which I am told was on the wall at the Bellamy's house

They also were shown a letter sent from Sir William Russell Flint some years before, congratulating him on a magazine illustration that he commented he couldn't have done better himself. Nancy was very proud of this and never wanted to part with it.

Six months later Nancy rang my Grandad offering to sell a double page picture with famous people on it including Frank Sinatra, the Royal Family, the Beatles - just to name a few for around £200 at the time. He couldn't afford this and on the bottom of the letter he gave me he said it was one of his biggest regrets .......

I'm happy to have stumbled on your web page and can finally share the story with someone
In its frame

The Sinatra, Beatles piece is one I have not yet shared - it's the Sunday Times (Colour) Magazine (5th October 1969) " A young artist dreams of success. But will he make it?" written by Robert Lacey.

I've asked Chloe about the other pieces her Grandad bought and she's kindly supplied a list most of which are known already, but I'll report back in due course.


So what is this piece of art? I have absolutely no record of it beyond the fact Alan Davis showed it on his website a while ago.  I decided to ask the two Davids about this and firstly David Slinn replied to me:
 "The attached Frank Bellamy artwork, though certainly unusual, may have been intended to be positioned to the left of a column of text, perhaps on a contents page. This would account for Frank having worked to a precise edge, and not simply included a bleed to be cropped at a production stage. However, what’s rather intriguing is the – decidedly, “un-FB-like” (uncorrected) – tiny seep from the cast shadow on the character’s throat. Nonetheless, a perfect example, of Frank’s unique instinctive design sense."
That 'seep' is so minute I missed it!

David Jackson agreed that:
I think your theory fits about why the 'Mexican Bandit' art is the way it is to accommodate text or other page layout. Thinking about it, it's even odd that the face isn't itself square-on and divided exactly in half down the middle, rather than as it is, turned away. As it is I'd have been tempted to frame it up against the picture mount/frame, leaving all the blank space to the left.

Good point David! I felt the "non-squared off" look was to make him lean away from the 'wall'.

I can say with certainty it was produced before August 1975 as that was approximately when the Bellamys moved from Morden back to Kettering (and the back of the board shows the Morden address) . Another mystery waiting to be solved - many thanks to Chloe for her kindness!