The Old Rectory, Litton Cheney, in Dorset, dates from the mid- eighteenth century, and has a few later additions and alterations. No longer a rectory, the house was once the home of the twentieth century engraver, letter cutter and painter Reynolds Stone, (1909 – 1979), who is buried in Litton Cheney churchyard. The house is Grade II Listed.
(Alan) Reynolds Stone was born at Eton College, where his father was a housemaster. After university he began an apprenticeship at Cambridge University Press in 1932. Two great influences were F.G. Nobbs, the press overseer, and the work of Stanley Morrison. He developed his skills under the tutorship of sculptor and engraver Eric Gill, before joining the printers Barnicott & Pearce, in Taunton.
In 1934 he left the firm to engrave full time and soon attracted critical attention for his book-plate designs, armorial devices and illustrations. Notable books that he illustrated include The Shakespeare Anthology (Nonesuch Press, 1935), The Praise and Happinesse of the Countrie Life (Gregynog Press, 1938), and The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau (Nonesuch Press, 1938).
In 1938 Stone married Janet Woods, the photographer. They had two sons and two daughters, all of whom are greatly involved with the arts.
During the Second World War he worked at RAF Medmenham, alongside the PRU making models.* He continued to engrave during this time.
After the War he produced a number of well-known commercial designs for The Times, The Economist, Barclays Bank and the Advertising Association, as well as corporate logos for Shell, Bally and the Dolcis chain of shoe shops. He was interested in all aspects of printing and, amongst others, created the typeface Minerva for the Linotype printing company in 1955.
In 1953 Stone and his family moved to the Old Rectory at Litton Cheney where he lived for the rest of his life. They were often visited by artists and writers such as John Betjeman, J. B. Priestley, Benjamin Britten, Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore, Iris Murdoch and John Bayley.
Following the success of his engravings for King George VI’s coronation in 1937, Stone received stately commissions for the rest of his career. He engraved the Royal Arms for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 and the official coat of arms for Her Majesty’s Stationary Office in 1955. The latter is still used on the cover of UK passports.
Stone also designed stamps for the Royal Mint between 1946 and 1965, and in 1963–4 the £5 and £10 notes for the Bank of England (using his daughter Phillida as the model for Britannia).
He had taught himself to cut letters in stone and his skill was such that he was received a number of important commissions, including memorials to Duff Cooper (St Paul’s Cathedral 1955), Ralph Vaughan Williams (Westminster Abbey 1958), Sir Winston Churchill (Westminster Abbey 1965), T. S. Eliot (Westminster Abbey 1966) and Benjamin Britten (Aldeburgh 1977).
He was appointed CBE in 1953 and an RDI (Royal Designer for Industry) in 1956 and in 1964 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Stone continued engraving, printing and painting until his death in 1979.
I have been an admirer of Reynolds Stone’s work for many years and have met his daughter, whose bookplate is shown above. I was delighted to be asked to help with the decoration of the house by its new owners.
Please see the Reynolds Stone website for more information on the artist and his work.
*My thanks to Simon Rendall for this information.
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