Tag Archives: maps

MacDonald Gill’s Westminster maps

photo 6Going in to the House of Commons through St Stephen’s Porch you pass two huge and magnificent wall maps painted by MacDonald Gill. On the left-hand side is a plan of the Houses of Parliament (see right) and on the right-hand side is a map of ‘The Cities of London and Westminster’ – see below.



photo 8The plan is surrounded by wonderful coats of arms of British royalty, and it is interesting to follow the changes over the centuries in the shields of the kings and queens of Britain. This one (right) for Charles II, for example, has the lion of Scotland in the second quarter (top right), and the harp of Ireland in the third quarter. But in the first and fourth quarters, England is represented not only by the ‘leopards of England’ (lions passant guardant) but also by the fleur-de-lis of France, even though England lost all French land in 1558. The fleur-de-lis remained part of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom, and thus represented the claim to the French throne by the English monarch, until 1801, even though by this time there was no French throne as the country was a republic!

photo 9MacDonald Gill, Max, was the brother of the more famous letter cutter, letter designer and sculptor, Eric Gill, Both studied with Master Calligrapher Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century, and this is shown well in Max’s strong and lively letter-forms – see right – from the Houses of Parliament map. Here the lettering varies from flourished capitals, compressed capitals and a formal minuscule style, with a delightful addendum in Italic where perhaps the text didn’t quite fit!

photo 5The map of the cities (see right) is particularly attractive, and fits the rather unusual shape well. (The maps are on the walls flanking a flight of stone steps.) The map itself is very detailed, and there are also a number of very well-designed heraldic shields representing the boroughs that make up the cities, balancing the arms of royalty on the opposite wall.



photoUp close and personal to the map it is easy to appreciate the detail and sheer artistry of Max’s hand. Buildings are drawn out in 3-D, with scrolls naming the most important. However, up close and personal it is rather worrying to see the obvious cracking of the paint.



photo 3The vibrant shield of Camberwell, shows two wells in the first and fourth quarters – the most important in heraldry. The second quarter (top right) represents Dulwich and so the chevron and cinquefoils from the arms of Edward Alleyn, who was the founder of Dulwich College, were adopted. And lastly, in the third quarter, the lion from the arms of Robert, Earl of Gloucester, represent Peckham, as the Earl was lord of this manor in the twelfth century.




photo 2That for Chelsea is equally lively. The crozier in the centre represents Westminster Abbey which used to hold the borough. The bull in the first quarter (top left) is the symbol of St Luke who is the patron saint of the borough. The white lion in the second quarter is from the arms of the first mayor, Earl Cadogan. The boars’ heads and sword are from the Sloane family, and the stag’s head is from the Stanley arms – both former holders of the manor.

MacDonald Gill exhibition

MacDonald Gill

MacDonald Gill

Most people have heard of Eric Gill, the great letter cutter of the first part of the last century. He carved the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral and the Ariel figure for the BBC as well as many inscriptions. Others may know of his type designs including Gill Sans and Joanna, the latter named after his daughter.

Fewer people know of his brother, MacDonald Gill, known as Max. He created very lively and colourful maps, posters, logos and typefaces too.

This is one of his maps – London Wonderground.

London Wonderground

There is to be a new exhibition on his work opening next month. Many of the exhibits were in the loft of the cottage where he lived with his second wife, Priscilla Johnston, daughter of the Master Calligrapher Edward Johnston. Her nephew, Andrew, inherited the cottage and found the originals tucked in all sorts of hidden places – not only in the loft but also under tables and hidden in wardrobes.

 Max's baby shoesA rather sweet exhibit will be his shoes, where the name ‘Eric’ as well as ‘Vernon’ (another brother) have been crossed out and ‘Max’ scratched on in replacement. I suppose with 13 children in the family hand-me-downs are inevitable.

The exhibition is at the Pitzhanger Manor House, Ealing, a Grade I listed building designed by John Soane in 1800, and looks worth a visit on its own!

Out of the Shadows: MacDonald Gill will open at PM Gallery & House on 20 September until 2 November 2013. For visitor information and opening times, see http://www.ealing.gov.uk/pmgalleryandhouse. To see more of Gill’s work, visit http://www.macdonaldgill.com.