(* Another fine piece from the pen of Tony Woolrich, to whom I offer my thanks. Contributions to Bear Alley are always welcome.)
Charles Henry Bourne Quennell (1872–1935) and his wife Marjorie (née Courtney) (1883–1972) were the authors of a series of well-known illustrated history books for children which they wrote after the end of the First World War and which were still being re-issued into the 1980s.
Charles trained as an architect and set up in practice in Westminster in 1896. He designed numbers of houses, mostly in London and the Home Counties, as well as some churches. He was typical of his time; much into the Arts and Crafts movement. He drew together some like minded friends and formed the Lambeth Guild of Handicraft, making joinery, metalwork etc by hand. According to Charles’s brother, writing after his death, some of their work was for a church at Brith-dir in North Wales. This is probably Brithdir, Dolgelly, Gwynedd, Grade 1 listed, and a fine example of an Arts and Crafts design building. He wrote for Bells a guide to Norwich Cathedral and for Batsfords a book about modern suburban houses. He had the reputation of being a particularly skilful pen and ink draughtsman. He was specially interested in recording craftsmanship, particularly for buildings and farm vehicles.
The First World War virtually killed his architectural practice, and he was employed in 1918 as an architect by the Messrs Crittall Co., makers of metal windows, to design a housing scheme for their employees at Braintree, Essex. He died in 1935.
Marjorie was a painter in oils and watercolour, mostly of architectural subjects and also an illustrator. They had three children, one of whom, Peter, (1905-1993) became a well-known writer and was editor of History Today. After her husband’s death in 1935 she was appointed curator of the Geffreye Museum, London, until 1941, then lived in America for some years working as an illustrator. She died in London in 1972, aged 88.
At the end of the First World War the Quennells conceived the idea of writing a series of illustrated children’s books, A History of Everyday Things in England, 4 vol (1918-1934). It was concluded by The Good New Days (1935), where modern industrial and agricultural processes, together with the problems of the future, were considered. A second series was produced, Everyday Life in… (1921-26) describing living in Prehistoric to Norman times. A third series of Everyday Things (1929-32) covered Greece in antiquity. After the Second World War Marjorie illustrated two more books in the Everyday Life series on Biblical times, the texts being written by others.
All were books about ‘material culture’ and dealt with history from the ground up. They were specially strong on housing, agriculture and the way people earned their livings. They were described by Hector Bolitho as “transforming teaching”. They sold in thousands and were reputed to have been used by more than eight hundred schools in Britain alone and more were in use in overseas in English-speaking schools. Translations of a number of titles have been made into Russian, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and Danish.
The books were illustrated with some coloured drawings of mostly costume, half tones and a profusion of line drawings made by the authors. All the books went into numerous revisions, with the information upgraded to take account of modern knowledge.
While the work of Charles Quennell has attracted the interest of historians of architecture, the work the Quennells did as writers of children’s books is not discussed in modern academic studies of children’s books. Nor has anything be found about the artistic work of Marjorie Quennell.
The following list of the Quennells has been compiled from the online British Library Catalogue, COPAC and WorldCat augmented by titles noted by book dealers in ABE. Many of the books went into several editions, but the earliest ones traced are the ones noted. More references might be added for Marjorie Quennell’s book illustrations.
C. H. B. Quennell, The new cathedral church of Norwich: a description of its fabric and a brief history of the episcopal see, London, G. Bell and Sons, 1898. [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
C. H. B. Quennell, Modern Suburban Houses. A series of examples erected at Hampstead & elsewhere from designs, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1906.
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, A History of Everyday Things in England, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1918-1934.
__vol 1, 1066-1449 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__vol 2, 1500-1799 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__vol 3, 1733-1851 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__vol 4, 1852-1914 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, A History of Everyday life in…, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1921-1926.
__The Old Stone Age [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__The New Stone Age, Bronze and Early Iron Age [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__Saxon, Viking and Norman Times
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, Everyday things in Greece, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1929-1932.
__Vol 1, Homeric Greece
__Vol 2, Archaic Greece
__Vol 3, Classical Greece
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, The Good New Days, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1935.
Marjorie Quennell, London craftsman: a guide to museums having relics of old trades, London, London Transport, 1939.
Books illustrated by Marjorie Quennell
E. Lucia Turnbull and H. Dalway Turnbull, Through the gates of remembrance: first series: a trilogy of plays centred round Glastonbury, London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1933.
Elisabeth Kyle, Disappearing Island, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1944.
Gertrude Hartman and Lucy S. Saunders, Builders of the Old World, Boston, D. C. Heath & Co., 1949. [Vol 4 of the History on the March series]
A. C. Bouquet, Everyday Life in New Testament Times, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1953.
Wallace Walter Atwood and Helen Goss Thomas, Visits in other lands, Toronto, Ginn, [1955?].
E. W. Heaton, Everyday Life in Old Testament Times, London, Batsford Ltd, 1957.
Prefatory material to the A History of Everyday Things in England.
Hector Bolitho, A Batsford Century: The Record of a Hundred Years of Publishing and Bookselling, 1843–1943, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1943, pp, 54-55, 85, 127-28.
C. H. B. Quennell
The Times (Obituary) 7 December 1935, with a correction by his brother, W. D. Quennell, 14 December 1935.
Tony Crosby, “The Silver End Model Village for Crittall Manufacturing Co. Ltd”, Industrial Archaeology Review, XX, (1998), pp 69-82, ISSN 0309-02728.
Nick Collins, “In search of C. H. B. Quennell”, Context 89, May 2005, pp 14-18.
Elizabeth McKellar, “C.H.B. Quennell (1872-1935): architecture, history and the quest for the modern.” Architectural History, 49 .(2006) pp. 211-246. ISSN 0066-622X .
The Times (Obituary) 4 August, 1972.
Sir Peter Quennell, (1905-1993). Article by James B. Denigan, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [accessed 12 August 2008].