Literature: Christopher Campbell-Howes: Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting (Romarin 2016), p147/8.
In 1932 Charles Mahoney initiated a project to decorate the hall and adjacent areas of Brockley County School for Boys (now Prendergast – Hilly Fields School 6th Form centre) with murals illustrating the fables of Aesop and others. The work, begun in 1933 and completed in February 1936, was divided between Mahoney himself and three of his recent Royal College of Art graduates, Evelyn Dunbar, Violet Martin and Mildred ‘Elsi’ Eldridge.
The available spaces on the underside of the gallery at the back of the hall consisted of three ceiling areas, a lunette at each end, and 24 spandrels, of which Mahoney painted the two featured here, The Clock (left) and The Dial (right). In the fable the two timepieces argue for supremacy, the sundial losing out because it cannot record passing time at night. The church tower on the left is unmistakeably that of St Mary’s, Great Bardfield, the Essex village where Edward Bawden and (for a short while) Eric Ravilious lived, and where Mahoney and Dunbar used sometimes to go and stay. In her autobiography Long Live Great Bardfield (ed. Anne Ullmann: Persephone Books, 2016) Tirzah Garwood, Eric Ravilious’ widow, wrote ‘The church had a very nice square clock made of wood painted blue and stuck up diagonally on the tower, where it was invisible to the major part of the village’. The tower on the right, carrying a sundial, has yet to be identified.
A tiny figure on the Great Bardfield church parapet may be Mahoney himself. In the finished mural he is looking down into the semi-circular lunette below and between his spandrels, which he decorated with another fable, The Butterfly and The Rose. The completed The Clock and The Dial was Mahoney’s final contribution to the Brockley Murals; it is signed and dated ‘CM 35’ at the foot.
We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for assistance.