Discovering Britain

The most prominent advertising campaign that Shell used throughout the 20th Century was one centred on Britain. Shell promoted motoring as a leisure activity, encouraging people to get out in their cars and explore the countryside. By producing advertising posters depicting landmarks and locations, guides, calendars and wallcharts, Shell worked to inspire an appreciation for the British landscape and its wildlife.

With the help of our interactive map, we invite you to discover Britain through Shell’s advertising. Select one of the 92 historic British counties to uncover material from the Collection and experience this unique record of Britain during the 20th Century.

 

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Discovering Britain Shell Heritage Art Collection

Bedfordshire

Building on the success of the popular Shell County Guides, the Shilling Guides were created as a cheaper alternative under the joint Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd (SMBP) brand in 1963.

The Guides featured a double page colour map of the area, an essay on the history and landscape of the county, followed by a short gazetteer of the main towns and attractions.

 

Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, cover art by Edgar Ainsworth, 1964. Shilling Guide.

Berkshire

The artist Walter Steggles (1908-1997) was a leading member of the East London Group. Formed in the 1920s, the Group compromised a selection of young local artists including Elwin Hawthorne, Harold Steggles and Brynhild Parker. Exhibited at venues such as the Whitechapel Art Gallery and Lefevre Gallery, their works were predominantly concerned with the urban scenes of East London.​

The Thames at Cookham, Walter Steggles, 1932. Poster.

Buckinghamshire

Shell provided artist Rex Whistler (1904-1944) with his biggest commercial opportunity. Whistler’s Vale of Aylesbury design was painted from his family home, Bolebec House at Whitchurch.

Whistler’s brother Laurence can be seen beneath the trees at the forefront of the painting. The poster captures the views across the valley with the Chiltern Hills beyond.

Whistler also produced a series of humorous press advertisements for Shell during the 1930s.

The Vale of Aylesbury, Rex Whistler, 1933. Poster.​

 

 

 

Cambridgeshire

In the 1960s, Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. (SMBP) commissioned artists to produce a series of county artworks. The works highlighted the unique features of each county and were used to illustrate Shell Calendars, educational wallcharts and the SMBP Shilling Guides.

John Nash, younger brother of the artist Paul Nash, designed the cover for the Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire guide, incorporating the architecture and history of Cambridgeshire. Nash previously wrote the first Bucks County Guide for Shell in 1936.

Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, cover art by John Nash 1964. Shilling Guide.

 

Cheshire

During the 1930s, humour was a key part of Shell’s advertising campaigns. One of the most memorable of these campaigns was a series of press advertisements punning town names. The creative puns were created by Poet Laureate John Betjeman, and illustrated by commercial artists and cartoonists. The clever addition of the a map on each advert was to help the motorist and to prove that Shell had not invented the name.

Stockport in your Cellar, John Patrick, 1935. Press Advertisement.​

Cornwall

Alexander Stuart-Hill (1889-1948) is most famous for painting images of London, especially the River Thames. Stuart-Hill painted this commission for Shell in 1932, unusually including his own lettering in the original design. The image gives a sense of vorticism, an artistic style that emerged in Britain in 1914 with the aim of creating art that expressed the dynamism of the modern world. The style saw a brief revival in the early 1930s, merging cubist fragmentation with hard-edged imagery.

Mousehole, Penzance, Alexander Stuart-Hill, 1932. Poster.​

 

Cumberland

Dominique Charles Fouqueray (1869-1956) was a French painter, illustrator and engraver. Fouqueray painted all of the artworks for the ‘See Britain First’ Campaign in the 1920s and produced 18 paintings for Shell’s advertising. The success of this series started one of Shell’s most prominent advertising themes: the British countryside.

Ullswater, is the second largest lake in The Lake District and was boardered by the county of Westmorland in the East and Cumberland on the West.

Ullswater, Dominique Charles Fouqueray, 1925. Poster.

 

Derbyshire

Edward Bawden (1903–1989), painter, illustrator and graphic artist produced over 50 artworks for Shell’s advertising during the 1930s. Bawden’s designs were often incorporated into Shell’s humour advertisements, most notably the series punning town names. The series captured the imagination of the nation and resulted in countless suggestions from the public for future puns. Artists such as Denis Constanduros and Nicholas Bentley were also commissioned to illustrate the series.

Lover's Leap, Edward Bawden, 1936. Press Advertisement.

 

Devon

Brynhild Parker (1907-1987) was a member of the artist collective the East London Group, and one of several female artists commissioned by Shell in the 1930s.

Although she signed her works Brynhild Parker, she was born Margaret Brynhild Parker.

Known as an illustrator and painter, Parker studied at the Slade School of Art in the 1920s. During her career Parker illustrated a number of books and produced this commission for Shell.  

The Quay, Appledore, Brynhild Parker, 1932. Poster.

 

Dorset

In 1935, Paul Nash (1889-1946) was invited to compile the Dorset Shell Guide. As well as descriptions of places of interest, Nash included detail on flora and fauna, a Thomas Hardy poem, Nash’s own drawings and photographs and a guide to the Dorset language.

The Dorset Shell Guide has been described as ‘artistically the most experimental and memorable of all the guides’. If you look closely at the cover of this guide you can see that the image is actually a photomontage.

Shell Guide to Dorset, edited by Paul Nash, 1936. County Guide.​


 

Durham

Used in a series of advertisements punning place names, it is unknown why this small village is named Pity Me. The Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names claims it is a ‘whimsical name bestowed in the 19th Century on a place considered desolate, exposed or difficult to cultivate’.

All of the adverts in this series included a small map for motorists, but also to prove that Shell had not made up the names.

Pity Me near Durham, John Patrick, 1935. Press Advertisement.​

Essex

The highly regarded historian Norman Scarfe produced three County Guides for Shell, including guides to Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.

A prominent historian of East Anglia, Scarfe was an obvious choice for A Shell Guide to Essex. Drawing upon his expertise Scarfe directs readers around the manmade landscape of the county, while promoting the solitude and quiet of the woods and marshes.

A Shell Guide to Essex, Norman Scarfe, 1968, 1975. County Guide.​

Gloucestershire

HIdcote Manor, described in this press advertisement as a typical English Garden was one of a series of British gardens selected to feature in the Shell Gardens Book.

Created to meet the demand for a guide to British gardens, the Shell Gardens Book highlighted the features to look out for when visiting the selected gardens. A selection of photographs from the series were adopted to illustrate Shell’s press advertisements and the company’s 1963 calendar.

Hidcote Manor, photographed by Percy Hennell, 1963. Press advertisement.​

Hampshire & Isle of Wight

The content of John Rayner’s Guide to Hampshire is easy to navigate and simple to search. The outstanding feature of this guide is the eye-catching cover design. Most Shell Guides of the 1930s were tonally dark and literal. Rayner designed a light and surreal cover that captures the waters of the County in a Hampshire silhouette, travelling to the Solent.

A Shell Guide to Hampshire, John Rayner, 1937. County Guide.

Herefordshire

Herefordshire is named after the County’s only city of Hereford, a city due to its Cathedral of Saxon origins.

John Aldridge captures the rural landscape of this county in this image, including Herefordshire cattle, hop-fields and cider-apple orchards. Mistletoe, most common in Herefordshire than anywhere else in the UK, can be seen above the head of actress Nell Gwynn.

This Shell County Wallchart was used as an educational tool in British schools during the 1960s.

Herefordshire, John Aldridge, 1961. Wallchart.

Hertfordshire

Shell’s incredibly popular series of 1930s press advertisements punning place names from across Britain captured the imaginations of the public. Shell were inundated with suggestions for future puns as the humour of this series swept the nation.

This particular advertisement features a letter from a member of the public who wished to complain that Shell’s advertising had become a ‘pest-in-the-household’ as his family continuously spoke in this manner. The letter was signed ‘Father-in-the-Madhouse’.

Too Much Hadham, Edward Bawden, 1934. Press Advertisement.

Huntingdonshire

Duncan Grant (1885-1978) is most famous for being part of the Bloomsbury Group, alongside fellow Shell artist Vanessa Bell, with whom he lived. The pair collaborated on many projects including designs for textiles, pottery, stage sets and costumes and a series of designs for the Queen Mary in 1935, which Cunard rejected.

Grant produced this poster for Shell’s ‘Everywhere You Go’ series in 1932. It shows the bridge over the Great Ouse river. This bridge is one of only four in Britain which incorporates a chapel as part of it.

St. Ives – Huntingdon, Duncan Grant, 1932. Poster.​

 

 

 

Kent

North Foreland Lighthouse looks across the meeting point of the North Sea and the English Channel, and marks the approach to the River Thames for incoming ships to London.

The lighthouse was built in 1691 and provided light to incoming ships with coal fire and oil burners until electricity was introduced to the lighthouse in 1920.

It was the last British Lighthouse to start operating automatically in 1998.

North Foreland Lighthouse, Elwin Hawthorne, 1932. Poster.​

Lancashire

The county artwork by Derek Hyatt (1931-2015), featured on the cover of this 1964 Shilling Guide captures the beautiful contrasts Lancashire has to offer. Hyatt’s interpretation of Lancashire portrays the counties part in the industrial revolution, railway development, against the bluebells of Stonyhurst and the red rose of Lancaster.

The Shilling Guides created by the joint Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. (SMBP) brand were a cheaper alternative to the popular Shell Guides. Available from garages across the country during the 1960s.

Lancashire and the Isle of Man, cover art by Derek Hyatt, 1964. Shilling Guide.

Leicestershire

Author of the Leicestershire Guide W. G. Hoskins stated that Leicestershire is ‘dotted with golden iron-stone villages, good churches, and medium-sized country houses in their small parks created three to four hundred years ago … It is a countryside as beautiful in summer and autumn as Somerset and Devon’. Hoskins encouraged the reader to visit Leicester itself as ‘it is in fact one of the historic cities of Britain, with a great deal to show of its two thousand years of history’.

A Shell Guide to Leicestershire, W.G. Hoskins, 1970. County Guide.​

Lincolnshire

The ‘Jungle’ as captured by Adrian Daintrey (1901-1988), takes its name from the menagerie of animals that lived there in the 19th Century, including Kangaroos and Buffalo. A Mr. Collett built the unusual structure seen in this poster in 1820.

Adrian Daintrey was an underrated artist and a bohemian eccentric. Daintrey shared his first major exhibition with Paul Nash in 1928. His work was dominated by cityscapes in the Post-Impressionist manner, and also portraits and interiors.

The ‘Jungle’, Lincoln, Adrian Daintrey,1936. Poster.​

Middlesex

In the 1960s, Middlesex was the smallest English county after Rutland. It was also the most urban as it contained parts of the city of London within it. The author of this guide states that Middlesex and Hertfordshire were linked together for this publication ‘because the border between them corresponds to no strongly-marked geographical feature’.

The Shilling Guides created by the joint Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. (SMBP) brand were a cheaper alternative to the popular Shell Guides.

Middlesex and Hertfordshire, cover art by Stanley Roy Badmin, 1964. Shilling Guide​.

 

Norfolk

Shell’s advertising has a long history of using humour to engage with the public. One series of advertisements punning place names across the UK captured the public’s imagination and resulted in countless suggestions from the public of additional puns.

Great Snoring is a rural village in North Norfolk, illustrated in this press advertisement by Edward Bawden (1903-1989). Bawden produced over 50 artworks and sketches for Shell’s advertising during the 1930s.

Great Snoring in Norfolk. Edward Bawden, 1934. Press Advertisement.

Northamptonshire

In the traditional spirit of the Shell County Guides, the author Juliet Smith was given free reign to record what she personally thought was of interest; rather than a general record of the locations within the county Smith called home.

Smith’s work on the guide is described as ‘poetically described with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation’ in the Guide’s dust jacket.

A Shell County Guide to Northamptonshire & the Soke of Peterborough, Juliet Smith, 1968. County Guide.

Northumberland

Before the site was taken over by the Normans in the 11th Century, Bamburgh Castle was one of the most important fortifications in the North of England. It was crucial for defence against Scottish invaders and in defending the coastline against the Vikings.

Painted in this poster by Algernon Newton (1880-1968), the artist specialised in urban views in a solemn, natural style. Newton’s fondness for scenes encompassing waterways generated his nickname ‘the Canaletto of the canals’.

Bamburgh Castle, Algernon Newton, 1931. Poster.

 

 

 

 

Nottinghamshire

Shell produced educational wallcharts in the 1950s and 1960s to help educate and promote the importance of the British landscape and its heritage. Schools across Britain displayed the wallcharts in their classrooms.  

The artworks used in each wallchart depicted the unique characteristics associated with each county. In David Gentleman’s portrayal of Nottinghamshire, the artist has included Sherwood Forest, the Norman Font and the Flawford Madonna; as well Lord Byron and landscape painter Richard Parkes Bonington.

 Nottinghamshire, David Gentleman, 1961. Wallchart.​

Oxfordshire

Lord Berners (1883–1950) built Faringdon Folly, pictured in this Shell poster in 1935. A brick structure in Gothic style, it was designed by the Duke of Wellington and Trenwith Mills.

Lord Berners was a true eccentric who dabbled in music, writing and painting.

Lord Berners also designed the cover for the 1939 Wiltshire Shell county guide, published by the Architectural Press.

Faringdon Folly, Lord Berners, 1936. Poster. ​

Rutland

A landlocked county in the East Midlands, Rutland is just 18 miles in length, north to south, and 17 miles east to west. It is the smallest ‘historic county’ in England and the fourth smallest in Britain.  

At the time of writing in 1963, Hoskins described Rutland as ‘fighting for its independence against the urban theorists who seem to dominate the world of planning today’. Rutland survived the local government reforms of 1965 and 1974 and still exists today.

A Shell Guide to Rutland, W.G. Hoskins, 1963. County Guide.​

Shropshire

As the first Shell Guide published after the war this is particularly interesting edition of the Shell Guides, because it brings together the two editors of the Shell Guides. In the 1930s, Poet Laureate John Betjeman became the first editor of the Guides welcoming names such as John Piper and Paul Nash to contribute.

John Piper later went on to take over from Betjeman’s after collaborating on this edition. Known as a painter, printmaker and designer, Piper was also a keen photographer using many of his own photographs through the Guides.

A Shell Guide to Shropshire, John Piper & John Betjeman, 1952. County Guide.

Somerset

The ShellSound Guides were produced to accompany the corresponding Shell Maps. This particular version played on 8 track car stereos, which were popular among car manufacturers from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. As technology developed, the Sound Guides were also produced on smaller compact cassette tape’ in the early 1970s.

ShellSound Guides: Somerset, 1975. Audio Tape for 8 Track Stereo.​

Staffordshire

During World War Two, Leonard Rosoman (1913-2012) worked for the National Fire Service and produced pictures for books about firefighting. Rosoman described his commission to paint the Roman Tower for Shell as his first big break. The Roman Tower stands within the grounds of the medieval Tutbury Castle. The Tower was added to the site later in the 18th Century, which questions why it was named Roman Tower.

Roman Tower, Tutbury, Leonard Rosoman, 1936. Poster. ​

Suffolk

Harold Steggles (1911-1971) was member of the East London Group and brother to the artist Walter Steggles. Predominantly concerned with the urban scenes of East London, Steggles was also known for his paintings of country and London houses.

This poster shows the market place in Bungay and the Butter Cross erected in 1689 after the great fire of 1688. The statue of justice that surmounts the dome was added in 1754.

Bungay, Harold Steggles, 1934. Poster.​

Surrey

John Armstrong (1893-1973) studied to be a lawyer before deciding to become an artist after the First World War. Initially influenced by Greek Art and de Chirico, Armstrong went on to develop a surrealist style in the 1930s.

In this painting of Newlands Corner, Armstrong experimented with his brushwork using short diagonal strokes. The artist has also used shapes that resemble the human body to depict the tree trunks.

Newlands Corner, John Armstrong, 1932. Poster.

Sussex

This is the only Shell poster painted by artist Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), a painter and designer, and elder sister to author Virginia Woolf. Bell was part of a famous group of writers, artists and philosophers called the Bloomsbury Group that believed in the importance of art in England.

From 1913 Bell lived with the painter and designer Duncan Grant and they worked together decorating houses and furniture. Alongside Grant, Bell painted the murals at Berwick Church, Sussex from 1940 to 1942.

Alfriston, Vanessa Bell, 1931. Poster.​

Warwickshire

In 1959, Shell started working on a series of educational County Guides. The company commissioned 27 artists to produce nearly 70 paintings, illustrating the landscapes, flora and fauna, buildings and historical associations of the counties. The finished works featured in wallcharts, calendars and on the cover of Shilling Guides.

Featured in the 1963 Shell Calendar, Rowland Hilder’s (1905-1993) interpretation of Warwickshire combines the ‘densely grassed meadows’ and literary heritage of this central English county.

Warwickshire, Rowland Hilder, 1963. Calendar.

Westmorland

This educational Wallchart displayed in British schools, including a painting by Claude Harrison (1922-2009), depicts the county of Westmorland.

Harrison's work brings together the natural landscape of the county with the cultural features that reside in Westmorland. Wrestlers are seen on the grass, trail-hounds are prepared for the aniseed trail, and girls partake in the August ceremony of Rush-bearing. Harrison also includes the face of William Wordsworth, described as the Man of Westmorland.

Westmorland, Claude Harrison, 1963. Wallchart.

Wiltshire

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954) painted this poster of one of Britain’s most iconic visitor destinations, Stonehenge.

Kauffer was Shell’s principal poster designer, producing over 180 works for Shell during the 1920s and 1930s. He spoke frequently on his belief that posters should be regarded as works of art. The use of art in commercial advertising, Kauffer asserted created accessible art galleries for the public. Kauffer is now considered one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th Century.

Stonehenge, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931. Poster.​

Worcestershire

Merlyn Evans (1910–1973) was born in Cardiff, and studied at the Glasgow School of Art and the RCA. He spent time in Paris in the 1930s and was influenced by a number of avant-garde artists. In 1936, he participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition.

The subject of Evans’ poster, Fish Hill Tower, is known today as Broadway Tower. The celebrated designer Capability Brown built the folly in 1798-99.

Fish Hill Tower, Broadway, Merlyn Evans, 1936. Poster.

 

Yorkshire

Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) is one of the most famous artists that worked for Shell, producing his first commission for Shell in 1932. Later in his career, Sutherland also produced posters for London Underground and worked as an Official War Artist in World War Two.

The Brimham Rocks are a collection of stones made of millstone grit that over time have eroded into strange shapes. The rock painted in this poster is called the ‘Idol Rock’.

Brimham Rock, Graham Sutherland, 1937. Poster.​

County Antrim

John Roland Barker (1911-1959) produced all of the seven posters used in Shell’s ‘See Ireland First’ campaign. The campaign featured scenes of the Irish landscapes that were untouched by the motorist.

As a painter, poster designer and mural painter, Barker also designed textiles and produced illustrations for books and magazines. Barker also produced posters for the General Post Office, BBC, London Transport, HMV and the Orient Line, and experimented with using photography in posters.

Dunluce Castle, Ulster, John Roland Barker, 1925. Poster.

County Armagh

This Florin Guide is from the same range of ‘Shilling Guides’ produced by Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd (SMBP) in the 1960s. The cheaper and smaller alternative to the popular Shell County Guides, the Shilling Guides were sold at petrol stations and garages.

Artist Kenneth Webb has combined the Northern Ireland parliament building at Stormont near Belfast, the Mountains of Mourne, cottages, wildlife and the infamous Giant’s Causeway to portray the scenes of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland, cover art by Kenneth Webb, 1965. Florin Guide.

County Down

This press advertisement promoted the ‘Off the Beaten Track’ series of paintings commissioned by Shell. The series worked to promote the discovery of the British landscape, culminating in the Shell 1968 Calendar.

The advert invites tourists to follow the winding roads to the Mountains of Mourne, to discover ‘one of Northern Ireland’s most enchanting landscapes’ known as The Silent Valley. 

Violet Fuller (1920-2006) studied at Hornsey College of Art before becoming a Fellow of the Free Painters and Sculptors.

The Silent Valley, The Mountains of Mourne, Vider Fuller, 1967. Press Advertisement.

County Fermanagh

Lough Erne is the name of the two connected lakes in County Fermanagh, the second biggest lake system in Northern Ireland. A wonderland for birdwatchers, the lake holds 154 islands including coves and inlets to explore.

John Roland Barker (1911-1959) produced all of the seven posters used in Shell's 'See Ireland First' campaign. The campaign featured scenes of the Irish landscapes that were untouched by the motorist.

Lough Erne, Ulster, John Roland Barker, 1925. Poster.

County Londonderry

New Zealand artist Ken Bennetts produced this artwork of Londonderry for the 1962 Shell Calendar. The piece makes up a series of paintings that were used in Shell’s calendars, educational wallcharts and Shilling Guides. In this case, the Londonderry painting was only solely for this calendar.

Bennetts highlights the diversity of this county through the inclusion of lough and city. The artist depicts a prehistoric gold collar, the footprints in St Patrick’s Stone and ‘Monkey Flower’, which brightens the waterways of Derry.

Londonderry, Ken Bennetts, 1962. Calendar.

County Tyrone

Shell started producing road maps in the 1920s as a means of promoting tourism, and in turn the use of Shell fuel. They were available in garages across the world. In 1966, this map of Ireland cost one shilling.

In the 1960s, Shell rejuvenated the design of the maps to include paintings of the area covered on the front. The updated maps included the new Shell logo, introduced in 1961 with the new red box around the Shell logo.

Shell Touring Map 10, Ireland, 1966.

Aberdeenshire

This 1936 Shell poster illustrates Devil’s Elbow, a notorious road in Braemar, Aberdeen, infamous for its dangerous double bend and steep slope.

Artist Robert Miller (1910-1993) produced this poster before joining the Army in the Second World War. Miller is most commonly known for his many sketches of Army life in France and Germany.

Devil’s Elbow, Braemar, Robert Miller, 1936. Poster.

Angus

Artists such as Thomas Swimmer were commissioned by Shell in the 1960s, to produce paintings that encapsulated a designated county of Britain. Swimmer’s interpretation covers several counties across the South Highlands including Angus.

The guide describes the county of Angus as ‘a square and lumpish county, is contiguous with Perthshire on its western frontiers, but is totally different in atmosphere. Angus is depicted in the guides cover work most notably by Glamis Castle.

The South Highlands: Perth and Angus, cover art by Thomas Swimmer, 1963. Shilling Guide.

Argyllshire

Poster artist J. D. M. Harvey produced this one poster for Shell in 1931. Harvey also produced work for the Metropolitan Railway in the 1920s.

Inveraray is a small Scottish town located on Loch Fyne in Argyll, surrounded by beautiful woodlands.

Traditionally a fishing village, the town sits at the mouth of the salmon rich River Aray, making Inveraray a prime location for salmon fishing.

Inveraray, J. D. M. Harvey, 1931. Poster.

 

Ayrshire

Shell’s advertising stopped during the Second World War, due to restrictions on petrol.  In 1952, Shell revived its ‘Everywhere You Go’ campaign with posters like this one by the artist Robin Darwin (1910-1974). Darwin, great-grandson of the well-known scientist Charles Darwin, worked for both Shell and Wedgwood during his career.

Culzean Castle and Ailsa Craig, Robin Darwin, 1952. Poster.

Banffshire

Banffshire was a narrow county bordered by Morayshire to the north-west, Aberdeenshire to the south-east, the Moray Firth sea in the north and the Cairngorm mountains in the south. In 1975, the county was superseded and divided between its neighboring counties.

 The ‘Gazetteer’ of this Shilling Guide describes the county as a ‘seaport at mouth of R. Deveron, with a few remaining 17th-cent. houses on High Shore, vestiges of a royal castle and many interesting remains.’

North-East Scotland:Aberdeen, Kincardine, Banff, Moray, Nairn, cover art by Edgar Ainsworth, 1963. Shilling Guide.

Berwickshire

Julian Trevelyan (1910-1988) designed the cover art for this Shilling Guide to The South-East Lowlands of Scotland.

Trevelyan’s interpretation of the county include the romantic ruins of Melrose Abbey, the bust of Sir Walter Scott and effigy of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd who ‘taught the wandering winds to sing’.

The Shilling Guides were created in the 1960s as a cheaper alternative to the popular Shell Guides by Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

The South-East Lowlands: Roxburgh, Berwick, Selkirk, Peebles, cover art by Julian Trevelyan, 1963. Shilling Guide.

Buteshire

George Hooper (1910-1994) illustrated the county of Buteshire for this 1962 Shell Calendar. The counties flora and fauna are the primary subject in Hooper’s design, including the Ayrshire cows, black faced sheep, dracaena trees and fuchsia hedges. Hooper also includes the portraits of two Buteshire natives. Daniel Macmillian, founder of a publishing empire, and Donald Mackelvie a local grocer famous for his Arran potato varieties.

Bute, George Hooper, 1962. Calendar.​

Caithness

John O’ Groats, which many consider as the most northerly point of the mainland of Britain, is within the county of Caithness. In this Shilling Guide, produced jointly by Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd., the author claims that the most northerly point of Britain is in fact Dunnet Head in Caithness.  

Artist Richard Eurich depicts the view from Dunnet Head out to the Orkneys across the seaway of the Pentland Firth.

North Highlands: Orkney and Shetland, cover art by Richard Eurich, 1964. Shilling Guide.

Clackmannanshire

The name Clackmannanshire originates from the Scottish Gaelic ‘Chlach’ meaning ‘stone’; and Mannan, the Celtic name of the Iron Age tribe of Manaw who inhabited the area.

Shell started producing road maps in the 1920s as a means of promoting tourism, and in turn the use of Shell fuel. They were available in garages across the world. In the 1960s, art works were introduced on the front covers depicting local landmarks.

Shell Touring Map 7, Central Scotland, 1967.

Cromartyshire

Compiled by British sound recordist Lawrence Shove, this 1969 Shell Nature Record encouraged a greater appreciation and understanding of the British countryside and its inhabitants. The series featured nine records featuring the sounds of sea birds, woodland birds and estuary birds.

The cover art by John Leigh Pemberton titled ‘Life on the Mountain’ was originally comissioned in 1958. The image was used in The Shell Guide to Wild Life, 1959 and the Shell Nature wallcharts of the same year.

Mountain and Highland Birds, cover art by John Leigh Pemberton, 1969. A Shell Nature Record: British Bird Series.

Dumfriesshire

In 1965, Shell released a series of 12 press advertisements promoting an appreciation of wild nature in Britain. The advertisements featured 12 bird sanctuaries, illustrated by artists such as Stanley Roy Badmin, E. A. R. Ennion, Richard Eurich, Rowland Hilder and Donald Watson, who covered the Caerlaverock sanctuary.

It was hoped that the campaign would help the conservation of these habitats and the birds within them by encouraging new support and creating young naturalists. 

Shell Guide to Bird Sanctuaries: Caerlaverock, artwork by Donald Watson, 1965. Press advertisement.

Dunbartonshire

Dunbartonshire, on the north banks of the Clyde river, borders the city of Glasgow along the North West. John Elwy illustrates the Clyde across the cover of this 1963 Shilling Guide. Within the boundaries of Dunbarton, the Clyde was home to the power station of Yoker and John Brown’s shipyard. The shipyard has been the launching point for historic ships such as the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Vanguard. This industrial area is illustrated on the right of the image.

The Glasgow Lowlands: Renfrew, Lanark, Dunbarton, Stirling, cover art by John Elwyn, 1963. Shilling Guide.​

East Lothian

Known for a time as Haddingtonshire, from its central town of Haddington, East Lothian sits to the east of Edinburgh.

Shell started producing road maps in the 1920s as a means of promoting tourism, and in turn the use of Shell fuel. The 1960s saw an influx of oil company road maps in Europe, as growing prosperity allowed for holidays further afield. Shell introduced artworks to the covers of their 1960s maps, depicting local landmarks.

Shell Touring Map 6, Southern Scotland and the Isle of Man, 1965.

Fife

Shell started producing annual calendars in the 1950s. The calendars featured artworks of specialist artists and usually covered landscape and nature. In the 1980s, photography became a popular medium in the Shell calendars.

In 1985, Shell teamed up with the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (RWS), one of the UK’s leading art groups founded in 1804. Six artists were selected from the RWS to paint British Harbours for the 1986 Shell Calendar.

Anstruther, Fife, T.W. Ward, 1985. Painting.

Inverness-shire

One of Leonard Rosoman’s (1913-2012) earliest commissions was for a 1936 Shell advertising poster. Rosoman became a notable war artist from 1943-1945 but he is best known for his paintings of people in interiors. In 1981, Rosoman was awarded an OBE.

During his career, Rosoman designed one poster for Shell and three covers for the Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd Shilling Guides. In Rosoman’s interpretation of the West Highlands, he captures the complex landscape of the Cairngorms mountain range.

The West Highlands: Inverness, Ross & Cromarty, The Western Isles, cover art by Leonard Rosoman, 1963. Shilling Guide.

Kincardineshire

In 1963, Shell introduced a new series of advertisements that promoted not historic houses and castles, but their gardens. It followed the Shell tradition of encouraging the public to discover Britain. The series was a precursor to the Shell Gardens Book of 1964.

The gardens at Crathes Castle were described in the advertisement as ‘one of Britan’s richest plant collections’. The site is owned by National Trust Scotland, who claim that today the gardens ‘encompass every green delight imaginable’.

Crathes Castle, photographed by Percy Hennell, 1963. Press advertisment.

Kinross-shire

During the 1960s, Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd (SMBP) produced a series of 48 Shilling Guides as a cheaper alternative to the Shell County Guides. In 1964, after all 48 separate guides had been published, the joint company of SMBP produced The Shell and BP Guide to Britain as a complete companion for all motorists.

Kinross-shire is now part of the Perth and Kinross Council in the Edinburgh lowlands. The area is famous for its international trouting competitions held at Loch Leven.

The Shell and BP Guide to Britain, Edited by Geoffrey Boumphrey, 1964. Publication.

Kirkudbrightshire

The historic county of Kirkcudbrightshire compromised a rugged mountainous landscape, home to Mount Merrick, down to the coastal towns on the south coast. The county took its name from the town of Kirkcudbright, situated along the River Dee.

Artist John Chirnside captured the M.V. Partington, a Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. tanker, leaving the harbour of Kirkcudbright in 1974. A year later, the tanker was transferred to the ownership of Shell UK Coastal Shipping, where it was renamed ‘Shell Scientist’.

M. V. Partington leaving Kickcudbright, John Chirnside, 1974. Painting.

Lanarkshire

One of many female artists that worked for Shell, Pamela Drew (1910-1989) produced this commission for the company in 1936. It featured in an advertising series entitled ‘To Visit Britain’s Landmarks’. The series comprised a selection of follies and attractions, encouraging the public to explore the British countryside.

Lanarkshire is situated in the central lowlands of Scotland. Historically the county encompassed parts of modern Glasgow, including the John Knox Monument depicted in this poster, which is located in the necropolis adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral.

John Knox Monument, Glasgow, Pamela Drew, 1936. Poster.

Midlothian

The image painted by Leonard Rosoman (1913-2012) for Shell’s County Guide series shows the many contrasts of Midlothian. Used as an educational wallchart in British schools, the wallchart highlights the mountains against the city, the urban against the rural, nature against industry. Coalmines and golf courses can be seen amongst the naked hilltops and glens of beech and sycamore.

 The painting by Rosoman also featured on the cover of ‘The Edinburgh Lowlands’ Shilling Guide in 1963.

Midlothian, Leonard Rosoman, 1961. Wallchart.

Morayshire

The Shell Guide to Bird Sanctuaries aimed to encourage the British public to support and appreciate Britain’s natural landscape and birdlife. This press advertisement from the series covers the Cairngorms, which was the largest National Nature Reserve in Britain at the time. The reserve comes under the historic counties of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Nairnshire Angus, Perth, Kinross and Inverness-shire. 

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds still protects Loch Garten today, home of the Ospreys in Scotland, as seen flying across the top of this advertisement.

Shell Guide to Bird Sanctuaries: Cairngorms and Loch Garten, artwork by Donald Watson, 1965. Press advertisement.

Nairnshire

The historic county of Nairnshire was located on the south coast of the Moray Firth. The local council was superseded in 1975 and the area became a council district of the Highland region. The area is comprised of moorland and coast, including one of the longest sandy beaches in Europe.

Shell started producing road maps in the 1920s as a means of promoting tourism, and in turn the use of Shell fuel. Shell introduced artworks to the covers of their 1960s maps, depicting local landmarks.

Shell Touring Map 8, Northern Scotland, 1966.

Orkney

This 1980s book follows the style of the earlier Shell County Guides, featuring a ‘Gazetteer’ section informing readers of the geography, places of interest and historical information.

The guide includes Orkney’s group of seventy islands to the northeast of the mainland of Britain. The islands are visible from the north coast of Caithness. Historically these islands were claimed by Norway until coming under Scottish rule in 1468. Today, less than a third of the Orkney islands are inhabited.

The New Shell Guides: Northern Scotland and the Islands, Francis Thompson, 1987. Publication.

Peebleshire

This 1980s book follows the style of the earlier Shell County Guides, featuring a ‘Gazetteer’ section informing readers of the geography, places of interest and historical information.

The historic county of Peeblesshire is located amongst the hills of Scotland along the River Tweed. A reorganisation of Scottish counties in 1975 removed many of Scotland’s historic counties including Peeblesshire, in favour of 12 regions. Today, the Royal Burgh of Peebles is renowned for its salmon fishing on the Tweed.

The New Shell Guides: The Lowlands and Borders of Scotland, Roddy Martine, 1989. Publication.

Perthshire

‘Everywhere You Go’ was a slogan that began in 1932 and ended 20 years later. The series covered nearly 40 landmarks, follies or places of interest under this slogan, including General Wade’s Bridge in Aberfeldy by Edwin Calligan. 

The bridge, one of 40 built in the Highlands between 1726 and 1735, formed part of General Wade’s 250 miles of road construction ‘for securing a safe and easy communication between the highlands and the trading towns of the low country’.

General Wade’s Bridge, Aberfeldy, Edwin Calligan, 1933. Poster.

Renfrewshire

Shell had been strong supporters of the British countryside and its wildlife since the 1920s. The nature theme continued to evolve in the 1960s when ornithologist James Fisher was invited to compile the Nature Lovers’ Atlas. Inspired by the revolution in conservation in the UK since 1945, the Nature Lovers’ Atlas aimed to encourage a nation of nature lovers and protectors.

Castle Semple Loch is listed under Renfrewshire as a Nature Reserve for wildfowl refuge.

Shell Nature Lovers’ Atlas, James Fisher, 1966. Publication.

Ross-shire

Tom Purvis (1888-1959) was born in Bristol and designed posters for companies such as Dewar’s Whiskey, Bovril, Austin Reed and the London and North Eastern Railway.

Tom Purvis adopted a broad massing of strong colours and an elimination of detail in his landscape work for Shell. In a selection of works, Purvis included his own lettering, mostly commonly in black or white, and simply set horizontally along the bottom or bottom of the work. 

Eilean Donan, Loch Duich, Road to the Isles, Tom Purvis, 1932. Poster.

Roxburgshire

In 1968, Shell introduced a series titled ‘Off the beaten track’. The series featured 12 paintings of lesser-known British locations with the aim of encouraging tourists to explore the Britain. The 12 paintings featured in Shell’s 1968 calendar, and ran in national press throughout the year.

Hermitage Castle in Newcastleton was in prime solitary position for controlling the area known as the ‘Scottish Middle March’ during border battles between the Scottish and English crowns.

Hermitage Castle, Newcastleton, Roxburghshire, Geoffrey Elliot, 1968. Press advertisement.

Selkirkshire

The Grey Mare’s Tail is one of the UK’s highest waterfalls, located close to the Dumfries and Selkirk border. The waterfall received its name from the thin line of white frothing water as it plunges the valley.​

John Ward (1917-2007) painted the Grey Mare's Tail for Shell's 1968 'Off the beaten track' calendar and series of related advertisements. The series featured 12 paintings of lesser-known British locations with the aim of encouraging tourists to explore Britain.​

'The Grey Mare's Tail', Dumfries, John Ward, 1968. Press advertisement.

Shetland

Located 93 miles north of the British mainland, Shetland is the most northerly point of Britain. Consisting of over 100 islands, today just 15 of them are populated.

The Brent oilfield is located in the East Shetland Basin, between mainland Scotland and Norway. All of Shell’s UK oilfields were named after waterbirds, in alphabetical order by discovery. The Brent oil field is named after the Brent goose. Other examples include Auk, Fulmar and Penguin.

Secure Britain’s Future Energy, Brian Sweet, 1979. Painting.​

Stirlingshire

Charles Dominique Fouqueray (1869-1956) was a French painter, illustrator and engraver. Fouqueray painted all of the artworks for the ‘See Britain First’ Campaign in the 1920s and produced 18 paintings for Shell’s advertising. The success of this series started one of Shell’s most prominent advertising themes: the British countryside.

Ben Lomond is one of Scotland’s most popular mountains for climbers and hikers. The summit is situated at 3,196 feet and boasts stunning views of Loch Lomond.

Ben Lomond, Dominique Charles Fouqueray, 1925. Poster.

Sutherland

Sutherland is a Highland County located along the north coast of Scotland, consisting of mountains and moorland. The furthest northwestern tip of this county is home to Cape Wrath.​

Naturalist, TV presenter, and artist Keith Shackleton (1923-2015) produced an array of works for Shell's guides and calendars between the 1960s and 1980s. Shackleton sketched the scenes at Cape Wrath on site, returning to his studio to paint it in full, capturing the seascape of wind and explosive waves. The painting features in the 1979 Shell Calendar of Coastlines.

Cape Wrath, Keith Shackleton, 1978. Painting.

West Lothian

Once known as ‘Linlithgowshire’ after its county town of Linlithgow, West Lothian lies along the southern shores of the Firth of Forth, to the west of Edinburgh. The Forth Road Bridge crosses the Forth at North and South Queensferry linking the East coast of Scotland with Edinburgh and the south.

Shell adopted a fun and humorous approach to much of its early advertising. Illustrations and witty rhymes inspired years of impressive campaigns that kept the public engaged with Shell.

On the opening of the Firth of Forth Road Bridge, Mel Calman, 1964. Press advertisement.

Wigtownshire

Wigtownshire is one of the most southerly historic counties of Scotland. The historic county runs along the northern coast of the Solway Firth with the county of Kirkcudbrightshire, the two of which historically formed the province of Galloway​.

The four southwestern historic counties of Scotland were combined together to create the Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd Shilling Guide to the South-West Lowlands. The cover art, designed by Barry Driscoll illustrates the nature and architecture these counties have to offer.

The South-West Lowlands: Wigtown, Kirkcudbright, Ayr, Dumfries, cover art by Barry Driscoll, 1963. Shilling Guide.

Anglesey

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogery chwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the longest place name in Britain and features in the Guinness Book of Records. The word translates to ‘Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.

Edward Bawden (1903-1989), painter, illustrator and graphic artist produced over 50 artworks for Shell's advertising during the 1930s. Bawden's designs were often incorporated into Shell's humour advertisements, most notably the series punning town names.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllantysiliogogogoch, Edward Bawden, 1936, Press advertisement.

Breconshire

Breconshire (in Welsh, ‘Sir Frycheiniog’), also known as Brecknockshire is a historic county of dramatic scenery. The Brecon Beacons dominate the historic county, which is also home to the bursting water at Clyn Gwyn Falls.

In 1968, Shell introduced a series titled ‘Off the beaten track’. The series featured 12 paintings of lesser-known British locations with the aim of encouraging tourists to explore Britain. The 12 paintings featured in Shell’s 1968 calendar, and ran in national press throughout the year.

Clyn Gwyn Falls, Breacon, Janet Sturge, 1968. Painting.

Caernarfonshire

Tom Purvis (1888-1959) designed 14 posters for Shell between 1925 and 1932 across a variety of campaigns. Purvis’ work for Shell ranged in style from traditional and realistic images of nature and landscape; to modern, dramatic geometric designs.

This poster of Harlech, Snowden and Beddglelert sits somewhere in the middle, combining the uncomplicated natural landscape with a simple geometric approach to the castle and its immediate surrounding.

Harlech, Snowdon and Beddgelert, Tom Purvis, 1931. Poster.

Cardiganshire

The historic county of Cardiganshire, on the mid-west coast of Wales, originates from the ancient kingdom of Ceredigion. Dependent on agriculture the historic county has a remote feeling to it, across its varied and changing landscape.

The cover of this Shell County Guide, photographed by Roger Mayne, shows rock formations near LLangranog, a small coastal village 30 miles south of Aberystwyth.  The Guide’s author Vyvyan Rees describes the county ‘parish by parish, range by range of high hill and moorland’.

A Shell Guide to Mid Western Wales: Cardiganshire & Merioneth, Vyvyan Rees, 1971. County Guide.

Carmarthenshire

The remains of Llanstephan Castle overlook the dramatic sand-flats of the mouth of the River Tywi. This significant location provided strategic strength and defence against Norman invaders.

‘Everywhere You Go’ was a slogan that began in 1932 and ended 20 years later. The series covered nearly 40 landmarks, follies or places of interest under this slogan, including Llanstephan Castle by H. E. Du Plessis.

Llanstephan Castle, H. E. Du Plessis, 1932. Poster.

Denbighshire

Plas Newydd in Llangollen, well known for two of its most peculiar inhabitants during the 19th Century. The ‘Ladies’ of Plas Newydd, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, were two eccentric recluses who did not leave their home for fifty years.

This poster is from the ‘Visit Britain’s Landmarks’ campaign which ran from 1936-7. The series consisted of 27 posters, each by a different artist in their own, individual style. Artists were invited to choose a landmark from a list of selected Follies.

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Edwin Calligan, 1936. Poster.

Flintshire

The historic county of Flintshire was abolished in 1974; however, the modern county of Flintshire was re-established in 1996 with smaller boundaries. Today is it one of the smallest counties in Britain.

This Shell County Guide from 1971 is concerned with the historic county of Flintshire. Produced by two architects, it perhaps no surprise that this guide is concerned predominantly with the appearance and history of buildings in North Wales.

A Shell Guide to North Wales: Caernarvonshire, Anglesey, Denbighshire & Flintshire, Elisabeth Beazley & Lionel Brett, 1971. County Guide.

Glamorgan

Glamorgan (Morgannwg in Welsh) is the southernmost county in Wales. Historically the county contained the cities of Cardiff and Swansea before the county was abolished in 1974.

Within the mountains, tourists can find ‘Travellers Rest’ depicted in this humorous image by the artist Edward Bawden (1909-1989). During the 1930s, Bawden produced over 50 artworks for Shell’s advertising. Bawden’s designs were often incorporated into Shell’s humour advertisements, most notably the series punning town names.  

Travellers Rest, Edward Bawden,1936. Press advertisement.

Merionethshire

This painting by Henry Collins (1910-1994) depicts Portmeirion, which sits in the south west of Snowdonia National Park. Described in this press advertisement as a world of fantasy, this coastal village ‘incorporates the art and architecture of everything from Italian Renaissance to Cape Dutch and Cape Cod’.

Collins’ image of Portmeirion was commissioned by Shell as part of the Company’s 1968 ‘Off the beaten track’ series. The series worked to promote the discovery of the British landscape, culminating in the Shell 1968 Calendar.

Portmeirion, Merionethshire, Henry Collins, 1967. Press advertisement.

Monmouthshire

Denis Constanduros (1910–1978) produced six artworks for Shell in the 1930s. Llanthony Priory is situated far up the narrow Honddu valley in the Black Mountains. Once an Augustin Priory, a house was built in part of the ruins in the late eighteenth century. The house was formerly owned by the poet, Walter Savage Landor, and survives today as a hotel.

Located on the English border, Monmouthshire has been fought over by the English and Welsh for centuries. The county motto is ‘Utrique Fidelis’ or “Faithful to Both’.

LLanthony Abbey, Monmouthshire, Denis Constanduros, 1937. Poster.

Montgomeryshire

British visual artist Thomas Swimmer (b. 1932) produced the cover art for the Shilling Guide to Montgomeryshire and Denbighshire. Swimmer’s interpretation of the two historic counties draws upon the abundance of natural beauty that can be found there. The selected objects in the forefront of the image symbolize the Welsh bards, the ancient industry of spinning, the grand ruined castles, and the River Severn, which the Romans called Sabrina.

Montgomeryshire and Denbighshire, Thomas Swimmer, 1964. Shilling Guide.

Pembrokeshire

Artist Kenneth Rowntree (1915-1997) produced the cover art used for this Shilling Guide in 1960. The work had been previously used in a Shell calendar and an educational wallchart.

Although the Shilling Guide covers both counties, the cover artwork is the Rowntree’s interpretation of Pembrokeshire. In addition to the vast landscape of Pembrokeshire, Rowntree includes a picture of Cilgerran Castle, a dish of Laver bread made from seaweed, and a portrait of the Welsh painter Augustus John.

Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, Kenneth Rowntree, 1964. Painting​.

Radnorshire

The historic county of Radnorshire (Sir Faesyfed in Welsh) is a predominantly mountainous landscape. During its existence as a historic county, Radnorshire was the most sparsely populated within England and Wales.

In this Shell County Guide the author, David Verey quotes the ‘historian W. H. Howse as saying: ‘there is a diversity of beauty which makes every walk within its borders a memorable experience’.

Shell County Guides were first produced in the 1930s to encourage the motoring public to get out and discover Britain.

A Shell Guide to Mid Wales, David Verey, 1960, County Guide.

Our map shows all 92 of the historic, or traditional, counties of Britain from the era of our collection. Today, many of these historic county names have disappeared from our knowledge as, from 1974, local government created new ‘administrative counties’ to manage areas within the four countries of Britain.

These historic counties still exist today, but local authorities have often merged the districts of smaller counties together to manage them under a new administration name entirely. Other authorities kept the traditional county names, but their administration borders do not reflect the historic county map.

 

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