Eric Gill’s ‘London box’, c1940 (Eric Gill 353)

36 Eric Gill 353Lesley Sim, Information Services Manager, West Sussex County Council


Eric Gill was a prolific artist: a sculptor, engraver, calligrapher, draughtsman and writer. Although he is often associated with the village of Ditchling in East Sussex, he had a strong connection to Chichester, moving here with his family in 1897; he lived at 2 North Walls (now demolished, but a mere stone’s throw from WSRO’s building) and attended the Chichester Technical and Art School. Artistically, Gill was influenced by the city’s orderly, compact layout, especially the Pallants, and the presence of the Cathedral.

Eric_Gill_-_self_portrait (WikiCommons)
Eric Gill – Self Portrait (Wikimedia Commons)

We are fortunate to hold a significant collection of Gill’s work at WSRO, including sculptures, engravings, sketches, illustrations and design, alongside many of his published pamphlets. One of the more unusual items in the Gill collection – and the Record Office itself – is Gill’s ‘London Box’. This small, leather suitcase contains a miscellany of items, including two pairs of spectacles, cigarette papers and an ashtray, photographs of Gill’s grandchildren, letters, two belts, a Roman missal, a ruler and set square, pencils and crayons, flints and six pipe cleaners. I think that this gathering of Gill’s personal items and professional tools offers a fascinating insight into the world of one of the 20th century’s most creative and enquiring minds.

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