Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

Bring back the Spirit of Bridport!

A CAMPAIGN has begun on Facebook to bring back the Spirit of Bridport to road signs welcoming people to the town.

The Spirit of Bridport is the flaxen-haired woman sat, on a throne, working with twine in the murals painted by Fra Newbery inside Bridport Town Hall.

Francis Henry Newbery – known as Fra Newbery – was born in Membury in East Devon in 1855 but brought up in Bridport from 1858. He taught at the Bridport School of Art, which was based inside the Literary and Scientific Institute in East Street, and he went on to become Director of Glasgow School of Art.

He painted the murals inside Bridport Town Hall between 1924 and 1927, after he retired and moved back to Dorset.

The Spirit of Bridport is his idealised image of Bridport’s skill, beauty and importance.

As stated on Facebook: “This image used to adorn the road signs into Bridport.

This picture is reproduced from the Facebook campaign page. It was taken by Megan Cox, who - as a note on Facebook explains - took it about 17 years ago when she was doing an A-Level project into Fra Newbery.

“She wore out and highway chiefs ruled the Dorset town should have bland ones instead.

“This town deserves better – she’s beautiful and we want her back.”

The campaign has – at the time of writing this – attracted just over 40 fans (ie supporters).

More are wanted. “If we get enough fans, we can appeal to the powers-that-be for her to be restored to her rightful place… She’s beautiful and should still be the face that welcomes all visitors to this lively and quirky community.

“Why should we conform to blandness? Let’s make a bold statement and adopt her once again as our emblem.”

This would certainly accord with Newbery’s original intentions. As George Rawson has written in Fra H Newbery, Artist and Art Educationist (1996): “He sought to make art more readily available to a wider public, attempting to relate it to their daily lives and to celebrate the traditions of the specific localities in which the works were sited.”

What is more readily available than a sign welcoming people to Bridport?

To support the campaign, click here.