Irene Wellington collection

Scope and Content

The Crafts Study Centre has listed together in this collection small offerings of letters, photographs and publications relating to Irene Wellington (1904-1984) and her work, collected or produced by various admirers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Irene Wellington was born Irene Bass in Lydd, Kent in 1904, where her father was a farmer. She studied art at Maidstone School of Art 1921-1925, and first learnt lettering there under Arthur Sharp. She was introduced to Edward Johnston's Writing, Illuminating and Lettering and in 1925 won a Royal Exhibition scholarship to the Royal College of Art 1925-1930, where Johnston was teaching one day a week. She covered a wide range of subjects, including textile design, embroidery, architecture and printmaking, although she specialised in calligraphy.

In 1929 she was elected a Craft Member of the Society of Scribes & Illuminators. Her first major commission was The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Roll of Honour for the First World War that took almost a year to complete. In 1930 she married Jack Sutton and moved to Edinburgh where he was teaching. In 1932 she began teaching writing and illuminating part-time at Edinburgh College of Art. She moved from Edinburgh to London in 1943, leaving her husband Jack Sutton. She then married the painter Hubert Wellington who she had met while he was the Bursar at the RCA almost twenty years previously and they moved into The White House in Henley on Thames. During the next fifteen years she received many commissions, including the Wykehamist Roll of Honour, The Accession and Coronation Addresses presented by the London County Council to Queen Elizabeth II. She contributed towards Alfred Fairbank's A Book of Scripts.

In 1944 she started a part-time job at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London and taught there until 1959. The calligraphers Ann Hechle and Donald Jackson were among her students.

After Hubert's death in 1967 she moved to Palace Garden Mews in Kensington where she resumed commissions which had ceased during the 1960s due to Hubert's failing health. There she started her last major piece of work The Bailiffs of Lydd, a commemorative panel which now hangs in the Lydd Guildhall. In 1974 she moved from London to Steep in Hampshire where her stepson Robert Wellington had offered her a home. Two years later she returned to Lydd to share her brother's house, built on a site which once formed part of her father's farm. Despite failing health she continued to work on an oval panel based on a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins but the piece was never finished. She became a Roman Catholic in 1984 and died in the same year.


  • IWC/1 Letters and cards from Irene Wellington to Joy Scott, 1951-1960
  • IWC/2 Photographs by Hugh Spendlove of Irene Wellington's teaching blackboards at Central St Martins, 1952
  • IWC/3 Articles featuring work by IW, letters, cassette tapes of tributes to IW and lecture about IW by Ann Hechle, and negatives/photographs of work by IW held by the Minnesota Manuscripts Initiative and the Irene Wellington Educational Trust
  • IWC/4 Material received as part of the Irene Wellington calligraphy collection in 1984, including letters to IW from Alfred Faribank and typed SSI notes by Madelyn Walker

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Greta Bertram, Crafts Study Centre Curator, June 2020.

Other Finding Aids

A pdf handlist is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.


It is likely that further Wellington-related material will be offered to the CSC. Material of interest will be added to this collection.


Selected bibliography:

Child H, Collins H, Hechle A, Jackson D, More than Fine Writing: The Life and Calligraphy of Irene Wellington , The Overlook Press, USA, 1987

The Irene Wellington Copybooks: Omnibus Edition , A & C Black, 1979