Irene Wellington archive

Scope and Content

The archive consists of

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs and slides of work by Irene Wellington held at the Crafts Study Centre
  • Photographs of work by Irene Wellington, owned by the Minnesota Manuscripts Commission
  • Slides of work by Irene Wellington, held by the Irene Wellington Educational Trust
  • Audio cassette recording of a lecture given by Ann Hechle about Irene Wellington's work
  • Audio cassette recording of tributes to Irene Wellington, given at a memorial meeting of the Society of Scribes&Illuminators, 1984
  • Newspaper cuttings and articles featuring work by Irene Wellington
  • Micellaneous documents

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 and 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 1960's  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.


The archive material is arranged in the original order in which it was deposited at the CSC.

Conditions Governing Access

The archival material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Becky Lyle, Submissions Officer for the project and by Jean Vacher, Collections Manager at the Crafts Study Centre. The biography was written by Frances Lord.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue is available onsite.

Conditions Governing Use

The photocopying of archival material is not allowed. Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled


None expected

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre holds other material relating to the Irene Wellington archive in the

  • Edward Johnston archive

Also see access points


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

Geographical Names