Sir Hugh Casson, architect, designer, illustrator and journalist: papers

Scope and Content

The papers are arranged under four broad subject headings: Design; Journalism, Books and Illustration; Other Professional Activities; and Personal and Biographical Material.

The papers are arranged in the following sub-groups:

Architecture, interior design and refurbishments (ca. 1933 - 1992); camouflage work (1940 - 1944); Festival of Britain (1948 - 2007); Time and Life Building, Bond Street, London (1951 - 1993); Coronation decorations (1952 - 2003); New College Building, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore (with H.T. Cadbury-Brown) (1955 - 1972); Zoological Society of London (1960 - 2000); H. M. Yacht Britannia (1970 - 2000); Royal Train (1974 - 1990); consultancies and public enquiries (1957 - 1996); objects: Midwinter pottery (ca. 1954 - 1997); theatre and opera design (1952 - 2002); magazines and journalism (1934-1996); books (1938 - 2003); illustration (ca. 1926 - 1999); institutions and societies (1949 - 1997); exhibitions (1984 - 1996); lectures, talks, funeral addresses and obituaries (1945 - 1992); broadcasting: television and radio (1950 - 2006); miscellaneous correspondence, and letters of support and recommendation (1954 - 2003); Royal Mint Advisory Committee (1975 - 1995); trusts and charities (1970 - 2001); early life: family, school and Cambridge University (1867 - ca.1998); diaries, passports and National Life Collection Interviews (ca. 1928 - 1996); portraits of Sir Hugh Casson (ca. 1930 - 1990); reviews and articles about Sir Hugh Casson and his work (1938 - 2007); personal belongings of Sir Hugh Casson (1996).

Administrative / Biographical History

Hugh Maxwell Casson (1910 - 1999) was born in London. He spent the first few years of his life in Burma, where his father was posted with the Indian Civil Service, before being sent back to England to attend school and live with relatives. He studied architecture at Cambridge University from 1929 to 1932, and at the Bartlett School of Architecture from 1933 to 1934, where he met his future wife Margaret Troup, who was also an architect and designer. In 1935 he became a junior partner of Christopher 'Kit' Nicholson and worked with the architect on projects such as the London Gliding Club at Dunstable and the surrealist redecoration of Monkton House for Edward James.

Casson was also a prolific journalist: in 1937 he became the architectural correspondent for the short lived Day and Night magazine, and his articles, which he often illustrated, were regularly published in the Architect's Journal and the Architectural Review , to which he was also advisory editor.

During the Second World War he was employed by the Camouflage Service of the Air Ministry as a camouflage designer. After Kit Nicholson's death in a gliding accident in 1948, Casson began a working partnership with Neville Conder, the younger architect with whom he was to create the Casson Conder Partnership. In the same year Casson was appointed Director of Architecture for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Over the next three years he designed the overall site plan for the South Bank exhibition and co-ordinated the work of a large number of architects and artists who worked together to create an eclectic group of pavilions and structures on the site. In 1952 Casson was knighted for his achievements at the Festival of Britain.

In the following decades the Casson Conder Partnership's commissions included: the Arts Faculty for the Sidgwick site at Cambridge University, 1952; the Elephant and Rhino Pavilion at London Zoo, 1965; and the Ismaili Centre, South Kensington, 1981. Casson also worked on a number of private commissions that included: the interior design of the yacht Camanda for Whitney Straight, 1967, the Royal Yacht Britannia and various rooms at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for the Royal Family. He designed stage sets for theatre and opera productions, including Alceste in 1953 and La Fedelta Premiata in 1979 for Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

He was Professor of Environmental Design at the Royal College of Art from 1953 to 1975, and in 1976 he was elected President of the Royal Academy of Arts. Casson was also a watercolour painter and an avid sketcher, and published a number of books, including Diary (1981) and Hugh Casson's London (1983). He sat on many committees and continued to be active in the fields of conservation, planning, and the arts until his death.


The papers are arranged under four broad subject headings: Design; Journalism, Books and Illustration; Other Professional Activities; and Personal and Biographical Material.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Related Material

Margaret Macdonald Casson, papers, 1897 - 2004 (AAD/2008/3)

Festival of Britain, records, 1949 - 1951 (AAD/1975/9)

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Drawings Collection contains drawings produced by the Casson Conder Partnership and additional material relating to the Festival of Britain.


Manser, José, Hugh Casson: A Biography , London: Penguin, 2000