The papers of Mildred Ratcliffe

Scope and Content

The Crafts Study Centre's Mildred Ratcliffe Collection and Archive represents a selection from material offered through the Society of Scribes and Illuminators by her nephew, Mr Eric Ratcliffe, acting for the Ratcliffe family. It contains a small number of photographs, samples of paper and vellum, and correspondence from MR's contemporaries including Daisy Alcock, Alfred Fairbank, Graily Hewitt, M.L. Hodgson, C.M. Lamb, Vera Law, Madelyn Walker and Anthony Wood. A particularly important letter from Paul Standard describes the calligraphic scene in America in 1938.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mildred Mary Ratcliffe (1899-1988) was a Craft Member then a Fellow of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators for almost forty years. She died on 19 October 1988, aged 89.

Born and brought up in Rochester, Kent, she joined the Civil Service in Chatham in 1916 and subsequently moved to London to join the Publicity Branch of the Post Office Savings Bank. Much of the wartime advertising material exhorting the public to Save for the War Effort, for which she was responsible, survives, some in the Imperial War Museum and some in Maidstone Museum.

She had always been interested in painting, but it was in the 1930s that her enthusiasm for calligraphy was fired, and she left the Civil Service to study at Hammersmith School of Art, where her tutors included Madelyn Walker and Daisy Alcock. She also studied with Graily Hewitt at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, and spent summer vacations in Germany and Switzerland working under Anna Simons, who had been a pupil of Edward Johnston at the Royal College of Art c.1900 and was responsible for the movement of Johnston's ideas from Britain to Germany. Ratcliffe has a place in the history of British calligraphy for her part in bringing back from the continent reports of some of Anna Simon's subsequent work.

Her most important commission was for the Benenden Book. Lavishly illuminated on vellum, the book was completed in 1950 for the Appeal Fund of the Civil Service Sanatorium at Benenden, Kent. It was presented to H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and is now in the possession of the Hospital's museum.

Mildred Ratcliffe was, according to her nephew Eric Ratcliffe (on whose detailed account this summary has been based) 'always interested in encouraging new talent, and even in her eighties she was tutoring children in her village who wanted to study lettering. She continued to take a keen interest in the activities of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators and those in the Society will remember her warmth and humour with great affection.'


The papers were arranged by Justin Howes on behalf of the Crafts Study Centre in the early 1990s and were given the reference code '9/'. They were renumbered with the new reference code 'MMR' by Greta Bertram in 2021, with minor adjustments to the arrangement of sub-parts.

  • MMR/1-4 Photographs
  • MMR/5-7 Samples of papers and vellums
  • MMR/8-22 Correspondence

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available on request.

Archivist's Note

This entry was compiled by Greta Bertram, Curator, March 2021, based on the catalogue produced by Justin Howes completed on 2 January 1992.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.


None expected.