Penelope Keith visits the Walberswick Scroll

Last night John Doman Turner’s ‘Walberswick Scroll ‘appeared on ‘Penelope Keith’s Coastal Villages’. 

This was broadcast on Channel 4’s More 4. A show that sees Keith travel around the United Kingdom to visit some of the country’s most picturesque and charming coastal villages. During her travels, Keith also speaks to residents to better understand what daily life is like living by the sea.

Watch the clip below…

A film crew recorded the footage in Walberswick, Suffolk during the town’s annual village fete in 2017.

Featured in the broadcast is John English of the Walberswick Local History Group, who took over from artist Richard Scott as ‘protector’ of the scroll. Over the past couple of years, he has enjoyed showing the scroll to visitors of the Walberswick Heritage Hut, it’s current home.




In a recent edition of the Walberswick Local History Group’s newsletter, Richard Scott talks more about the Walberswick Scroll and explains how it ended up inside a wooden table football case.

“This remarkable work is one man’s view of Walberswick in the summer of 1931 but with some small additions in 1932, painted in watercolour on a roll of paper 123 feet long. The artist was John Doman Turner (1871-1938) who depicted every house in the village street and the riverside area in some detail, starting at the gamekeeper’s cottage a mile to the west of the church. He then followed the route of the old narrow-gauge Southwold Railway, which closed in 1929, as far as the then-surviving Walberswick station building before moving across to the top of the main street. Here he continued his pictorial trail down its north side, around the Green and down to the river. Here he became engrossed with the riverside buildings, the steam ferry (dramatically scuttled in 1942) and the cluster of artists’ studios along the river bank at the time. Then he made his way back to the top of the village, recording houses on the south side of the main street. The side turnings – Palmer’s Lane, Leverett’s Lane and Millfield Road – seem to be an afterthought, appearing as small pencil sketches inset at the top of the paper.

In the 1950s the scroll, wrapped around a wooden spindle, was kept in a cupboard in the Gannon Room which was, in all except name, the village hall of this period. The precious document could then be unrolled for inspection on trestle tables without prior arrangement, and was lucky to survive the great flood of January 31, 1953. The Gannon Room stood approximately on the footprint of the present village hall, with it’s long axis running north-south. It’s architectural style owed something to the “tin tabernacle” tradition – except that it was made of wood. In 1953 it was not protected by the more recent flood defence bank, completed in the early 1960s, but it certainly got its feet wet in the flood as the water reached The Anchor sign. Luckily the scroll was safely stored in its cupboard.”

“Several years later it was mounted in a wooden case which had housed a pub football game of the kind which was popular between the wars. The spindles were just right for the scroll and the installation was meticulously carried out.”

“Most appropriately this particular football game had served its time in the Walberswick Men’s Club, in the building on the Green which much later became the Heritage Hut.”


What makes the Walberswick Scroll so special?

“Quite simply, Turner just loved Walberswick, and portrayed everything he saw in searching detail. This even extended to recording carefully the many signs and advertisements he encountered during his progress around the village, and the very comprehensive tariff of charges for the steam ferry – rich sources of material for historians trying to construct a detailed record of life in the village in 1931.


The episode of More 4’s “Penelope Keith’s Coastal Villages” featuring John Doman Turner’s Walberswick Scroll is available on DVD from Amazon.

Keep an eye out on the Walberswick website for future showings of the scroll.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *