Joan Drew

& The Blackheath Banners

 

Joan Harvey Drew was one of three sisters who lived at Blatchfeld in Blackheath from about 1907. They were the daughters of wealthy architect and landowner Richard Drew and his wife Ann. The Drew sisters were a talented artistic trio and had great influence on Blackheath village, especially the women.

 

Joan was the artist of the family, her sketches and designs very typically influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the period. Her style of work is evident in some of the little sketches she created for Blackheath.

 

Joan was a member of the women’s artist’s suffragist movement; she created postcards, banners and posters for their campaigns and is mentioned in many books and documentation about the league. Pro-female suffrage propaganda postcards were designed by Joan Harvey Drew and published by the Artists' Suffrage League. One postcard depicts John Bull addressing a male and female dressed to represent the Times and Spectator as 'a little behind the times.' Both newspapers were known to take an anti-suffrage stance. John Bull was regularly used by suffragettes as the embodiment of Britishness.

 

Formed in 1907, the Artists' Suffrage League produced posters, postcards and other visual material to promote the Votes for Women message of the non-militant National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. 

 

1915 saw the origins of the Women’s Institute but Joan Drew and the Blackheath women had already in some ways preceded the W.I. Under the auspices of Joan Drew the village women were taught traditional skills of sewing and embroidery to the highest of standard many years before. By the 1920’s there were many national exhibitions of their handicraft work, the Blackheath women were winning awards. Joan and the Blackheath, Chilworth & Shalford members of the Women’s Institute made a Federation Banner, which is now in the care of the National Needlework Archive. 

 

Joan Drew lectured at the Victoria and Albert museum in 1920. Her work is currently in collections in various museums and archives including the London Museum and the Guild of Embroiders.

 

 

The younger girls in the village were also taught to embroider; this is very evident on the wonderful small banner within our village that was created in commemoration of the First World War. The girls embroidered a pretty colourful flower alongside their names. Although the banner is small and simple in style, is provides a moving little heartfelt tribute. The banner is in excellent condition thanks to the loving care of Mrs Billie Hockley who has stored the banner for many years.

 

Around the end of the First World War Joan and the village women created five large banners. These banners were to hang in the village room (hall), the designs are quite militant in their undertones. The banners remained hanging there until 1975 when a village committee decided to give them away. Three of them were donated to the Embroiders Guild. These now regularly tour the country on exhibition loan. 

 

The remaining two banners have survived, but due to unsuitable storage conditions they are in a fragile condition. They are important historical items not only to our village but also to the wider artistic audience

 

After the death of her sister Mary, Joan and sister Sylvia moved from Blackheath to nearby Albury Heath. Joan had a high profile within the Women’s Institute Organisation, craft was embedded into their constitution to influence the education for countrywomen. In September 1920 the first national course ‘Women and Domestic Craft Study Days’ was held in London, Joan Drew was one of the lecturers.

 

Joan continued with her embroidery work and in 1926 published one of the first embroidery pattern books titles ‘These for Your Delights’.

 

During WW2 Joan kept very active, in her diaries she writes of her work sewing leather gloves for sub-mariners.

 

Guildford Museum has a number of items from the Joan Drew collection.

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