Thursday, 20 December 2012

Worktown – The Drawings of Falcon Hildred

I’m biased: I like Falcon, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in his home, of witnessing his uncluttered way of life and hearing him describe his hopes and disappointments. I also live next to Blaenau Ffestiniog, so any comments about his book (written by Peter Wakelin) are not wholly objective.

The book contains 200 of Falcon’s drawings, now in the hands of public bodies for posterity, and the bulk of them record the industrial heritage of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Falcon’s home for over forty years. 

In the course of the book I learnt a lot about his life: how he got the impressive name of Falcon; how he came to move from Grimsby to Coventry, to London and eventually to Blaenau Ffestiniog; his bold decision to give up job security to follow his calling. I loved the drawing he sent to his mother depicting the layout of his bedsit in Putney during the times when he designed, amongst other things, first class bars and cabins for cruise liners.

Within the book there are many favourite drawings for me including the series depicting Tŷ Uncorn, the one chimney house with four tiny cottages sharing a central chimney. Was this a pioneering attempt at central heating? I like knowing what it looks like inside as I walk past it near the police station.

The final chapter is written by Falcon and titled ‘My Working Process’. On the last page he talks about the drawings made in other industrial towns in which the buildings have long since been demolished or renovated. ....’After half a century of recording, I believe that Blaenau Ffestiniog and its landscape are the best and most complete surviving industrial landscape in Britain’ .... ‘I feel we should save one example of a nineteenth-century industrial town as a complete cultural and historic entity. So my final message is: if you like my pictures, then please take care of the subject that inspired them.’  

And so we should. As for the book, not only do I recommend it, I suggest you get three copies. One for cutting out and framing images on left hand pages, another for the right hand pages and the third for a good read.


  1. I was buying a copy for a neighbour in a local bookshop yesterday and they are going like hot cakes. Someone had just bought six copies!

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