Fred Stingemore: Man in the Middle
Fred Stingemore’s contribution to the mapping of London’s Underground has been somewhat eclipsed by the reputations of the designers who came before and after, MacDonald Gill and Harry Beck. It was Gill who stripped away the surface topography completely, including the River Thames, leaving behind a clean but still geographically recognisable design. However, it was Stingemore who reinstated the Thames as a sole point of reference, and although his lettering lacked the calligraphic flourishes of Gill’s it was well suited to the series of small, tri-fold passenger maps he designed between 1925 and 1932 - which are the true ancestors of the folding maps given away at Tube stations today. There had been earlier attempts to use the format, in 1911 and 1921, but Stingemore made it work, and it was Stingemore’s map which Beck had to hand when working on his diagram.
I don’t have an image of Fred Stingemore, but there’s a photograph in Leboff and Demuth’s No Need to Ask!¹ and I’m fairly sure I saw a snapshot in Beck’s scrapbook, which was recently acquired by London Transport Museum. He seems to have enjoyed a friendly working relationship with Beck, with nothing to suggest that he was anything other than supportive, even when Beck’s design replaced his own: “Stingemore encouraged Beck to persist in persuading the Publicity Department to accept his design.”²
Frederick Henry Stingemore (1890-1954) first appears on the 1891 census, aged 9 months, with his parents Henry and Ellen Stingemore. Fred's place of birth is given as Egham, and sometimes more specifically as Virginia Water, Surrey. He died on 4 February 1954, and his will reveals that he was quite comfortably off at the time of his death, leaving £6370 1s 9d, a substantial six figure sum in today’s terms (a range of calculations can be found on www.measuringworth.com).
Fred came from fairly modest origins. Most of his ancestors had been agricultural labourers (including one early 19th century forbear with the magnificent Biblical name of Pharoah Stingemore), but over time the Stingemores improved their lot. Fred would have known his grandparents, William and Mary Ann Stingemore. William was born in Wiltshire in 1834, and died at Windsor in 1914. He worked as an insurance agent and journeyman brickmaker as well as a mason’s labourer; his wife was a dressmaker.
Fred’s father was Henry Alfred Stingemore, born on 2 June and baptised on 22 June 1864 at Shaftesbury Independent, Dorset. He married Fred’s mother, Ellen, in 1889. He worked as a mason's labourer, like his father William, before becoming a railway porter (foreman) for the London and South-Western Railway. When Henry Stingemore died in 1947 an obituary appeared in the Southern Railway Magazine³: “Many former L. & S.W. Railwaymen will learn with regret of the passing on July 12 at Dorking of Mr. H. A. ("Harry") Stingemore at the age of 83. Commencing his service at Chertsey in 1883, Mr. Stingemore was at Virginia Water until 1900...”
So Fred had a railwayman for a father, but the 1911 census shows him, aged 20, working as a ‘black and white artist’, ‘Press’. The street address was 244 Hanworth Road, Hounslow. Members of the household, in addition to Fred, were his parents Henry and Ellen Stingemore, and his sister Nelly. Their house comprised six rooms, not including scullery, and had four occupants, i.e. Henry and Ellen plus their two children.
Fred married Maude Alice Chalkley at Dartford, Kent, in the September quarter of 1914. He probably moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire, to set up his own home soon after getting married. At the time of his death he was living at 17 Beech Avenue, survived by Maude, who was the main beneficiary of his will.
Leboff and Demuth note that Fred worked for the Temple Press before joining the Underground Group. Alongside a fairly standard literary output (of the ‘Tales from Shakespeare’ variety) the Temple Press published ‘The Motor’, ‘Motor Cycling’, ‘The Aero Manual’ and other transport related publications. Fred designed posters for the Underground Group and London Transport between 1914 and 1942, and worked for Frank Pick in the Publicity Manager's Office, Underground Group, from 1919. How he came to Frank Pick’s notice and became his personal draughtsman would be fascinating to learn…
He produced a range of publicity material in the early 1920s: posters explaining ‘fair fares’, encouraging rustic rambles, and off peak shopping. Many of his posters were, cartographic, such as his panel advertising the 1926 Boat Race. By 1923 he was regarded as an expert in his field. The ‘Railway Magazine’ reported on a lecture he gave on ‘advertising in transportation’: ‘In Mr. Stingemore's hands the subject was by no means dull, and the frequent applause with which his remarks were punctuated showed that he was appreciated by his audience.’4 He also provided illustrations for the ‘Railway Magazine’ and the Underground’s own ‘TOT Magazine’.
Fred was a keen amateur photographer (and possibly, in later life, a photo-journalist; my source for that is an article in the Hemel Gazette, quoted in the footnotes). Some 7500 of his photographs form the Stingemore Collection, preserved and digitised by HALS (Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies).5 Some of these capture rural scenes or daily life in Hertfordshire, but transport seems to have been a major theme. In 1918 the ‘Railway Magazine’ remarked that his ‘train photographs are familiar to Railway Magazine readers’ and Leboff and Demuth, who mention that he also ‘recorded rural and railways subjects’ in the west Country, north Yorkshire and the Lake District, also remind us that ‘his pictures of moving trains required considerable skill with slower exposure films if blurring was to be avoided’.
A picture emerges of a talented draughtsman, who was fortunate enough to combine genuine interests in transport and design in his working and personal life.1Leboff, David, and Demuth, Tim: No Need to Ask! (Capital Transport 1999) p. 66 2 The Penrose Annual: Review of the Graphic Arts, Volume 62 (Lund Humphries 1969) p. 69
3 Southern Railway Magazine, vols 24-25, p. 189
4 Railway Magazine vol 52, 1923 p. 171.
5 The rediscovery of the Stingemore Collection was reported in the Hemel Gazette in 2007
Updated November 10th 2017:
With so little known about Fred Stingemore’s life, it was a pleasure to acquire a letter he wrote on November 4 1951 to an acquaintance in Iraq, a Mr Harrison. Strictly speaking it doesn’t add a great deal to our store of knowledge: he liked dates; he collected stamps; his wife had been unwell. One also suspects that his sympathies were not with the outgoing Labour government. There is a mildly disparaging reference to the ‘closing of Mr Morrison’s Fun Fair at Battersea’ (the ‘Pleasure Gardens’ were part of the 1951 Festival of Britain, organized by ‘Lord Festival’, Herbert Morrison). And, at the foot of the letter is a topical sketch. Next to the caption ‘to-morrow is November 5th’, a cheerful couple which I take to be Fred Stingemore and his wife are collecting pennies for the guy, a crumpled Clement Attlee. Despite winning the popular vote, Labour lost the General Election a few days earlier, on October 25 1951.
The letter has been lettered and illustrated with great care, with playful use of Arabic numerals and an accompanying ‘see how they ran’ chart, which appears to show motor racing in the chaos of the Baghdad traffic. What I think we can take from the letter is Stingemore’s sense of fun.