Charles Rennie Mackintosh - Walberswick
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Picture
                    (c) by John Ashley Photography

Close to the village green of Walberswick and just a stones throw away from the harbour, stands the venerable Bell Inn, built sometime during the 15th century. 

Inside it is easy to imagine that in the past, this was a favourite place of Suffolk smugglers, with its open fires, beamed ceilings, hidden alcoves and floors worn down over the years by the tramping of many feet. Turning the clock forward to the 20th century, to the year 1914 to be precise, I am able to give a name to one of the inns visitors, though I hasten to say that he was not a smuggler, but a 'spy', well for at least a week!

He was the architect, designer and water colourist Mr. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As his surname suggests, Mackintosh was born in Glasgow Scotland in the year 1868. He originally studied to be an architect, but also attended evening classes in art. Over time Mackintosh developed his own unique style and his designs are still used to this day. In the early 1900s Mackintosh decided to set up his own architect practice but unfortunately the venture failed. He became disillusioned with Scotland and decided to leave, it was the year 1914.

Mackintosh and his wife Margaret, rented a house from their friend Philip Wilson Steer, who owned a place in Walberswick by the name of Valley Farm, which was right next to the Bell Inn. 
 
In a recent book written by the actor and writer John Cairney, entitled 'The Quest for Charles Rennie Mackintosh', it is said that his time spent in Walberswick was not an altogether happy one. Mackintosh's slightly eccentric habits had the locals believing that he was a German spy. To the extent that he spent a week in prison, that is until his innocence was proven by his wife when she returned from a trip some several days later.

Mackintosh had been observed taking walks in the evening along the seashore carrying a lantern, the locals began to believe that he was in fact signaling to German ships out at sea. He was probably seeking inspiration for his work. But the people of Walberswick thought otherwise and informed the local army, they turned up at Valley Farm to question Charles Rennie Mackintosh one evening after one of his walks. 
Finding his home full of soldiers, Mackintosh is said to have raved at them in Scottish and with his strong Glaswegian accent the soldiers mistook him for a German. So they arrested him there and then and threw him into jail.
Unfortunately after this spell in prison, Macintosh decided he had had enough of Suffolk, so he and his wife moved to London in 1915. Despite his adventures in Walberswick, Macintosh managed to paint some exquisite water colours such as the “Faded Rose” and “Grey Iris”.

  Picture
                    (c) by John Ashley Photography