The art of Sydney R Jones, 1881–1966


Church of St Michael Paternoster Royal and Innholder’s Hall (1927).

One of the better secondhand book discoveries of the past couple of years was London Triumphant, a collection of etchings and pencil drawings of the city’s streets and buildings by Sydney R Jones. The etchings immediately seized my attention, being the kind of closely-hatched architectural renderings which I enjoy, but the book as a whole is very good as it details the artist’s wanderings with a young student friend through the city. Jones established himself as an illustrator of books with titles like The Manor Houses of England and The Charm of the English Village. His London book appeared in July 1942 and collected many of his earlier views of the city as a deliberate morale boost for the populace who were watching the capital’s historic buildings yield to the bombs of what he calls “the foul Hun”. Jones catalogues the destruction with dismay as he recounts the history of the city from Roman times but ends on a note of defiant optimism, wondering what new metropolis might rise from the destruction. He mentions in passing that cult locale of mine, the Essex Street Water Gate, but doesn’t provide a drawing unfortunately. The book proved to be very popular, and the copy I found is a fifth printing from 1947.


Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet Street (1926).

This week’s book purchase was a welcome find, then, being London Triumphant‘s sequel, Thames Triumphant, in which Jones follows the course of the river from its spring at Coberley, through Oxford and on down to Greenwich. There aren’t as many dramatic views this time, and many of the country scenes have that kind of polite blandness about them which you find in much book illustration of the period. But Jones does provide a couple of his speculative and spectacular views over the city, including the one below which shows the City of London as it was in 1939. Much of the foreground was bombed flat during the war so a drawing such as this provides a valuable record of how London’s financial centre looked before the arrival of the Luftwaffe and the office blocks. Jones lived to see much of the subsequent reconstruction—I can’t help but wonder what he made of it all.


The City of London, 1939; click for a bigger view.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Pite’s West End folly
Jessie M King’s Grey City of the North
Architectural renderings by HW Brewer
The Essex Street Water Gate, London WC2

16 thoughts on “The art of Sydney R Jones, 1881–1966”

  1. i have a picture of a gun and a bag with a cross shinning over the back of it from one of the wars can you tell me if its worth anything thankyou

  2. I have just qualified as a City of London Guide and a dear friend of mine presented me with a copy (1941) of ‘London Triumphant’. It is one of the best gifts I have ever had, especially as I spend considerable amount of time walking the streets of the City. S R Jones wonderful drawings evoke the past beautifully and I can answer some of those questions of what went before.

    Would love to know how you managed to get such good clear prints from the book?

  3. Hi Tina. It’s good to hear that people still value Jones’ work. The first two pictures here were copied from the book using a flatbed scanner, something I use for my design and illustration work. The view over the City I had to photograph as I didn’t want to damage the book by pressing it flat.

  4. Hi John
    I have to say my blog has had a lot of visits since I post SRJ’s writings and pictures. I also use a flat bed scanner, but wary of how many times one can do that without ruining the spine of the book.
    Still reading and walking with Mr Jones and his companion.

  5. p.s. There is a copy for sale on EBay for circa £24 (1949). May buy another just for copying. Also do you know if there might be copyright issues with this? She asks having already busily posted!

  6. Generally speaking you’re okay posting one or two images of something in copyright under the “fair use” rule although I’m not a lawyer so don’t take my word for it. My policy is to avoid posting very well-known works that are still in copyright, I link to those instead if gallery examples can be found. Artists like Mr Jones here run the risk of being forgotten so we’re doing them a favour by keeping their name and work visible.

  7. Hi John
    There is an exhibition of SRJ’s work opening on 29th September 2012 at the Richmond Gallery, TW9 1TP. Based mainly on ‘Thames Triumphant’ apparently the ‘owner’ of SRJ’s works (now lives in Italy) will be present at the Private View on Monday 1st October.
    Are you planning to go/have you been invited?

    I am invited to the PV on the strength of my blog.
    Just ordered two more books …
    Thinking about buying a print of St Paul’s from Grosvenor Gallery …

  8. Hi John
    Hope all goes well with you. Have now met the owner of SRJ’s work, a distant cousin called Richard Milward. Pleasant chap does not mind people using the pictures as long as not for profit. He has sent me an e-mail that he asked me to share with you.

    It is rather long for this comment box. Would you care to send me a email address so I can forward his email to you.

  9. Just been given a first edition Thames Triumphant. Jones artwork is superb. My wife and I are walking the Thames path and I have an interest in London Dockland as well as having illustrated a book myself and being a collector of London books, so discovering Sydney R. Jones is brilliant. Will be looking for the London book. I suppose that exhibition is finished?

  10. Hi my mother has asked me to find out where the three etchings all signed in pencil Sydney r jones are from. Can any one help or where I can upload photos I have taken of them to find out what they are of.


  11. Hi Chris. Do you mean you’ve got some etchings that you want identifying? I don’t live in London–and I’m also not a Jones expert, this is a post about some books I found–so I’m not the best person to ask. You can set up a Flickr account easily enough if you want photos posted online. If you want to know anything in detail about Jones’ work you’ll have to find a print dealer. I can’t suggest who to look for in that department.

  12. Chris: I did say in my earlier comment that I can’t suggest who to look for. This was a post about some books, I don’t have any contact with art dealers and know next to nothing about that field. You could maybe try the Chris Beetles Gallery in London although Sydney Jones isn’t mentioned on their site:

  13. Just got hold of a copy of Thames Triumphant form a charity bookshop (not a first and not in great condition, but only 3.99)

    The prose brought back powerful memories of places we have visited in the upper Thames/southern Cotswolds (especially Northleach). Made up want to visit there again

    Sorry we missed the exhibition, but we did not know about him!

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