Blue plaque for Weston designer Alfred Leete unveiled

Weston-super-Mare’s Alfred Leete, designer of the iconic ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster, has received a blue plaque by the town council.

The plaque is located on the front of Addington Court on Marine Parade, one of a pair of hotels on Weston seafront that his parents ran.

Mr Leete’s plaque is part of a series of blue plaques being unveiled by Weston-super-Mare Town Council.

Plaques have already been unveiled for Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Paulo Radmilovic, Weston-super-Mare’s first mayor Henry Butt, and novelist and poet Roald Dahl.

Weston Museum will be hosting an exhibition on Alfred Leete in September 2018.

Weston-super-Mare’s mayor (r), councillor Michal Lyall, with councillor John Crockford-Hawley (chairman of the Museum and Heritage Committee), and councillor James Davis who is Armed Forces Champion.

A town council spokesperson said Mr Leete, who was born in 1882, had a fascinating career.

They added: “Alfred Leete went to Kingsholm School in Arundell Road, followed by an apprenticeship with a firm of Bristol architects.

“A chance opportunity to sell drawings to the Bristol Magpie magazine set him on a path to Fleet Street and national recognition. Other journals, including Punch, soon realised Mr Leete’s talent, particularly in the field of cartoons, and by the age of 30 he was becoming much sought after.

“Mr Leete had ‘arrived’ and London journalists loved his work, but he never lost his affection for Weston and often produced sketches of local events, shops – including Cecil Walker’s – and people.

“He met Edith Webb in Weston and in 1909 they were married. Their first child, Betty, died in infancy but a son, John, born 1915, went on to become another artist.”

Weston-super-Mare’s mayor, councillor Michal Lyall and WWI soldier (Josh Cottrell) at the unveiling of Alfred Leete’s blue plaque

When WWI broke out, Mr Leete was drawing for a number of national magazines and papers including Punch, Tatler, Sketch, Bystander, and London Opinion. It was this last magazine which carried what was to become his iconic war sketch with the face of General Kitchener pointing a finger from the words ‘Your Country Needs You’. A variation was used by the Americans – ‘Uncle Sam’ having replaced Kitchener.

The town council spokesperson added: “During WWII the conscription poster was reissued but with Churchill’s bulldog face, though its impact was never up to that of Mr Leete’s original concept. The famous 1914 poster had immediate appeal and even to this day is used by countless organisations and individuals who wish to highlight causes and events.”

“Mr Leete himself joined the Colours and served, most appropriately, in the Artists’ Rifles.

“After the war Mr Leete’s work was in great demand, not only with newspapers and periodicals, but within the wider sphere of commercial advertising. Posters for Rowntree’s chocolates, London Underground and Younger’s Brewery soon adorned the billboards of the Empire’s towns and cities. Living and working in London, Mr Leete moved in clubbable circles and became a regular at the Savages (today’s Bristol Savages continue the artistic tradition at the Red House). In 1928 he became President of the Sketch Club.”

Mr Leete was taken ill in 1933 whilst on holiday in Italy. He returned home to London where he died on 17th June and, though the capital had become his adoptive home, he never forgot Weston-super-Mare. It was to his old home that he returned for burial and his grave can be seen in Milton Road Cemetery.

The Editor

Hello! I'm KATE, a journalist, editor and broadcaster with 20 years experience in the industry. I have worked at the BBC, ITV, Heart and Sky Sports News. I've lived in Somerset for most of my life and set up LOVE SOMERSET ONLINE in 2016. I love the seaside and am partial to a good gin and tonic.

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