OXFORDSHIRE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

Anne RIDLER (1912–2001), Poet
Vivian RIDLER (1913–2009), Printer

14 Stanley Road, Oxford

Anne Barbara Bradby was born at Rugby School where her father, Henry Bradby, was a housemaster. Her mother, Violet, née Milford, wrote popular children’s books such as The Enchanted Forest (1921). Anne attended Downe House School and went on to work at Faber and Faber as secretary to T. S. Eliot who was a great inspiration to her, as were Charles Williams, one of the Inklings, and W. H. Auden. Her first collection of poems was published in 1939 and she was a fashionable poet especially in the nineteen forties and fifties. The poet Peter Forbes wrote in the Observer (28 October 2001): “Many of her poems mark arrivals and departures: her husband leaving in wartime, the birth of a child, the death of her father. The need to understand things passing and to give them some currency in memory and then in poetry, lies at the heart of her work.” The publication of her Collected Poems by Carcanet Press in 1994 led to renewed appreciation of her work and a flowering of formal recognition towards the end of her life. She received the Cholmondeley Award for Poetry and was made FRSL in 1998. An OBE for Services to Literature followed in 2001, shortly before her death. She was also acclaimed as a librettist, especially for translations of operas by Cavalli, Handel, Monteverdi, and Mozart, and wrote verse plays. The Trial of Thomas Cranmer (1956) and The King of the Golden River (1975) were first performed in the University Church at Oxford. She had married Vivian Ridler in 1938 and they made their home at 14 Stanley Road in 1948.

Vivian Hughes Ridler was born in Cardiff, the son of Bertram Ridler, a civil servant in the Board of Trade, and his wife Elizabeth, née Best. He attended Bristol Grammar School and conceived an early passion for printing. His father bought him an Adana printing machine with which he and his school friend David Bland set up the successful Perpetua Press. In 1931 he became an apprentice at a printing firm in Bristol. In 1936 John Johnson, Printer to the OUP, invited him to be an assistant in Oxford. After war service in the RAF he returned to the OUP and succeeded Charles Batey as Printer in 1958.

The RidlersAnne & Vivian Ridler. By kind permission of Judith Aronson, photographer, and the Ridler family

As Printer (or Architypographus Academicus) 1958–1978, he was the last of the great printers in the tradition of William Caxton. He was chosen for the honour of printing the Bible for the Queen’s coronation oath in 1953, produced the New English Bible in 1961, and accepted unusual commissions requiring fine typographical skills, such as Stanley Morison’s John Fell and the Fell Types, facsimiles of Eliot's The Waste Land, the Constable Sketchbooks, and The Great Tournament Roll for the British College of Arms. Although first and foremost a superb master craftsman in the letterpress tradition, he was nevertheless a pragmatic moderniser who recognised the future of new printing techniques and created a new factory building and a fully mechanised bindery.

He was widely known beyond Oxford, as a founder of the Institute of Printing, an examiner in typographic design for the City and Guilds of London Institute, and as President of the British Federation of Master Printers in 1968. In 1970 he was made CBE. He became a professorial fellow of St Edmund Hall, later elected fellow emeritus. In retirement he revived the Perpetua Press. In his garden shed at Stanley Road he produced some thirty books, setting and printing them by hand. These included the popular College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge and Latin (inscriptions) in Oxford.

  • Sources: Anne Ridler, Collected Poems 1994 (Carcanet); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article on Anne Ridler by Ronald Gordon, and on Vivian Ridler by Nicolas Barker; Memoirs, Anne Ridler; obituary notices in the national and local newspapers

The plaque was unveiled by Kate Wilson, daughter of Anne & Vivian Ridler, at 14 Stanley Road on 16 September 2016. The speakers were Professor Michael Schmidt, OBE, FRSL, founder and editor of Carcanet Press, and Sir Hugo Brunner, KCVO, former Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, publisher, and family friend. Among those attending were Cllr Susan Brown, Sheriff of Oxford; representatives of OUP, family, friends, and neighbours.

Picture awaited

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

ANNE RIDLER
1912–2001
Poet

VIVIAN RIDLER
1913–2009
printer

lived here from
1948

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

 

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