Walberswick is one of the most easterly communities in England clinging to the North Sea coast 30 miles north of Ipswich and 15 miles south of Lowestoft. It lies on the south bank of the River Blyth opposite Southwold, historically an altogether more prosperous town.
At the start of the 19thC the village consisted of a few dozen cottages, two mills, two farms, two pubs and a church scattered along the village “street” and around the village green. Fishermans’ huts lined the small harbour and geese patrolled the green.
The village depended on fishing, coastal trade and agriculture; the sea being a more reliable avenue than the un-metalled roads for moving coal, timber and grain around the country. The villagers’ simple livelihoods were even then enhanced by an increasing number of artists who spent the summer months amongst them.
Attracted by the natural coastal environment and the great land and sea scapes set beneath the famously huge East Anglian skies, Walberswick had since early in the 19th C been a summer haven for painters and etchers. Under the influence of JMW Turner (who painted neighbouring Dunwich in 1824) early visitors such as Peter De Wint and Cornelius Varley were keen exponents of new ways of painting in the outdoors with watercolours, focussing their attention initially on churches and other antiquities. As the century progressed they moved on to paint the land and seascapes around them, their work often peppered with the features of country life and ordinary country folk.
From about 1884 artists trained in Antwerp and Paris came home to establish colonies, as at Newlyn and St Ives but also in Walberswick.. With their radical interest in painting real life and “en plein air” they reacted against the stereotypical conservatism of the Royal Academy and in 1886 formed the New English Art Club.  In Walberswick their figure head was Philip Wilson Steer who’s presence there probably attracted a number of others to the village. Among those who came to visit him was none other than his great friend Francis (Fran) Newbery, Principal of the Glasgow School of Art and the teacher/mentor/supporter of Charles and Margaret Mackintosh (CRM and MMM). Accessibility to the village had been boosted when in 1881 the Southwold Railway was opened linking the town, and a little later Walberswick , to Halesworth and the main line to London. Although with a gauge of only 36 inches (900mm) and a speed limit of 19 mph the line provided a very improved link to the capital and its very valuable fish markets. The single six wheeled carriage attached to the train revolutionised the journey from London to coastal Suffolk and most probably as a result, in the last decade of the century, the number of summer visitors dramatically increased and diversified to include writers, actors as well as numerous amateur artists encouraged by their professional counterparts.
The two pubs in the village had only limited accommodation and it became the villagers’ practice to turn their homes over to the visitors for the summer “season” often themselves moving to sheds and outhouses around the village. As the 19th century came to its close artists began to settle in the district and a more permanent artist community was established.
Fran’ Newbery is thought by his daughter, Mary Sturrock, to have visited Steer in Walberswick at least once during the 1880s. No doubt it was on such a visit that the seed for his own long connection with the village was sown. In about 1900 he rented Rooftree, a semi-detached house on the Main Street. It was to become his family’s summer retreat until his retirement to Dorset in 1918. 
Rooftree was attached to Millside, the lodging house in which Charles Rennie and Margaret McDonald Mackintosh rented rooms for the summer months of 1914 although it is thought that that was not Charles’s first visit to the village. He had probably been there at least twice before.
His sketchbook of 1897 includes a sketch of the Church at Blythburgh, ( only 3 miles or so from Walberswick)_and Southwold as well as of Bramfield, Halesworth, Framlingham, Reydon, South Cove, Uggeshall, Wangford and Wenhaston., a cluster of neighbouring villages.
It is possible that a second and even a third visit was made by Charles and Margaret after their marriage in 1900 and before 1914.
If so the second was possibly in 1905 according to Richard Scott, author of “Artists at Walberswick” (an account of the village as a haven for artists from early in the 19thC to the present), though evidence is hard to find.
CRM’s sketch books of 1905 are blank in this respect and give no guide to his travels in that year . However we know from his painting “Scabious and Toadflax” made in Blakeney, then still a small port on the North Norfolk coast that he was in East Anglia then. 
He was again in Norfolk the following year as shown by drawings he made in Norwich of Elm Hill.  Would he have been so close and not visited his old friends in Suffolk? And what of a possible third visit? Villagers relate that the Newberys’ housekeeper, Phoebe Thompson, named her daughter, born in 1910, after Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh. Richard Scott recalls that the daughter, Margaret Thompson, always asserted this. If so Margaret Macdonald must have stayed in the village before her God-daughter was born. [8&9]
Phoebe (Euphemia) Thompson was also Scottish. She came from Kilrenny, a Fifeshire village adjacent to the East Scottish coast. She married Fred Thompson,,a Walberswick fisherman turned builder, and it might be that she and Margaret got to know each other when Margaret visited (or stayed with) Fran and Jessie Newbery at Rooftrees. An alternative suggestion posed by Richard Scott is that on an earlier visit the Mackintoshes may have lodged with the Thompsons at their home, Seascape/ Lorne Cottages, which overlooks the village green. 
Once again CRM’s sketchbooks are no help. They show him travelling through Kent and East Sussex during the summers of 1909 and 1910 and are then blank again through to 1914.  Perhaps with a sparse income at that time the Mackintoshes had no funds for travelling.
These “blank” years equate to the time, after the completion of the second phase of the Glasgow School of Art, when CRM’s resilience, health and professional reputation in Glasgow collapsed along with his livelihood. Only six commissions of no great substance were received in four and a half years. CRM had failed to meet crucial deadlines as his behaviour became increasingly unpredictable. As a result his partnership with Keppie was dissolved in 1913. 
In 1903, while at the height of his career, CRM had written to Anna Muthesius in Germany of the feeling of despondency and despair brought on by “antagonism and undeserved ridicule”.  That was at a time when his reputation was in the ascendant ; he was fully occupied with Hill House and the Willow tea rooms and feted across Europe, if not so much in the Briitish Isles. (Anna Muthesius was the husband of Hermann Muthesius, a German Architect, Diplomat and author who did much for CRM as a collaborator and promoter of his work in Germany and Vienna. CRM and Fran Newbery became godfathers to Anna and Hermann’s son Eckart)
How much greater therefore must have been CRM’s despair when 10 years later his career lay in ruins and his influence across Europe was in decline.
Whether the cause or the effect of his professional demise, anecdotes give accounts of CRM’s excessive drinking. By some it became usual for him to work through the night on exquisite drawings fuelled by a whole bottle of whisky –only to be found in the morning slumped asleep over his drawing board, “with drawings so perfect-they might have been jewels”. 
However this is a reputation which Mary Sturrock, daughter of Fran Newbery and then a young student, disputes in an interview with Lorn Macintyre. She said “If he did drink, it must have been completely in control; I never saw any sign of it. When mother had special people coming for dinner, she asked the Mackintoshes. If he was a drunkard like some people make out, she would never have asked him to dinner parties”. 
In the early years of the century Mackintosh had been regarded as something of a hero among avant garde circles particularly in Paris, Turin and Vienna. Ten years or so later however architectural styles were beginning to move away from design based upon bespoke hand crafted elements towards the manipulation and repetition of machine made and mass produced components. Ironically, Muthesius, having waxed eloquently about the Arts and Craft Movement in England, who had expounded on Mackintosh’s work in Glasgow and who had written a pivotal treatise on the Das Englische Haus* was as early as 1910, through Deutscher Werkbund ( a collaboration of German designers) promoting ideas on design for mass production that went on to influence the Bauhaus movement, Le Corbusier, Gropius and also Mies van de Rohe et al.
(*Interestingly it is thought that Muthesius might have visited Walberswick at about the same time as Mackintosh’s first trip. Richard Scott has pointed out that a photograph of a Walberswick cottage, Bell Cottage, appears in Muthesius’ book published in 1904.) . In 1909 after a visit to the Willow Tea Rooms Muthesius lamented Mackintosh’s unrewarded struggle to “hold up the banner of beauty in this dense jungle of ugliness”. Yet a few years later in conversation with Jessie Newbery, Fran’s wife, he commented “Of course I was influenced by Mackintosh when I was younger but that was many years ago”. 
On the one hand CRM had been shunned by the Glasgow establishment for being too advanced in his work. On the other hand the avant garde architectural community across Europe who had held him in such high regard for more than a decade were moving design philosophy forward and in the process leaving him behind. He had changed the world, now the world was changing without him.
CRM’s client and admirer, Walter Blackie, publisher and owner of The Hill House, Helensborough visited Mackintosh in his office in 1914 and recounted (in 1943) how he found him to be. His recollection of detail/dates does not competely fit with the chronicle of Mackintosh’s life. (Mackintosh was already in Walberswick by the time WW1 commenced) His description however of CRM’s state of mind when taken with other accounts would seem to be more reliable.
“I think it was in the late autumn of 1914 that I last saw Mackintosh. At any rate it was in the early days of the Great World War. I had received a brief note from Mrs Mackintosh asking me to call on her husband at his office..—- I found Mackintosh sitting at his desk, evidently in a deeply depressed frame of mind. To my enquiry as to how he was keeping and what he was doing he made no response. But presently he began to talk slowly and dolefully. He said how hard he found it to receive no general recognition, only a very few saw merit in his work and many passed him by. — He was leaving Glasgow he told me so might not see his work materialise. I never saw Mackintosh again”.
So it was in 1914, with great concern for the Mackintosh’s well being, that Jessie Newbery suggested to Margaret that she and CRM should spend the summer in Walberswick. With little to hold them in Glasgow they travelled to Suffolk in July and took rooms upstairs at the front of Millside, next door to the Newbery family’s summer home and run as a “lodging” house. There they found themselves happily at the heart of an artistic colony which Richard Scott in “Artists at Walberswick” describes:
“Rooftree”, the Newbery’s base, “ and Millside a semi-detached villa in the main street, is next to Old Farm which was then the Suffolk home of Marion Seward. The Newberys and the Sewards became friends and their collective hospitality towards painters, illustrators and printmakers turned this area into the artistic hub of the village especially as their gardens backed on to the Davidson’s property” 
Thomas Davidson, was a respected deaf and dumb artist who with his artist and architect sons was an influential village resident. (Lady) Marion Seward was a watercolourist and wife of the Professor of Botany and Master of Downing College. In addition the group included Ernest Crofts RA, Sir John Seymour Lucas RA and further afield at Wenhaston EA Walton, a “Glasgow boy” and the brother of George Walton who had worked for Miss Cranston alongside CRM at the Buchanan Street Tea Rooms where he designed furniture and stencil decoration. Also living close-by in Mill Lane were Arthur Rendall and Phillip Alexander, an Arts and Craft metalworker and teacher, and two sisters Ida and Ethel Kirkpatrick whose watercolours of the village decorated many postcards of the era. Rendall had studied in Paris alongside PW Steer and was also an influential garden designer who played a prominent role in setting up the Imperial Arts League. Summer “vacations” in Walberswick were treated by the artist visitors as anything but holidays. Fishermens’ huts that lined the bank of the estuary harbour were taken over as studios. Many of these simple light timber structures with floors raised on stilts, some modified to accommodate glazed north lights, lasted until they were washed away by the floods which decimated the east coast in 1953.
The Mackintoshs fitted into this pattern, working throughout the day in a shed next to the Newbery’s. Margaret obtained a reputation for the fine afternoon teas she provided for their neighbours along the riverside. Gradually CRM gained new energy as he focussed on extending the series of flower drawings started in 1901 on Holy Island. His interest and skill at botanical art had been founded when as a child he had spent a lot of time drawing flowers from his father’s garden. His training at the Art School encouraged his talent which he honed further when on site visits cross Scotland and when on holidays on Holy Island, the North West and in East Anglia and Kent. (The earliest sketch books have been lost.)
In Walberswick he added about 40 flower studies all carried out in pencil with watercolour applied selectively as a flat tint to accentuate a particular component of the overall page. The drawings though botanically very precise are, by the way the elements of the flowers are placed intended “for decorative effect as much as accuracy”; they are the work of a designer. They have a transparency that is also common in other earlier paintings. In some Mackintosh, or the designer in him, could not resist the temptation to emphasise patterns and textures and thereby enhance the impact of the drawings, most obviously in his drawing of Fritillaria and Rosemary (both Walberswick 1915). Each bears a cartouche which records the name of the specimen and its location, date and CRM’s initials usually together with the initials of MMM and any others present with Mackintosh at the time They are standardised and each is “bound” graphically into the page design.
Desmond Chapman-Huston, one of Margaret’s confidants after CRM’s death, understood that he had been asked to prepare a series of flower drawings for publication in Germany to satisfy a growing appetite for botanical references amongst Europe’s burgeoning, and increasingly horticultural minded, middle classes. 
Looking now 100 years later at the flower drawings from Holy Island (1901) through to Walberswick (1915), it is as if the whole series had been conceived in the earliest days for that eventual purpose. They all share a consistent identity, involve similar techniques and are presented in a common format. Astonishingly they show little of the emotional roller coaster CRM (and Margaret) rode across those years. Perhaps in their clarity and steady lines the drawings also give the lie to many stories told in Glasgow of CRM’s drinking and resultant incapacity. The Catalogue in Roger Billcliffe’s book “ Mackintosh Watercolours” (1978) lists only three non botanical watercolour paintings from Walberswick. There are two interesting studies of buildings in the village and one of the harbour mouth. They are of course accomplished works but do not have the power of the paintings which occupied CRM while in South of France in his last years. A sketch book includes a pencil study (1914) of a cottage believed to be opposite the Bell.
Any expectations that the Mackintoshes might have had of income from their German publisher were shattered when the First World War was declared only a few weeks after their arrival in Walberswick.
Throughout the summer months Margaret had been occupied working on a large double panel oil painting “The Little Hills” based upon the 65th Psalm. “Though crownest the year with thy goodness—the valleys—they shout for joy, they also sing”. It was destined for the Dug Out at the Willow Tea Rooms. No doubt Margaret was also in a joyful frame of mind with CRM enjoying improved health as the short dull days and long nights of winter approached.
At the end of the summer of 1914 the visitors departed, the Newberys included. Charles and Margaret decided that there was nothing to go back to Glasgow and they elected to remain for the winter and beyond.
“Toshie,” Margaret wrote, “is quite a different being and evidently at the end of the year will be quite fit again”. 
Margaret went back to Glasgow to deal with matters there, not least to arrange the renting of 6 Florentine Terrace (probably one of few sources of income). On her return they moved from Millside to a house called Westwood in Lodge Road, a turning a little further along the main street. According to Richard Scott it was probably owned by Arthur Rendall who had a studio there and who lived at East Wood, a cottage next door. 
Mackintosh used to work until the light faded in the middle of the afternoon then set out on walks along the shore in black tweed Inverness cape and deerstalker hat, his profile made all the more incongruous by his limp, his stick and smoking pipe. Blucher English, then a village boy, recalled in 1984, CRM looking like Sherlock Holmes, and standing for ages just looking out to sea “unaware of the water covering his boots”. 
Mary Sturrock talks about how much “Mac” as he was known there, liked the village. He had been before and would continue to visit in the summers after the exodus in 1915. Villagers’ it would seem had a reciprocal affection for him and Margaret. Their memories of him appear stronger than of other notable visitors to Walberswick at that time and of course Phoebe Thompson, for one, held Margaret in high regard. Blucher English describes “– a sad little man who seemed to do nothing but walk around the village and on the shore. He wore a big cape style of coat and one of those Sherlock Homes hats. But he talked to me and I liked him.”
Blucher recalls sitting on the steps of the Mackintoshs’ studio watching him paint –“ it looked like sticks and flowers and he was painting it from a box of paints, the sort of thing you see children with” – and being invited to share a sandwich. 
Ginger Winyard, the son of the landlord at the Anchor Inn, describes how “everybody in the village liked the little man because, I suppose, he was a character”. He is also described as being restless “and couldn’t stop anywhere”; he “sort of ran from pub to pub– he had a habit of talking to himself, then he would look round and he’d be out of the door and he’d be off”. .But the Great War having been declared the village did not quite return to normal after the summer visitors of 1914 had left.
The Defence of the Realm Act 1914 (DORA), passed in the week after the start of the War suspended many civil liberties and placed numerous restrictions on the public and not least artists and the like. It included a decree. “No person shall without permission of the competent naval or military authority make any photograph, sketch, plan, model or other representation of any naval or military work, or any dock or harbour, or with the intent to assist the enemy, of any other place or thing.”
Unable to make their living in the village artists, like many across the country, left for safer more lucrative destinations and the village was more than usually depleted. Their places were taken and homes requisitioned by a large influx of irregular soldiers stationed to patrol the coastal region.
Off shore the German fleet threatened. On November 3rd HMS Halcyon, stationed at Great Yarmouth, thwarted a raid by 7 German cruisers on Lowestoft , only 15 miles along the coast,.  (A month later on 16 December 137 were killed and 592 were injured when the German Fleet bombarded Scarborough and Whitby.)
Then in January 1915 the Chief Constable of East Suffolk made an order that “–lights shall be effectively obscured” and a general blackout was imposed along the coast.  The records of the Petty Sessions of 1915 show harsh punishments meted out to streams of offenders many of whom in only small ways failed to follow this order. Such was the extreme anxiety at the threat prevailing from the Sea.
Despite this tense environment the Mackintoshes remained and continued to paint but found themselves the subject of increasing speculation.
They had not left with the other artists?CRM ,in ”a strange black coat” would “roam solitary around the village after dusk”.They, CRM and MMM, spoke in a strange (German?) accent (albeit that Scottish fisher-folk and seamen were constant peripatetic visitors to the village) They showed a relaxed attitude towards the blackout .They had received a constant flow of letters from Austria and Germany.
Strangely there is little record of when or what it was that in June of 1915 finally triggered events which were to shatter their new found tranquillity.
The artist Richard Scott, recorder of local history and resident in Walberswick since 1950 probably gives the most reliable account of what happened (Artists in Walberswick). His account is based upon local recollections and his long acquaintance with some of those living in the village at the time. “Dinks” Cooper, a fisherman, told him that his sister had “shopped” Mackintosh for flashing a lantern in an upstairs room at Westwood Cottage, thinking him to be signalling to the enemy at sea, rather than just attending to a fickle flame.
For whatever reason, Charles and Margaret returning from an evening walk in early summer found the way to the front door of their cottage barred by soldiers with fixed bayonets while others inside searched through their papers which of course contained letters written in German by his German and Austrian friends. In the febrile climate of the time that was all that was necessary to confirm the suspicions which had been growing around them. CRM must certainly be a spy.
Local archives have no records of CRM’s arrest but various anecdotal accounts state that Charles was taken into custody for a few days, then after appearing before a panel was returned to house arrest at Westwood from which he was released only after persistent representations from Philip Alexander and fellow local artists. He and Margaret were then banned from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. (Petty Session records show no evidence that he came before them. It is more likely that he appeared before a Military panel; he had after all been arrested by soldiers not policemen. Local Military records have been lost so are no guide.)
Letters written by CRM give an indication of when the arrest occurred. He writes on 19th June regarding his “Difficult financial situation” with no mention of his arrest; then on the 29th July he writes (from London) describing his efforts to clear his name. (The details of a letter of 21 July 1915 to William Davidson have not been released). An undated letter [ but which is likely to have been written around this time ] to Francis Newbery is in the collection of The Glasgow School of Art. In it Mackintosh asks for a personal and professional reference and mentions that his case will be put before the Home Secretary. Home Office records show that Margaret wrote to them on 24th June protesting at the Order to exclude her from East Anglia and seeking its suspension pending further investigation, as did Charles on July 9th. By October 6th/9th the records indicate that the Orders had been suspended possibly helped by representations made by Lady Norah Mears, the daughter of Prof. Patrick Geddes their old friend from Edinburgh, through Lord Curzon to the Home Office. 
CRM was not alone in his predicament however. Many artists throughout the country were at that time finding themselves in similar straits. Following the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 artists resorted to painting behind hedges (Dame Laura Knight) and many were arrested (Phillip Wilson Steer, Augustus John, John Lavery et al). Even Official War Artists were detained. AW Rimington writing in the Imperial Arts League Journal in January 1916 described the paranoia sweeping the country and the “busy-bodies who see a German spy in every painter”. A local headmistress exclaimed of a painter taken in for questioning from a West Country village “If he is not a spy, why does he wear a hat like that”. 
Mackintosh (who himself wore an unusual hat!) was of course incensed by his treatment by the authorities. He was no doubt dismayed to find that the village in which he had found respite was instrumental in his demise. He was however persuaded by Fran Newbery not to proceed with actions to clear his name (which he could not afford).  But all was not doom and gloom, at least for a while. In London in August 1915 Mackintosh wrote to William Davidson, his client from Windyhill and a constant benefactor during the Mackintosh’s years of hardship. The letter gives an account of CRM’s efforts to clear his name and then tells of an invitation from the Indian Government (presumably through Geddes) to spend 6 months in India designing new buildings. As we know the invitation was never fulfilled. 
Nevertheless India was to remain the focus of Mackintosh’s attention (and of some hope) during the weeks of turmoil when he and Margaret were moving from Walberswick and setting themselves up in Chelsea. In August 1915 he found temporary work “playing around with Professor Geddes” and produced two speculative designs for commercial developments in India under his own name. Nothing was to come of these either. (Patrick Geddes being a Scottish scientist, sociologist, town planner and philosopher, with professional contacts in India.) For a while it is said Charles and Margaret were buoyed by their new lives amongst the avant garde set which frequented Cheyne Walk and the Blue Cockatoo restaurant in Chelsea . Sadly however their optimism was not to last long. Later a young architect visiting Mackintosh in the hope of a job found him “so depressed he was unable to speak”.
All the good that had come from 12 months by the sea in Walberswick had been wasted in a few months. CRM was back in the deep depression in which the previous year Walter Blackie had found him at their last meeting in Glasgow —and then Wenman J Bassett-Lowke called.