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Olive Cook

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Olive Cook
Olive Muriel Cook

(1912-02-20)20 February 1912
Chesterton, Cambridge, England
Died2 May 2002(2002-05-02) (aged 90)
Saffron Walden, Essex, England
EducationThe Perse School
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
Occupation(s)writer, artist
(m. 1954⁠–⁠1971)

Olive Muriel Cook (20 February 1912 – 2 May 2002), was an English writer and artist who published county guides, as well as writing various books accompanied by the work of her husband, the photographer Edwin Smith.

Early life


Olive Muriel Cook was born on 20 February 1912, at 43 Garden Walk, Chesterton, Cambridge, the daughter of Arthur Hugh Cook, an assistant at Cambridge University Library, and his wife Kate (née Webb). She won scholarships to The Perse School and Newnham College, Cambridge, where she earned a bachelor's degree in modern languages.[1]



After Cambridge, Cook worked for the publishers Chatto and Windus as a typographer. She moved to the National Gallery, where she was employed as supervisor of publications, under Kenneth Clark, and was involved in the removal of its collections to Blaenau Ffestiniog in anticipation of World War II.[1] During the war some of her watercolours were acquired for the Recording Britain project.[1][2]

After the war, Cook worked as a freelance writer and artist. In 1948 she wrote the guidebook Suffolk which was illustrated by Rowland Suddaby (part of the Vision of England series), and in 1953 the Cambridgeshire: Aspects of a County in 1953. She married the photographer Edwin Smith in 1954.[1][3] She published Breckland in 1956, in the Regional Books series.[3]

Cook often worked in conjunction with her husband, Edwin Smith, providing the text in books where he took the photographs, such as Leonard Russell's annual The Saturday Book from 1944 to the 1960s, the English Parish Churches series (1950), English Cottages and Farmhouses (1954), English Abbeys and Priories (1961) and The Wonders of Italy (1963).[3]

Cook was part of the campaign against the building of Stansted Airport, and wrote The Stansted Affair, published in 1967, with a foreword by John Betjeman, and reviewed as a "telling angry indictment".[1][4]

Personal life


Cook shared a house on Church Row in Hampstead with fellow artist Malvina Cheek in the late 1940s.[5] In 1954, Cook married the photographer Edwin Smith.[3] In 1962, they moved to Saffron Walden, firstly to a tall house on the corner of Audley Road and East Street, and later into the Coach House at the Vineyards on Windmill Hill.[4]

Later life


Cook died of cancer on 2 May 2002 at Saffron Walden Community Hospital, Saffron Walden.[1] The papers of Cook and her husband were donated to Newnham College.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Vaizey, Marina (2004). "Olive Muriel Cook (1912–2002)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). OUP. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/76881. Retrieved 23 November 2017. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "The Yard of the Abbey Arms Hotel, Festiniog, Merionethshire". Victoria & Albert Museum. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "Olive Muriel Cook – Person – National Portrait Gallery". npg.org.uk. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Olive Cook". Saffron Walden Historical Journal. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  5. ^ Evans, M. (9 January 2020). Cheek, (Doris) Malvina (1915–2016), artist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 26 July 2020, from https://www-oxforddnb-com.wikipedialibrary.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-111322.
  6. ^ "Olive Cook Papers". Archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2019.

Collected information about Olive Cook on The Golden Fleece website.