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Where did you get that hat?
September 21st, 1921: a host of notable Accringtonians assembles in its finery to witness the opening of an exciting new cultural centre for the town.
It’s the day the Haworth Art Gallery first opens its doors to the public – a cause for celebration for Accrington folk, who would benefit from this most generous gift – the day on which the town, still recovering from the effects of World War I, marks the opening of its first public art gallery. And a day on which to recognise the remarkable people who had made it possible.
Because it’s also a day of sad reflection. The house and grounds, previously known as Hollins Hill, are the bequest of Anne Haworth, who along with her brother William had lived there for fewer years than they no doubt would have hoped.
The Haworths’ family wealth was created by their father Thomas, an engraver by background, who built and ran two thriving cotton mills in Accrington and later passed the running of the businesses on to William. Being from humble beginnings themselves, the Haworths were fair and sympathetic employers, who ran clean mills with good working conditions and were a close and loving family.
It was after the death of Thomas and his wife Mary that William and Anne commissioned York-based architect Walter Brierley, dubbed ‘the Lutyens of the north’, to build Hollins Hill in the Arts & Crafts vernacular as their retirement home.
Completed in 1909, the house had been home to William for just four years when he died in 1913, aged just 65. After his death, Anne lived on more reclusively at the house, along with her companion Ellen Priestley, and died in 1920.
It was Anne’s extraordinary bequest that gave the town its new park, art gallery and collection of beautiful artworks, sculpture and ceramics, among the many items the siblings amassed from both near and far – on their many travels – fulfilling a dream William had harboured: to create a public gallery for the people of his hometown to enjoy. Abraham Whiston, who had been William’s valet and later Anne’s butler, stayed on to become the gallery’s first curator.
The generous bequest was welcomed by the town’s corporation and on this day 100 years ago, Accrington’s mayor officially took charge of the key to its great oak door. And the rest, as they say, is history.
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Wonderful Work Placement! Thoughts from a Post Grad Student
Carla Loyola Cruz
Studying Cultural Heritage Management is definitely one of the most rewarding fields to study; not everyone is able to learn how heritage, museums, galleries are managed and, most importantly, how important it is to create a bond between them and society. Since I started this MA at the University of York it has granted me new knowledge regarding heritage and collections management, and, through the writing of essays and heritage plans I have been able to put this newly gained knowledge into use. However, although this was rewarding, the actual experience of working within a heritage space was missing.
That’s why I was very thankful and excited to find a placement with Haworth Art Gallery during the Easter holidays. At first I hesitated a bit due to the fact that I would have to travel every day from York to Accrington, but now I can say all those early mornings have been completely worth it! This has been one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences I’ve had since I started the MA.
My first impression of the building was simply WOOW, and that was just by looking at it on the website; of course it didn’t disappoint once I was actually on site. The gallery is based in an astonishing old English house located at the top of a hill, surrounded by a lovely park which grants you a fantastic outdoorsy environment and landscape. However, all these outdoors settings have nothing compared to what is awaiting you inside of the house. The whole gallery is filled with gorgeous paintings and various objects created by local artists, which really gives you a glimpse into Accrington’s history; not to mentioned the Tiffany glass collection which is classified as an international collection.
One of my first jobs here was the inventory and re-packing of the ceramic and glass objects in one of the stores. Thanks to this now I have more experience in how objects are classified and stored, not to mention that I have discovered so many really amazing objects in there and I have had the opportunity to look at them up-close.
Another task I have been able to perform, and definitely one of my favourites, was learning how paintings of different sizes are stored onto racks. We were able to re-hang eight paintings in the store, where, again, I got to see up-close very nice art pieces created by local artists and experience being on the inside of an actual object store in a gallery.
Furthermore, I was invited to attend to a planning meeting, where some future exhibitions and workshops were discussed. It was very interesting to see how these matters are planned and how much work, collaboration with other fields and planning is done behind the scenes. Even as a student in this subject, it is hard to realise sometimes all the work involved to bring an exhibition to life.
Overall, this placement has been a one-time life experience. I can truly say my knowledge in the field has increased, I now realise that working in a place like this is way more complex and time consuming than it seems. Being able to work close up with the collections and handle heritage pieces, discover all kinds of interesting objects, and work side by side with the managers of the gallery has given me the opportunity to actually put my MA knowledge into practice. Thanks to Haworth Art Gallery, I now feel more prepared to start a career in the heritage sector.
Haworth Art Gallery is one of the most interesting galleries I have been to, it highlights the importance of Accrington’s history and roots. Not to mention that the management team have some great ideas to integrate and make visitors interact more with the collections. Thanks to this placement I feel very happy and honoured to say I was able to work at, and be part of, this gallery.
The only thing I have left to say is thank you, thank you Alison and Gillian for accepting and guiding me through this placement; you have made me feel very welcome. Thanks to all the staff members and volunteers, I have truly enjoyed my time working alongside you, as well as all those chats and brews! I am really looking forward to coming back once the gallery is back open!
Carla Loyola Cruz
Treasures from the Attic
Friends group members, volunteers and gallery staff have been busy over the past few months, (Covid restrictions allowing), uncovering treasures from within the darkest recesses of the Haworth Art Gallery store rooms and archives.
Last week’s finds included some beautiful ornamental vases, some gilded in gold or glazed in vibrant colours, some depicting fearsome characters, were brought down from safe storage in the attic along with incense burners and other exquisitely crafted pieces.
Friends group members Jean and Harry Emmett in particular have recently played a part in supporting staff in finding, identifying and recording artefacts that make up part of the bequest left to the people of Accrington by sister and brother, Anne and William Haworth. Jean and Harry were among a number of the Friends group who have received object handling training by Deputy Manager and Curator, Alison Iddon, enabling them to safely unpack and record details of the objects, as well as take a few photographic shots.
Part of the work being undertaken as regards these buried treasures is to decide which of these pieces we can display in the upcoming centenary exhibition due to start in July later this year. There are so many beautiful artefacts that the gallery simply does not have the space to display all of them all of the time, along with it’s collection of Tiffany Glass and popular temporary exhibitions.
Some of the more unusual objects include an ivory figurine of a snake charmer and an ivory calling card holder. Obviously these days we are more enlightened as regards ivory, but it was often used for decorative purposes in previous centuries. Thankfully, the trade in ivory is now banned worldwide and only items dated before 1947 can be displayed and traded. The items pictured here were acquired by the Haworths sometime in the late 1890s – early 1900s and we show them here as pieces of historical interest and an insight into the culture of our past.
The Friends look forward to greeting visitors old and new to the exhibition in July, if lifting of restrictions go ahead as planned. Let’s keep everything crossed!
Elves have left the building!!
What is normally an indoor event was held outdoors for the first time at the Haworth Art Gallery yesterday.
A ‘doorway grotto’ had been created for a socially distanced Santa and his Elves to welcome everyone who came to visit. Children were able to talk to Santa and take a present from the ‘Nice’ box if they said they’d been good. Amazingly, all the children had been good this year, (what are the odds?) which is just as well, as the ‘Naughty’ box was empty!
There was a great turnout for the event with a grand total of 254 in attendance. Thank you to everyone who came along braving the cold and creating a cheerful atmosphere, even in the long queue.
A big pat on the back to all the Gallery staff and Friends group members who organised and hosted the event and a special mention to Elf Liz, who spent the whole time outside entertaining children and their families while they were waiting their turn to see Santa.
On behalf of the Haworth Art Gallery, we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, even if it is a bit scaled down this year. Stay safe folks and all the best for the New Year.
Snowy scenes in the Haworth Art Gallery grounds this week. I happened to walk past when Curator and Deputy Manager, Alison Iddon, was taking a few snaps on her phone from one of the upstairs windows.
Although the gallery is currently closed to the public due to Tier 3 restrictions, the shop is open Wednesday – Friday 12 – 4pm selling lots of beautiful gifts and cards. The shop can be accessed via the main front door in the photo. There is also a ‘phone and collect’ service, Tel. 01254 233782 mid-week.
The Haworth Park has remained open throughout the Covid pandemic and looks lovely whatever the season! The picture below and the cover photo are courtesy of Harry Emmett.