Haworth centenary: what’s in store?

The Haworth’s centenary as Accrington’s art gallery – the jewel in the town – is just around the corner. The fascinating photograph above was taken in 1921, the year the building was opened to the public. What a decorous entourage assembled for the occasion!

“This can’t last. This misery can’t last.” Laura Jesson, Brief Encounter.

As the Haworth staff and Friends volunteers prepare to mark the 100th anniversary (watch this space!), we’ve been hard at work documenting the gallery’s two major artwork stores, uncovering and preserving important artefacts in the permanent collection, many of which will help shape the event.

Our featured photograph was among the hundreds of items in the building’s watercolour store, work on which has been ongoing for the past year, documenting and assessing the condition of each item.

Among the many lovely discoveries were several sheet music albums belonging to William and Anne Haworth. At least one album, bearing William’s monogram and the date 1902, pre-dates the era when the Haworths lived in the house, then known as Hollins Hill.  Friends’ member Frances Prince, leader of the Red Rose Singers, is cataloguing this music, with plans for the group to perform some of it in the 2021 anniversary celebrations. The centenary exhibition will chart the story of the house and celebrate the people who lived and worked here from 1909 to 1920.

Mayoral insignia from the inception of Accrington Corporation, showing the lovely Town and Market Halls.

In addition to all the fantastic photographs and artwork, the store holds a variety of paper-based works, including cartoons, architectural drawings and copies of the documents and correspondence relating to the building of the house,

Among them was this illuminated manuscript (left), recording the bestowal of the mayoral insignia at the first meeting of the newly formed Accrington Corporation in 1878.

Also in this store is the original photograph album of the house from 1921, after Anne died and bequeathed the house to the Corporation. It shows the rooms and furnishings as they were when the house was her home. A copy of the album, sponsored by the Friends, is available at the Haworth reception desk for all visitors to see. Make sure to have a look on your next visit.

A romantic pen and ink sketch (above right) from the watercolour store suggests a Brief Encounter moment; a bittersweet image of an Edwardian-era couple, parting ways as his train prepares to leave. Also in this collection is a photographic portrait of Joseph Briggs (below right), who donated the vast majority of the Haworth’s Tiffany collection to his hometown.

Joseph Briggs, the local lad who became MD of Tiffany Studios and gifted his town the largest Tiffany collection outside the US.

In the early days of 2020, gallery staff, aided by eight volunteers, emptied the gallery’s oil store. Tasked with documenting and assessing the gallery’s more physically substantial works and re-hanging them in a more accessible order – we recorded each painting’s position in the store for ease of management.

Next on our list is documenting the Haworth’s extensive collection of art books, detailing works from Goya to Rembrandt and beyond.

Many of the works in these two stores will inform and illustrate the forthcoming anniversary exhibition, which will be a significant feature of the Haworth’s programme of events next year.

Looking ahead to 2021 has become a luminous objective. We very much hope to see you all there.

*If you’d like to help us realise any of our projects, or perhaps have information about any aspect of the gallery or its heritage – no matter how small – please don’t hesitate to contact us at haworthaccrington@gmail.com.

Hollins Hill Heyday

History enthusiasts gathered at Haworth Art Gallery today to see and hear the story of Hollins Hill, as the building was known in its days as a private home, told through the medium of a beautiful old photograph album.

An example of the lovely period photographs of the Haworth at the time of its bequest

The album was presented to the public for the first time since its restoration by expert bookbinders and restorers, Formbys Ltd. Haworth Curator Gillian Berry joined the Friends to talk about the restoration project and the Haworths’ bequest of their home, which prompted the album’s creation.

When the Haworths bequeathed their beautiful house and its contents to the town of Accrington, an inventory of their effects became necessary. Hence the album was commissioned: an astonishingly crafted, leather-bound document of the items in the bequest. Amazingly detailed with stunning photographs of the house’s interior, its exterior and the surrounding nine-acre parkland, the album was certainly more lavishly executed than was strictly necessary for the task. The exquisite photographs illustrated the individual rooms with all their contents just as though the Haworths had merely stepped away.

The album before it was restored to its former beauty by Formbys Ltd of Ramsbottom

Those attending today’s event were treated to the fascinating story of the album, which was restored from the very dilapidated state into which it had fallen, to the astonishing artefact now returned to its home at the Haworth.

The story of Hollins Hill’s heyday was also helpfully illustrated by the presence of a stunning contemporary (1913) SCAT automobile (main photograph), which was generously displayed on the Haworth Motor House forecourt by owner Gordon Cornthwaite. A jaunty addition to the period mood!

Pages prior to restoration

The Friends also raised funds by way of a tombola, the proceeds of which will complete the acquisition of a defibrillator for the gallery and park by providing high-spec housing for the equipment.

While the album itself will be carefully maintained and displayed on similar occasions, a facsimile will remain on display at the Haworth for the public to view.

Start the car and get yourself over to see it as soon as you can!


Double Take!

The Friends were delighted to present Haworth Curator Gillian Berry with the newly refurbished Hollins Hill photograph album, which has been restored so beautifully, and which the Friends have been very proud to sponsor. The album is in superb condition once again and will be a lasting photographic testament of the Haworth bequest for generations to come. Trustee Jean Emmett, who was a driving force behind the restoration, made the presentation on behalf of the Friends on May 16th, attended by several key members of the group.

Friends present the restored album AND the high resolution replica which will go on display to the public
Friends present the restored album – and the  replica, which will go on display to the public

Importantly, the restored album was not the only version the Friends presented to the gallery. Trustee Harry Emmett, who, with wife Jean was a driver for the restoration, has also created a replica of the album containing high resolution copies of all the photographs from the original. The copy will enable the visiting public to see these fantastic photographs at close quarters and to appreciate the detail of the house and its contents at the time of its bequest in 1920. It will also allow for the continued conservation of the original, which the Haworth staff will present for occasional display and discussion – so the conservation effect is two-fold.

As it was; the album was in great disrepair and needed the specialist attention Formbys could provide

Specialist bookbinder Formbys Ltd carried out the restoration work on the album’s leather exterior, which was stained and discoloured, and on individual pages, which were dog-eared and detaching from the spine. Formbys’ reputation is unparalleled in restorative bookbinding; their client roster reads like a Who’s Who of national heritage – and, fortunately for us, they’re based in the neighbouring town of Ramsbottom. . .

How lucky we are to have such amazing resources on our doorstep. Don’t delay – come  and see for yourself the sumptuous images from this extraordinary artefact. As we say around here, it’s come up a treat!


Calling all Cowlings!

Your Gallery needs YOU.

The Friends of Haworth Art Gallery are seeking descendants of the Cowling family in Lancashire and potentially beyond: did you have a father, grandfather or other relative – or perhaps knew someone – named Joseph Cowling, who lived in Baxenden, Accrington, in the 1910’s through to 1971?

The Friends are seeking information about Joseph as part of their research into the lives of staff who worked at Hollins Hill, as the gallery was known when it was a private house owned by the Haworth family from 1909 to 1921. Joseph was then an under gardener at Hollins Hill. Originally from Yorkshire, he came to Accrington and married local girl, Rachel Hindle, at St John’s Church Baxenden in 1914. They had three children: Thomas, born in 1915; Joseph born in 1921; and Mary, born in 1929.

A former domain of the Hollins Hill gardeners, the glasshouse was rebuilt with the conversion of the stable block and now houses the Art Garden

Leaving Hollins Hill on the death of his employer, Anne Haworth, Joseph set up a successful market garden on land just off Hill Street, Baxenden, eventually moving into number 2, Glen Cottages, adjacent to his business. In 1936, his brother Richard moved to number 5, Glen Cottages, and in 1938 also married a local girl, Maggie Jane Hunter.

Joseph died in 1974 in Rawtenstall, perhaps near to one of his children. Another of his children moved to Clitheroe and a great niece still lives in the Baxenden area, but we know little else about his family and appeal to your help in finding out more, or locating documentation.

The beautiful Rose Garden at the Haworth

Can you help fill in the gaps? If you are related to Joseph, have family documents, photographs (especially of Joseph and Rachel), or family stories, please contact us by email at haworthaccrington@gmail.com. Alternatively, please leave a message with the duty staff at Haworth Art Gallery during your next visit. We will be thrilled to receive any relevant information and add another branch to the tree of the Haworth’s heritage. Thank you.

Upstairs, Downstairs, Hither and Yon: Haworth History and Heritage Talk

A friendly crowd, ready to be regaled; watched over by William Haworth

A fun, friendly and informative time was had by visitors to the Haworth at the Friends’ latest history and heritage event Sunday. Below Stairs and Beyond the Park served up a fresh look at the lives of the people who worked for the Haworth family and the world they inhabited at the turn of the last century in Hollins Hill, as it then was. Keen local historians and Friends founder members Jean Emmett and Roger Cunliffe engaged the audience in a fascinating social history of the Haworths’ era, and the industrial heritage of the local area – with a few props to boot!

Abraham Naboth Imlah Whiston, Haworth valet-cum-curator

Firstly, Jean uncovered the lives of staff who worked at Hollins Hill in its days as a private house. Key among these were coachman, William Beech, chauffeur, Joseph Taylor and valet, Abraham Naboth Imlah Whiston, who later became the gallery’s first curator. Jean also offered a glimpse into the life of Anne Haworth’s elegant companion, Ellen Priestley. Perhaps surprisingly, none of these family retainers was born in the immediate area: William hailed from Shropshire, Joseph from Manchester and Abraham from Cheshire, while Ellen was born in Russia. Jean helped to bring their personalities to life with colourful details of each one. An appeal to the many local people at the event elicited information about a previously unidentified gardener, which will help the Friends trace further details of his life.

Taylor in the Rolls Royce Double Landaulette

Roger then shared his history of Baxenden, where the Haworth is located, detailing its numerous quirky name changes since first being recorded as Bastanedenecloch in the 1100’s and now often abbreviated, quite punchily (ahem), to Bash – so much simpler. Roger shared his fascinating insights into the various types of transport systems that have passed below the park on which Hollins Hill was built: from the construction of the road by Blind Jack o’ Knaresborough in the 1700s, to the old coaching routes established in the 1800’s (see earlier posts for more on these); from the steam trams which would have climbed the hill in the Haworths’ day, to the corporation buses that became the norm in the 1930s (more to come on these). Roger illustrated these changes with models of the trams in use from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and a model of an old Accrington Corporation bus in its proud livery of navy and scarlet, the historic colours of the Accrington Pals.

Accrington Corporation bus in the Pals’ livery, on Peel Street, alongside the Market Hall

The audience also heard about the old industrial buildings along the route of the former railway line from Accrington through Baxenden towards Manchester: the now demolished mills and the long-defunct Baxenden brickworks, in operation for just a few short  years and outshone, of course, by its more famous neighbour. Such is Roger’s enthusiasm for his subject, however, he proudly professes to building a small collection of rare Bash bricks!

After the presentations, audience members browsed through the fascinating documents, books, photographs, maps and charts that illustrated their subjects. Thank you to our wonderful speakers and to our lovely visitors for both their participation and for their kind donations to the Friends’ funds. Our next public event will be the children’s Fun Palace project held at Accrington Library on October 6th. Stay posted for more details.

Goooooal! Friends Social Evening Bashes it out of the Park

Yes, yes, we’re mixing our national sports metaphors. Sorry, ref. But in response to an enthusiastic Independence Day turnout, the Friends would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended our first community social event on the 4th of July for making it such an enjoyable and successful event. And no footie in sight!

In the warm summer weather, the kettle was underemployed for once, as cool drinks flowed, like the conversation, freely. It was especially refreshing to find so many local people with an interest in the history of Baxenden and its residents.

Jean Emmett reveals the lives of the Haworth retainers


The evening was kicked off by local historian, Harry Emmett. Harry set out the formation for the featured speakers and was on hand to answer questions relating to his own research, including the history of the motor cars owned by the Haworth family and driven by their chauffeur, Joseph Taylor. The featured speaker for the first half was keen researcher, Jean Emmett, who shared her many fascinating findings on the lives and connections of the staff who worked  for the Haworths at Hollins Hill, as it was then known. William and Anne  were, by all accounts, excellent employers, treating their staff much like friends and ensuring their welfare. Jean shared photographs of the staff, including Ellen Priestly, Anne’s companion, whose portrait was only recently brought to light, and of Joseph Taylor, whose descendants are still active in the local community (see earlier blogs for more on their stories).

Roger Cunliffe unearths local history

Changing ends, Roger Cunliffe ran with the theme on local history, starting with a look at the origins of the name Baxenden in earlier centuries,  Once known as Bastanedenecloch (yep!), it mercifully became shorter over time, ultimately contracting to its present-day nickname, Bash (phew). Roger shared a wealth of information and images relating to the early days of Baxenden and its surroundings. During his talk, he described the former tramway, the history of local buses and railway travel; the retired mills and brick-works, and even the old smallpox hospital, the remains of which can still be seen today behind the grounds of Hollins School (future blogs will examine these too).

The crowd had plenty of questions for our speakers and shared their own memories of area history. A closing shot by Harry (Emmett, of course) still left plenty of extra time to mingle, chat and view the impressive displays that Jean and Roger had assembled, with photographs, maps, family trees and old census documents among the yards of material they have researched. There were no penalties for supporters looking forward to the next heritage evening (though there may be a bit of a season break till we can unearth more research) . . .  One possible option for our next event is a history walk around Baxenden and Accrington, so watch this space and dust off your boots!


Wednesday World Cup Window! Baxenden Heritage and Social Evening

Football image courtesy of Freepik

It’s a footie-free Wednesday window this week and The Friends of the Haworth are diving into the area to host our first local heritage and social evening. Join us at the Baxenden Village Club, (formerly the Conservative Club) on Manchester Road this Wednesday, 4th July at 7pm for an evening of culture, conversation and a coffee or two.

It’s set to be an interesting, relaxed and sociable evening with two speakers from our group sharing their fascinating research into the lives of those who lived at Hollins Hill and of the history of Baxenden and the surrounding area.

The event is free for anyone who would like to attend and we’ll even throw in a cuppa (but not through the window)!  Hope to see you there.

And, oh, yeah: come on, England!

WhipcrAccy-way! The Accrington Stagecoach Spectacle

Had you been living in Accrington in 1815, you might have passed the time occasionally by just hanging around Abbey Street, or on Manchester Road in Baxenden, for no apparent reason. But in fact, you’d have been loitering with unseen intent because you’d heard tell that a stagecoach would be passing through, writes Roger Cunliffe.

The stagecoach was a tremendous innovation in its day and its arrival in your neck of the woods was met with great anticipation. The passage of the coach from Clitheroe to Manchester was greeted enthusiastically by large crowds that would line both sides of Abbey Street, jostling for a view of the carriage and its travellers, as well as the horses and coachmen.

Stagecoach and four preparing to depart
Travel was extremely costly, and even men of means begrudged the expense of journeying by coach. The fare was twice as much to travel on the inside, with less than two feet width per traveller. Coaches usually accommodated six passengers on the inside. In early coaches, passengers facing the direction of travel would also have the indignity of dust and rain blowing in their faces. Only in later improvements on the coaches were blinds or windows added.
The more modestly priced roof seating could accommodate twice as many as the interior, but there was the ever-present danger of falling off! Not to mention the greater discomfort to external passengers of inclement weather (a virtual certainty in the North of England). The combined load of passengers would bring the weight of the coach to some two or three tons, so gentlemen passengers on the roof were obliged to get off and walk up steep hills to alleviate the horses’ burden (this, incidentally, is said to be the origin of the nickname Ha’penny Brow on the main road north into Preston, where the cheaper fare necessitated a walk up the long incline).
The turnpike roads traveled by stagecoaches were maintained by payments at toll houses along the route (see earlier post on Blind Jack for more on the local turnpike). Accrington’s surviving toll house where tolls were collected on the turnpike between Manchester and Clitheroe, is in Oak Hill Park and can be seen inset into the park’s eastern perimeter wall on Manchester Road. A coach drawn by six horses would have to pay around three shillings to pass.
Former Red Lion, Abbey Street, Accrington

By 1818, there were at least two rival coaches on the road: the Rocket and the Highflyer. Either arrival was still regarded as an event on Abbey Street. The sound of the guard’s horn was the signal for the gathering of townsfolk round the Red Lion Inn (as it then was) to await the arrival of the coach with the latest news from Manchester or Clitheroe way.

Coaching Inns sprang up along the routes for the refreshment of the passengers and no doubt the guards too. The current Railway Hotel at the Baxenden-Rising Bridge border has characteristics of a Coaching Inn. The coaches did not stop for long, however, and if you missed hearing the guard’s horn, you would be left behind.
There was stiff rivalry to get back before the competition, this being a point of comparison in deciding which coach to take, so drivers were happy to take payments for getting back first. Accidents were occasionally the unfortunate result of accelerated speeds on poor roads and hills. The illustration shown above demonstrates how the Highflyer might have raced home in an attempt to beat its rival, the Rocket.
Nowadays, if you’re waiting around with no apparent intent on Abbey Street or Manchester Road, it might just be that your particular bus company has moved on. No names mentioned!

Votes for Women! Local woman who inspired Emmeline Pankhurst

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that women from the North West of England played an immense role in securing votes for women – the Pankhursts of Manchester are synonymous with the fight for women’s suffrage, as are the Kenneys of Saddleworth – but Accringtonians should be particularly proud of a pioneering suffragist even closer to home: Lydia Becker of Altham, who was an inspiration for the Pankhursts and so many other women of her day.

Lydia Becker, the Altham suffragist who inspired the teenage Emmeline Pankhurst

Becker, a noted and home-educated botanist and astronomer, got her own inspirational spark in 1866 from The Enfranchisement of Women, a paper by sister scientist, Barbara Bodichon. Its contents ignited her passion for voting equality and spurred her to start the Manchester Women’s Suffrage Committee, the first of its kind in the country, in 1867.

A few months later, when widowed shopkeeper Lily Maxwell’s name appeared by default on an electoral roll, Becker saw an opportunity for a promotional push. She accompanied Maxwell to the polling booth, where her right to vote was upheld. Becker encouraged other female heads of household to petition for similar rights and was instrumental in bringing their petitions to court.

In 1870, Becker and Jessie Boucherett started the Women’s Suffrage Journal and were soon organising speaking tours of the country. Lydia presented to an audience of 500 at Accrington’s Liberal Club on March 21, 1872. The following year, the club presented a women’s suffrage petition and just a few years later, the Accrington Liberals instructed their representatives to vote for women’s suffrage. (William Haworth, himself a staunch Liberal councillor, was no doubt familiar with his nearby neighbour). It was at an event organised by Becker in 1874, that a 15-year-old Emmeline Pankhurst attended her first gathering in favour of women’s suffrage.

In 1887, Becker was elected President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. In Votes for Women: The Story of  a Struggle, Roger Fulford described Becker thus: “The history of the decades from 1860 to 1890 – so far as women’s suffrage is concerned – is the story of Miss Becker.”

More ardent in her support of votes for unmarried women than some of her fellow suffragists, Becker argued that single and widowed women were in even greater need of the vote than married women of means, who in 1918 became the first in the country to attain it. (On this point, Emmeline Pankhurst was to disagree with her). Becker also used her scientific acumen to campaign for equality in education, arguing that there was no inherent difference in women’s and men’s intellects.

This sometimes led to public ridicule, not least by politicians and the press. Lydia Becker was the subject of numerous cartoons, one showing her being thrown out of parliament wrapped in the Women’s Suffrage Bill.  But her legacy is of course one of pride to those who know her story and indeed there is currently an effort to commemorate her indefatigable efforts by local politicians.

Reformers’ Memorial, Kensal Green, where Lydia Becker rightly rubs shoulders with other Great British reform agents

Lydia Becker died in Aix-les-Bains in 1890, aged 63. Her name is marked on the grave of her father, Hannibal Leigh Becker, in the churchyard of St James, Altham – and, quite rightly, on the face of the Reformers’ Memorial in Kensal Green Cemetery, London, among the great historic figures of British reform and innovation.



Research reveals glimpses of ‘real’ lives of Haworths’ retainers

The Friends’ research is taking us on a fascinating journey into the Haworth’s lovely buildings, but also into the lives of the people who lived and worked here when it was Hollins Hill, a private house owned by William and Anne Haworth. Jean Emmett, who leads this research, has uncovered many personal details about the retainers who worked for the Haworths. Jean reveals some of her findings here.

William Beech, the Haworths’ coachman, hailed from Shropshire. When Beech came to Lancashire, William Haworth converted a small cottage for him in Hollins Lane, Accrington, where he lived while working at Hollins Hill. Slightly surprisingly to modern readers, perhaps, he and  his first wife Mary had 13 children – presumably all under the same roof. Perhaps less surprising then that at the age of 73 Beech was still working for Anne Haworth when she died in 1920.

Joseph Taylor in the Haworths’ Rolls Royce Double Landaulette

The Haworths’ chauffeur, Joseph Taylor, was a Manchester lad. Originally a bicycle maker, and obviously mechanically minded, he became a chauffeur, which, in the early days of the motor car, required real mechanical nous. It was in this capacity that William Haworth sought him out and hired him. Part of this deal was that William bought – and furnished – a house for Taylor on Manchester Road, Accrington. During World War I, Joseph drove an ambulance in Palestine and Egypt. Like Beech, he continued working at Hollins Hill until Anne’s death, after which he bought the ‘Hole-In-Bank Garage’ on Manchester Road, Baxenden. Part of the generation to live through two world wars, he worked in this business until 1944. His son, a well-known local figure, affectionately nick-named Nobby, then took over the business and ran it until the early 1970s. A number of Joseph’s descendants continue to live in the area and have been very helpful to our research.

Abraham Whiston: Groom, Valet, Butler, Curator!

Abraham Naboth Imlah Whiston was born in Cheshire. Originally a horse groom, he  parlayed his skills into grooming two-legged clients and became William Haworth’s valet. He and his wife Minnie had three children. Their first home in the area was also on Manchester Road, then on neighbouring Harcourt Road, though Abraham occasionally stayed at Hollins Hill after social soirées at the house. When William died, Abraham stayed on as butler, but after Anne’s death he became the first curator of the house, which the socially minded Anne bequeathed to the people of Accrington.

Ellen Priestly, housekeeper, nurse and Anne’s companion; a lovely lady, tall and stately.

Ellen Priestly was born in Russia, where her father was working, and was one of 11 children. As a small child she came to Heald (now Weir)  in Lancashire to live with her uncle and aunt and to attend school. She started work as a cotton weaver but became a housekeeper and was hired by the Haworths to nurse William’s and Anne’s elderly parents in their home on Burnley Road. After their deaths, she stayed on as Anne’s companion and travelled with the Haworths to Europe and Egypt.  In 1909 she moved with them to Hollins Hill and stayed on as companion until Anne’s death. Ellen loved music and the arts. She never married and had no children of her own, but had many nieces and nephews. She was described by one of Taylor’s descendants as “a lovely lady, tall and stately,” as her portrait also intimates.

Our research continues to give life to names and faces from over a century ago – an intriguing piece of the area’s social history. If you have any information about the Haworth or any of its occupants, we’d love to hear from you!