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.

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.

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!

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!

Our first curator

A portrait of our first curator Mr Abraham Naboth Imlah Whiston who was valet to Mr William Haworth and continued in employment at Hollins Hill until the death of Miss Anne Haworth .


Staff biographies progress

The biography of Joseph Taylor is now finished. It has been a fascinating journey unearthing all the life history of the chauffeur to William and Anne Haworth. The book contains many copy documents relating to Joseph’s occupations, his military service and his social life.

Nearing completion are the biographies of Billy Beech the coachman, and Abraham Whiston,  initially valet to William Haworth, and latterly the first curator of the gallery.

It has been a revelation to recognise the impact that Hollins Hill has had in the area. Descendants of the staff still live in the area and their input has been invaluable. We hope to make contact with the families of other members of the Hollins Hill household as our research progresses.