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.

The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts

Nothing to do while staying indoors or self isolating?

Why not put your feet up and enjoy this series where modern crafts people go back in time to live the life and reproduce the work of the Arts and Crafts pioneers. Click here. It’s laid back and very enjoyable.

The Arts and Crafts house where the action takes place is a relatively late example built in the early 1920s. You can see clear similarities with our Hollins Hill, aka Haworth Art Gallery in the images above.

The house is Wyndcliffe Court, which lies half a mile north of the village of St. Arvans, Monmouthshire, Wales. It is listed Grade II* and was completed in 1922

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!

 

Step Inside . . . and Back in Time

It’s time for the great reveal! Fantastic photographs of Haworth Art Gallery, just as it was when it was home to William and Anne Haworth. These incredible images are collected in the newly restored album of Hollins Hill, as it was then known, in the splendour of the Edwardian era.

The century-old album has undergone significant restoration by expert bookbinders, Formbys Ltd, and is now safely back in its home at the gallery. It allows us a fascinating insight into the elegance of the Haworths’ Edwardian home as it was in their time, complete with the family’s furnishings and extensive collection of artworks. 

The Friends of Haworth Art Gallery, which funded the restoration project, officially delivered the restored album to the Haworth staff on May 16th. Friends’ founding Trustee, Jean Emmett, presented the album to Curator Gillian Berry at an event attended by Friends and staff.

This is a wonderfully skilled restoration, carried out with impeccable craftsmanship,” said Gillian. “The album is an amazing record of the period and a really significant piece of the Haworth’s history.”

The photographs illustrate in intricate detail the house as it was in its owners’ time. Each photograph shows an aspect or a room of the house exactly as it was in the early 1900s. The book has been painstakingly restored and the photographs preserved in the restored copy and in digitised form.

Commissioned by William for himself and his sister Anne, the house itself was built by Walter Brierley in 1909. It was destined not to be their home for very many years, however. William passed away in 1913 and Anne in 1920. Both died without direct heirs and they generously bequeathed the house and its contents to the Corporation of Accrington upon Anne’s death. In 1921 the house became the town’s principal museum and art gallery and was renamed in the Haworths’ honour.

As you browse through the photographs, you might recognise the entrance hall here, the music room there – or the room now housing the Gallery Kitchen – each with all its elegant furnishings and beautiful paintings in place. Although it’s almost a hundred years ago, we see their lovely home as though the Haworths had stepped away just for a moment.

The family’s art collection can clearly be seen in a number of the photographs. If you look closely, you might rcognize the works of Henry John Yeend King, Myles Birket Foster or Pierre Édouard Frère among the many paintings which were a part of the Haworths’ beautiful bequest and which still hang in the gallery today.

It’s a truly remarkable record, not only of the house as it was, but as a piece of Accrington’s social history; as local mill owners, the Haworths had a reputation for fairness among their employees and for benevolent works in the town.

The restored album can now be preserved for future generations and will be the subject of occasional presentations by gallery staff. Stay posted for events. Friends Trustee Harry Emmett has made a replica album containing high definition copies of all the photographs, which will be on display to the public at the Haworth.

“We’re delighted that the Friends have been able to sponsor this lovely restoration project,” commented Jean. “And  we’re absolutely thrilled that visitors will be able to enjoy the photographs for themselves.”

Be sure to come and see the photographs on your next visit to lovely Haworth Art Gallery, the Haworths’ wonderful gift to the people of Accrington, and see how much of their bequest you can identify from these mesmerising images.

 

 

It’s a Kind of Magic . . .

Creaky old leather-bound books with dusty, dilapidated covers are the stuff of mystery and magical adventure. Aged and cherished by unknown hands, their yellowed pages lead our imaginations into the secret worlds of a different time or place.

Such is the case of a lovely, but very battered, old photograph album that came to the attention of the Friends of Haworth Art Gallery. The album, which is a treasure of the Haworth, and was handed down from its original owners, beautifully illustrates the days when the house was an elegant private home.

William Haworth commissioned the house for himself and his sister Anne to live in as  their home. It was to be built on former farmland at the southern edge of Accrington, overlooking a wooded clough and the hills beyond, yet easily accessible from the main thoroughfare through town, Manchester Road.

William Haworth, Standing by R. Parker

The Haworths, scions of a well-respected local mill-owning family, and active philanthropists in the town, had until then lived in an imposing, Victorian house, with large, colonnaded portico, in Burnley Road, Accrington.

William engaged architect Walter Brierley, dubbed the ‘Lutyens of the North’, for the design and construction of the new house, and Simeon Marshall for the surrounding grounds. It was the first decade of the new century and the house was to be a fine example of the Arts & Crafts style, a movement that celebrated a looser and more organic vernacular than the heavier, more ponderous architecture of the Victorian era.

East elevation and stone staircase ascending to the former Hollins Hill

William named his house Hollins Hill, after the farm to which the land had belonged. Completed in 1909, the house embodies all the elegance of Edwardian England, with its extensive use of simple motifs drawn from nature. If you’re lucky enough to have visited the Haworth, you’ll no doubt agree that their vision was beautifully conceived and executed.

Stone steps and gardens, the approach from the east via Manchester Road

South elevation and lawn

This period style and elegance are captured in the many beautiful photographs preserved in the Hollins Hill album. It depicts all the principal rooms as they were when the house was still inhabited as a home, meticulously illustrating the uses  and original furnishings of each. It brings to life beautifully the serenity of the lovely house with its gracious yet unpretentious design; its warm wood-panelling, its delicate plasterwork and its fine but unfussy furnishings. It shows an architecturally significant house that is also a lovingly created and comfortable home. The photographs are still a fresh and vivid portrayal of an elegant house and an excellent example of its genre.

Sadly, the entire photograph album has fallen into great disrepair: Its cover is stained and no longer holds its contents together safely; individual pages are fragile and tattered.

The Hollins Hill album before restoration; please stay posted for its progress

Which is where the Friends come into the picture . . . Happily, the group is in a position to sponsor the album’s repair by a team of specialist bookbinders. The entire book has now been sent to Formby’s, the most experienced company in its field (which also happens to be based in nearby Ramsbottom) to be lovingly brought back to its former splendour. Although, in its present bruised and battered state, the album holds great promise, with its many beautiful photographs and strong suggestions of its earlier integrity, we think the restoration process will indeed demonstrate a little bit of real-life magic.

We’re all agog for the outcome and will be delighted to share with members and readers the final results and those lovely images of a bygone era. Please stay posted for news of the album’s return.

Bookbinding is spellbinding!

 

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!

 

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.