Haworths, history and heritage at St John’s, Baxenden

Friends of Haworth Art Gallery helped stage and narrate a delightful exhibition of the history, heritage and fine folk of Baxenden – at St John’s Church in the village. Conceived and hosted by the church, the exhibit brought together visual and oral histories, presented by local interest groups at a special launch event. The Friends focused on the Haworth’s place in Baxenden’s history and the many terrific tales from within its walls – not least, of the Haworth family.

They regaled residents with the history of the house and the fascinating lives of those who lived and worked there in its days as Hollins Hill, the private home of William and Anne Haworth. The Haworths lived in the house from 1909 to 1920, when Anne died – William predeceased her in 1913.

William was a philanthropic man. He gave generously of his time and money to many worthwhile causes and individuals in the area. He was a good employer, who paid decent wages and cared for the welfare of his workers. He was no saint, however, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was known to sport a sarcastic wit and a sharp tongue on occasion!

Anne was a beacon of benevolence. Although not much in the public eye, she was well known for her generosity. Like her brother, she was a well-liked employer. Her staff – once they arrived at Hollins Hill – never left, which was testament to her treatment of them.

Among her many acts of generosity, Anne donated her Wolseley car for use as Accrington’s first motorised ambulance – completely fitted out with the most state-of-the-art equipment at the time. On her death, she bequeathed the house and grounds to the people of Accrington, to be used in perpetuity as a museum and art gallery, with the grounds to become a public park.  She also left bequests to every one of her staff.

Staff featured in the exhibition were Anne’s companion, Ellen Priestley;  William’s valet, Abraham Whiston, who would later become Anne’s butler and subsequently the first curator of the museum; chauffeur Joseph Taylor; coachman William Beach; undergardener, Joseph Cowling, and cook, Elizabeth Shaw.

The Friends’ display also featured artifacts for visitors to see and handle, including a parasol and a silk beaded shawl, such as Anne would have worn; a top hat just like the ones William would have used; and Edwardian jewellery just like the objects Anne and Ellen would have possessed. Personal items of yesteryear, such as clogs, and period household items like laundry equipment were also on display.

The exhibition ran for nine days , in which time, almost 900 people enjoyed the displays mounted by the Friends and other exhibitors. Friends’ trustee Roger Cunliffe also had a display on the history of the mills, trams and roads in the Baxenden area near Haworth Art Gallery. It featured a model steam engine and models of trams, coaches and other vehicles that would have seen use in the local area through time.

We at the Friends enjoyed our part in the exhibition immensely. We can’t wait for the next local heritage event. Looking forward – and looking back -2021 will see the centenary of the Haworth as the town’s art gallery. Keep your eyes peeled!

Peter takes a shot in the Billiard Room

Photographer Peter Graham has been working on interior shots of the Haworth to capture the overall layout of the rooms, the stunning plaster-work and intricate details of the wood carvings.  His photographs will be cataloged for the Haworth archives, as there are currently very few images of specific architectural details of the house.  They will also be displayed on our website and on other media.  Peter’s work here forms part of his second year degree syllabus for Photographic Media at Blackburn College.


Bats about bats!

Did you know that lots of bats live in the grounds of the Haworth Art Gallery and Stables?…………..

What are bats? (Not the cricket kind) 

Ever seen a shape at tree-top level fly past at dusk?  It could be a bird going back to it’s nest…… Or it could be a bat.  Video: bats leaving cave

Flying mammals

Bats are the only mammals that can really fly and British bats hunt insects at both dawn and dusk. One bat can eat 3000 insects in a night’s hunting. Bats live in houses & trees as well as caves.

Bat detectors

With the help of a bat detector, (as seen in the picture above), you can identify if it’s a bat and often which of the 18 different species found in Britain. Bats hunt by sending out sound waves most people can’t hear. The detector makes the sounds into a range we can hear. Simple ones are around £50.

When to see bats

Bats hibernate in winter when fewer insects are flying. Some birds are also fewer in winter but they feed all year round.


HDR Shot of the Haworth House

We are pleased to have photographer Peter Graham on board to take some interesting shots of the Haworth main house, stables and motor-house.  Peter is a degree student at Blackburn College studying Photographic Media and is undertaking a live project for the Friends as part of his 2nd year syllabus.  Here is just one of the pictures from his first shoot.


Friends meeting

A good meeting this week with lots more info being unearthed in the archives. Also contact from June who used to work at the gallery in the days when Jennifer Rennie was the curator.  A carrier bag full of articles and notes together with a copy of the research done by the American descendants of Joseph Briggs. There are some notes about documents held by the Borthwick Institute which will need further investigation.
We welcomed Melinda to our group.  Melinda moved here with husband 12 years ago and the gallery was the first building they visited, and have kept contact ever since.  Her involvement in other charitable trusts means she brings valuable expertise to our group.
Lots of discussion about applying for funding.  A scheme exists for sums of £3000 to £10000 and funds are available for an assortment of uses.  The need for IT equipment and training into its application into archive recording, research and investigation was acknowledged.  A draft application form was studied and will be subject to further discussion in the very near future.
the photographic project with mature student Peter Graham has produced the firsts set of images and these indicate the businesslike manner he has approached the task.  Peter is currently recording all the fine detail of carvings within the Music Room.
The Friends will have their first public appearance in a Craft Fayre proposed by the gallery management.  We will have the opportunity to explain our aspirations and recruit new members to the group.


September Progress

The Friends group is now taking shape. The archives are being explored, recorded and categorised. A heritage trail between Scaitcliffe Mill and the Haworth is under investigation . Similar Arts and Crafts buildings such as Dyke Nook are being sought out. Other examples of the work of Walter Brierley and Simeon Marshall are being recorded, and whilst this may seem that we are stretching in a myriad of directions, we are assembling a list of projects for future research. The building and park are a treasure which has not been marketed.

By promoting the architectural importance of the Haworth we attract another market sector of visitors to add to the already growing number of visitors. The Gallery Kitchen is playing its part in the present success of the Haworth and shows that promotion to a different sector of the market will bring additional visitors. The recent rebranding plays a vital role in helping identify the various market sectors which can be targeted.


Will it all come flooding back?

This dinosaur was impressed and educated into the mysteries of media technology.

The facility for storing information was the first consideration and this I now realise can be done using wordpress.  However, having acquired the data it was explained that it can be used in a variety of ways, in whole or in part. The post to the site can include links to another article or another website. Links obviate the need to copy items into the post.

This post is helping crystallise my understanding and cement my new found knowledge. More newsworthy articles will follow.


The delights of the park

It’s not just the building that deserves attention. There’s a wide range of trees and the flowers change throughout the year.  Don’t forget our rose garden!

A Ranger is a guide to identifying the flora of the park and can also set tasks for the kids such as map reading or for the smaller kids, a squirrel hunt.  How about a fungi hunt next September?  There’s also lots of birds, but at night, bats feed on the insect life.  A Ranger with a bat detector helps you spot & listen to the bats.

There is also an exercise route through the park designed to test your fitness.  So don’t just visit the house, look around the parkland.