Our Collections officer, Pam Keeton kindly agreed to write this fascinating insight into the unseen work that happens in order to care properly for our Collections.
As the final stages of the recent restoration of Cliffe Castle’s staircase stained glass window neared completion, it became necessary to close the museum to the public after New Year and reopen on Friday 18th January 2019. This period of time was far from quiet for the staff though, in fact a hive of activity was going on behind the closed doors.
We took the opportunity to engage in some focused housekeeping and conservation cleaning tasks that are difficult to do during normal opening hours and we would like to share how we went about it.
Why would you…..?
Basic housekeeping is an essential part of collection care and a museums preventive conservation plan. It underpins how we care for our historic interiors and collections both on display and in storage. This is done by maintaining the fabric of the building, monitoring and controlling the environment: the relative humidity, light and possible pest infestation. The collections are the museums prime resource and are what makes Cliffe Castle unique and so well loved.
It’s the seemingly humble activity of dusting that is one of the most important elements of the housekeeping routine. Dust is a perennial museum problem and keeping accumulated dust under control but without compromising the condition of the object by well-intentioned over-cleaning is money in the bank. Not only does a build-up of dust and dirt look unattractive and surfaces neglected, it has some potentially serious side effects for historic artefacts.
Dust is made up of minute inorganic and organic particles of grit, soot, environmental pollutants, skin, textile and plant fibres, pollen and the general debris from everyday life. A layer of dust is hygroscopic, that is, it begins to absorb and hold moisture from the environment. This combination can contribute to corrosion on metals and encourage and sustain mould growth. Long standing or poorly removed dust can also become compacted and cemented to a surface resulting in textured finishes, carving and crevices having a dull grey appearance. Cementation can be very difficult and time consuming for a conservator to remove and endangers the objects surface and patina.
Dusty nooks and crannies can also create foodstuff and harbourage for insects. Some of these insects can become a foodstuff in turn for larger pests or, more worryingly, their grubby young might turn their ravenous attentions on the collection. Anything organic from textiles, fur, feather, leather, wood and paper is under threat from woodworm, carpet beetle, clothes moth, silverfish…to name but a few. We monitor for insect infestation but the best prevention is by observation and disturbance tactics of regular vacuuming – particularly edges, corners and the difficult to reach bits. A lot of collection care involves being on your hands and knees, laying on the floor looking under furniture or up step ladders.
Suck it up……
Conservation cleaning and repairs are based on minimum intervention, sympathetic treatments and reversibility wherever possible. Cleaning is irreversible and only done if it’s necessary, not because of an imposed routine as this will cause unnecessary wear such as gilding being worn away from a frame. We always start with the gentlest methods first and in most cases this means using a soft brush to flick the dust away from the surface and a vacuum cleaner to capture it so it’s not redistributed. We often use museum backpack vacuum cleaners that have variable suction and HEPA filters.
Cleaning cloths need to be smooth and lint free and are only used on smooth surfaces to avoid snagging and causing damage, for example to the edges of veneered and inlayed furniture.
Ordinary domestic cleaning products are usually unsuitable for delicate and historic objects and interiors because they often contain additives that can cause serious and irreversible deterioration.
We use conservation grade detergents, cleaning agents and waxes that are mild and will not exacerbate deterioration. Selecting and applying an appropriate treatment requires background knowledge of different types of materials, how they deteriorate and how to arrest damage and improve condition appropriately.
Back in the day…….
In the past, household cleaning recipes were often a closely guarded secret and kept in the mistress or housekeepers journal. Just as cookery books became popular during the 19th century, so did housekeeping manuals that extolled the virtue of cleanliness. They make very interesting reading and one can see where some of today’s products have their roots.
Bread was a common way to lift marks and stains but the residues could encourage pest activity and mould growth. Numerous types of abrasives were used to keep surfaces clean and bright such as emery and scouring papers, brick dust, pumice and rottenstone (siliceous limestone). While these would definitely clean a surface they would also be very aggressive if they were applied to more delicate finishes.
Finer powders such as fullers earth, pipe clay, whiting, alum and wood ash would be mixed with ‘sweet oil’ (olive oil) and other oils to make polishing pastes or some of them used dry to absorb stains. Ox gall, ‘aqua vitae’ (virtually pure alcohol), carbolic soap, lemon juice, vinegar and bicarbonate are just a few of the agents used for cleaning, disinfecting and brightening. Sometimes even more powerful – and often harmful – cleaning agents were employed, such as potash (a caustic alkali), heartshorn (a spirit containing ammonia) and ‘vitriol’ (sulphuric acid).
May was the traditional month for a full spring clean after the chimneys had been swept ready for the summer and housekeeping required plenty of elbow grease and time. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that mechanised devices started to be adopted. Mechanical carpet sweepers were soon followed by the suction vacuum cleaner. Many of these had hand or foot operated bellows that generally required more than one person and were hardly labour saving. Eventually, during the first part of the 20th century the electrical vacuum appliances we would recognise today evolved – Hurrah!
The furnished reception rooms were first to be targeted for a deep clean. The rooms are densely furnished in the high Victorian style beloved by Henry Isaac Butterfield but which makes cleaning without causing damage a very delicate, balletic operation. Therefore, we began by removing as many of the furnishings as we could.
Tables with padded tops were set up in adjacent rooms to receive all of the small objects which were condition checked as they were decanted. Good handling techniques include removing or covering any rings/clothing that might scratch objects, wearing well-fitting nitrile gloves, using padded trays/trolleys to transfer the more robust objects out of the room or cradling manageable objects in both hands. Objects are never picked up by handles/knobs – just in case they aren’t as well attached as presumed! The old adage ‘to assume makes an ass of me and you (u)’ applies in these situations.
Armchairs, sofas and smaller items of furniture were removed from the room to allow the carpets to be properly inspected and vacuumed. Teams of two picked up the furniture by the most stable part: the seat rail in the case of an armchair and never by the weakest parts such as the arms or the back rail. Where casters are fitted, they are not used to push the whole weight of a piece of furniture, the bulk of the weight is lifted and the wheels are allowed to just roll along. It’s important to work steadily and methodically, improper handling and movement can cause serious and costly damage and we also need to take care of ourselves too.
All of the cornices, dado rails, sills and skirting boards were vacuumed. The drapes and blinds were lightly brushed and vacuumed on low suction with the upholstery attachment and the window glass was cleaned. Window sills are a good place to monitor for particular bugs and moths as they are drawn to the light.
Our amazing chandeliers were gently cleaned from top to bottom using a soft brush to flick any dust into the nozzle of the backpack vacuum. The pendants and central sphere were polished by running them through cotton gloved hands. No one mentioned ‘Only Fools and Horses’ at all……..!
Textiles, upholstery and more fragile carpets and drapes were vacuumed on a very low suction through a mesh that keeps the fibres in place and reduces stress. The beaded drops on the tassels in the Great Drawing room had become buried in the threads, releasing and relaying them on the surface was only work of a moment but a strangely satisfying job.
Framed works of art and the furniture had any settled dust flicked into a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush. Some of the furniture was then wax polished with Renaissance microcrystalline wax to restore a gleam and protect the surface.
Robust glazed ceramics and stable glass first had accumulated dust removed and then cleaned with damp cotton wool swabs – they are never immersed in water which might interfere with the glaze, decoration or unseen adhesive repairs.
Metals were simply dusted and lightly Renaissance waxed and buffed. Occasionally, a swab of ethanol or a silver cleaning cloth might be used to remove light tarnish and restore a shine. The silver cleaning cloths contain a useful inhibitor that slows the corrosion process down but we are careful never to use the same cloth on different types of metals because it can start some very complicated corrosion processes off.
The decant system was then reversed and rooms reassembled….sometimes with the aid of a pre-work photograph!
The work to the staircase window and the removal of the scaffolding had resulted in an inevitable layer of dust so the wrought iron staircase balusters were painstakingly cleaned as were all of the frames, columns and tops of display cases. The Paris Exhibition clock at the bottom of the staircase had been protected by a custom made box but was now cleaned from top to bottom and the parquet floors were skillfully buffed up to a honey coloured glow.
The large paintings that hang on the staircase walls had been put into storage while the work took place were dusted both front and back. This is a rare treat for the uppermost ones because they are normally too high to safely clean. Happily everything was in good condition and had survived the experience without any remedial repairs being necessary.
They were expertly rehung on their chains by JPA Art Services.
Spending time working so closely with beautiful, interesting objects is always a pleasure and a privilege. It allows time to properly appreciate them and understand their construction and intricacies. The other pleasure came from working with a great team of people who really applied themselves to getting the long list of tasks completed to a high standard.
This rather fascinating blog, written by our assistant Curator, Lauren, explores why Saint Blaise, an Armenian doctor and bishop from the 4th century, was celebrated in 19th century Bradford and details upcoming events in Bradford to revive this traditional celebration.
Blaise, the man
Blaise was a physician in historical Armenia, modern day Turkey, in the 3rd – 4th century. Later in life, Blaise retreated to a cave and devoted himself to Christianity, becoming the Bishop of Sebastea. People would travel to him to be cured physically and spiritually. During this time, there was religious tension and persecution throughout Europe. In 316 AD, he was captured and imprisoned. After refusing to renounce Christianity, he was beaten, scourged with iron combs (used to comb or card wool) and beheaded.
Blaise, the saint
The main source of information about Blaise comes from a text written a few centuries after his death, Acts of St. Blaise. This describes how Blaise, when being escorted to prison after his capture, came across a child choking on a fishbone. The child’s mother asked for his help so he prayed for the child and they were cured. It is also claimed that he intervened when a wolf attacked a pig; he returned the pig to the owner, a poor woman, alive and unharmed. When he was awaiting his execution in a dark prison cell, this woman visited him and lit up his dark cell with two wax candles. Due to his dedication to Christianity and his miraculous actions, he became a martyr.
Tales of his actions and death spread quickly and he had a rapid ascent to saint-hood. He was a popular saint throughout Europe from the 11th and 12th century, becoming one of the referred Fourteen Holy Helpers. He was frequently depicted in Medieval iconography with two crossed candles (representing the candles that lit his cell) and with a hand comb (the tool used to torture him). He became the patron saint of sore throats and the patron saint of wool combers. Saint Blaise’s feast day, the 3rd of February, was proclaimed a religious holiday in 1222.
Blaise in Bradford: Then
As Saint Blaise is considered to be the patron saint of wool combers, it is no surprise that he had renewed popularity during the 19th century when the British textile industry boomed. Bradford was at the centre of this industry and so naturally held Saint Blaise in high regard. Every seventh year in Bradford, there were days of celebrations in Saint Blaise’s (or Bishop Blaize’s) honour. Sources indicate that in Bradford there was a Blaise Festival or town-wide celebrations in 1811, 1818 and 1825. It has been suggested that celebrations also occurred in 1804. The 1825 Festival was the largest and thought to the last. However, a festival or celebration of some sort and on some scale was recorded to have happened in 1857. There was also a Bishop Blaize Pageant in 1931 as this postcard proves.
Dr John Simpson, a Bradford doctor, wrote about the 1825 celebration in his diary and described it in detail. On the 2nd of February, he wrote that there had been two months of preparations
by different individuals connected with the trade of the place’ and that Bradford ‘may expect a great influx of strangers, indeed great numbers have arrived today’. His diary entry for the 3rd February, Saint Blaise’s Day, recorded how there had been ‘wind. . . snow and rain’ overnight but it had cleared by morning – ‘the morning was beautiful . . . it seemed as of the weather had taken up purposely for the celebration of the Blaise’. He described how the parade ‘moved from Westgate at 10[am] down Kirkgate, then came up Darley Street and from thence into Rawson Place’ and recalled the parade procession.
‘A herald came first … Then a band of music. Afterwards the Woolstaplers on horseback riding on fleeces ornamented with sashes. Then the Spinners on horseback, with sashes and slivers if wool, blue coats and white stuff waistcoats; their horses covered with white worsted nets. Next. . . the Masters’ Sons and Apprentices on horseback most gaily dressed in scarlet stuff coats, white waistcoats, blue pantaloons, blue sashes and most beautiful caps. . . Next came the Merchants on horseback. . .
Next were people dressed up as
King and Queen. . . Jason and Medea [of the Golden Fleece myth]. . . Bishop Blaise’ passed followed by ‘the Shepherd and Shepherdess. . . Swains on horseback carrying crooks. Then came the Combmakers on horseback with combs and rams’ heads with gilt horns. . . Wool-sorters. . . Master Dyers.
Every professional connected to the wool trade was represented in the parade. Dr Simpson described how ‘The crowd in Bradford was immense for people came from all parts of the country and in all kinds of conveyances.’
On the 4th February, he noted that ‘The Town still in motion and very full’ and that he attended ‘the Blaise Ball’ with ‘one hundred and forty’ in attendance. Although, ‘Nothing particularly interesting occurred. I only danced one quadrille. . . The company was very mixed, but all went off well’. On the 5th February, he wrote that ‘The town still busy. I was to have dined with the Stewards of the Blaise dinner and ball but was prevented. I went in the evening to them and found them very merry.’
In the Bradford Museums and Galleries social history collection, there are several items with connections to 19th century Blaise festivals. There are handbills advertising festivals and items of clothing worn at festivals, including an outfit worn by Richard Fawcett, a Bradford wool merchant, for the 1825 festival. Richard Fawcett was in the parade procession and led the worsted spinners section on horseback.
Blaise in Bradford: Now
There are still signs of Bradford’s historical affinity to Saint Blaise in the 20th and 21st century. There was a Saint Blaise Middle School in Bradford. Streets are named St Blaise Court and St Blaise Way. The Wool Exchange building (built in 1864-67), has a stone statue of Saint Blaise near the original entrance, carved by sculptor James Tolmie. A building at North Parade, formerly the Church Institute (built in 1871-73 by architects Andrews and Pepper) has a similar head of Saint Blaise carved onto it.
Over the past years, local poet, writer and showman Glyn Watkins has revived the festival through a series of walks, talks and events in Bradford. This year the festival consists of events in Bradford City Centre organised by Glyn on Saturday 2nd February and a Bring Back Blaise Wool Festival at Bradford Industrial Museum on Sunday 3rd February. At Bradford Industrial Museum, visitors can: explore the spinning and weaving galleries to discover Bradford’s textile history; browse stalls selling wool-related crafts and products; look at a display of St Blaise related objects; take part in family activities and textile demonstrations; meet some friendly and fluffy alpacas; listen to a brass band and choir; and enjoy the food stalls and pop-up *baaaaar* selling craft beers, cask ale and more! So come along and pay homage to Saint Blaise and Bradford’s textile history.
Kirsty, our Assistant Curator (Area North) offered to write an appropriately festive blog for our last entry in 2018. She writes:
From the end of October you will no doubt have seen Christmas cards appearing in almost every shop on the high street. The tradition that is now deeply embedded into modern culture is however a relatively new one.
The first commercial Christmas card was designed and printed in England in 1843. The card was designed by British narrative painter and Royal Academician John Callcott Horsley at the request of his friend Sir Henry Cole.
Previously Cole had sent out hand written greetings to his friends and family on decorated paper. Finding this time consuming and inefficient he decided to commission a card that contained the message A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR. The card was divided into three scenes; the central image showed a family enjoying seasonal festivities, while the two side panels showed scenes of Christmas charity.
With the cards proving to be popular with Cole’s friends and family, he had 1,000 cards printed and put on sale in 1843. Due to their high retail price of one shilling each, not many could afford them, and he had no more printed.
Even though the printed card didn’t catch on straight away the sentiment did, and many children were encouraged to make their own; a side tradition of the Christmas card that still exists today.
With the advances in Victorian printing technology, the price of card printing began to decrease. This along with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate allowed the ready printed Christmas card to take off, with 11.5 million cards being produced in 1880.
We have a wide range of Christmas cards in the collections of Bradford Museums and Galleries, and although they don’t offer a comprehensive overview of the history of the Christmas card they certainly allow us a glimpse at the various themes and styles that have been used from the 1860s onwards. To give you an idea of the development of the Christmas card and the journey that it has taken we thought that we would share some of our favourites with you.
Although technically not cards, this double page spread in a scrap book dating from the early 1860s, is one of the earliest examples of the Christmas tradition in our collection, and shows an array of Christmas themed images created for the inclusion in such books. Here we can see some images such as the snowy scenes and robins that we would expect to see on a Christmas card today. Alongside these, are some pieces of imagery, such as the brightly coloured flowers that we would perhaps expect to find on a birthday card rather than a Christmas card.
This selection of Christmas postcards date from 1903-1906. Postcards were very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s as they didn’t require an envelope. They were therefore cheaper to send but they also fitted easily into albums, which is how many in our collection are presented.
These postcards again show a selection of themes. Religious themes and snowy scenes became very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s and are two themes that have remained as strong traditional imagery on Christmas cards until the present day.
The snowy themes occurred due to an extremely heavy snowfall that hit Britain over the Christmas of 1836, and the theme has certainly stuck. Since then the theme of snow at Christmas has featured in many Christmas songs, stories and films, as well as cards over the years.
We can also see here an early vision of Father Christmas wearing brown and cream opposed to the red outfit that we are more used to seeing today.
Amongst these cards though there are still some scenes which to our modern eyes have very little correlation to Christmas; such as the wash day and floral picture. Perhaps some of my favourite cards from this period are the humorous whimsical cards which to us have little or nothing to do with Christmas, such as the cat in the armchair. Sometimes cards such as these appeared as the printers were reusing already existing images and simply adding a Christmas message, or sometimes it is down to the way that the Victorians viewed Christmas. The Christmas period was seen by many, as it is today, as a time of good cheer and humour, which resulted in cards being produced that would simply put a smile on the face of the receiver.
1914 – 1918
Cards dating 1914-1918
Christmas between 1914 – 1918 would have been tough, and a big step away from the festivities of previous Christmases. Numerous family members were having to spend Christmas away from home, fighting in the First World War. As a result many families waiting back home in Britain would have received beautiful silk postcards like the ones featured here.
Silk postcards and other silk souvenirs are commonly known as silks. Pre WW1 nuns in Belgium and Northern France embroidered church vestments and commercial objects which they sold to help finance their ministry. With the advent of war the nuns alongside female French and Belgian refugees adapted the products and began creating souvenirs for soldiers to send home to their loved ones. The most common souvenir to be bought from these areas were silk postcards.
Multiple designs were hand embroidered onto strips of silk mesh, which were sent to factories for cutting and mounting in postcards. Once purchased the cards were mailed home in military mail pouches at no charge to the sender.
These beautiful cards would have been greatly received back home, and their beauty would have gone some way to masking the atrocities that their loved ones were experiencing.
These cards from the early 1930’s still have what we today would consider unusual imagery on them. What they also show us is the addition of ribbon and foil which appeared on cards from around 1910 onwards. It seems as if the receiver of these cards was in need of a bit of good luck!
The cards in our collection dating from the late 1960s show that by this point a lot of the whimsy has gone from the Christmas cards and the images depicted were now focussed on themes that we would associate with a modern Christmas. I must say though I am very happy to see that the 2000’s have brought with it a lot of the humour and whimsy typical of the Victorian era back to our Christmas cards. Although they usually have a hint at a Christmas theme now, something that the Victorian’s didn’t always have; it is now not uncommon for us to see a sloth in a Christmas hat or a cheese joke appearing on our cards. Like with many things throughout history we seem to be coming full circle and I’m loving it!
We hope that you have enjoyed this little peak at a selection of our Christmas card collection
From all of us here at Bradford Museums and Galleries, we would like to wish you a very happy Christmas!
A guest blog this time – Alke Schmidt was the artist behind the Wonder & Dread exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum, and she kindly agreed to write a blog discussing the engagment programme linked that exhibition and her residency at Salts Mill, Saltaire.
It’s been such a wonderful and inspiring project, and seems strange that I don’t have more trips to Bradford lined up for now. During my research I really fell in love with the place and its people, and made many new friends. Also, because I see my work as a conversation with the viewer, I really enjoyed talking to visitors and hearing their stories when I came in to give guided tours. The panel discussion I organised at the Industrial Museum about (un)fair fashion was another highlight, bringing in a capacity audience to talk about the environmental and social problems associated with the clothes we wear today and what can be done to make global textile supply chains more sustainable. In fact, the one thing I regret about the project is not living closer to Bradford – a 6 hour round trip (if the trains are cooperating!) makes popping into the exhibition at short notice almost impossible.
Therefore I am really grateful for having had the chance to collaborate with two wonderful Bradford-based artists, who have delivered an extensive engagement programme for schools and families.
Irene Lofthouse – writer, actor, storyteller – held 6 popular family drop-in sessions in the exhibition, spread throughout the year. Taking the role of 45-year old Mary Ryan, one of the 54 mill workers who died in the 1882 Newlands Mill disaster, brought to life the stories of hard work, danger and exploitation that are explored in “A Terrible Calamity” and other works in my exhibition.
This was then followed by a hands-one weaving practice – with gorgeous and colourful results! Another reminder how the textile industry produces beautiful things but is labour-intensive (and all too often rife with exploitation). Irene was also a wonderful source of stories and tips about Bradford – I could have listened to her forever.
Naseem Darbey – multi-talented visual artist whose signature works are her textile-based “hollow drawings” – has been leading 5 one-day workshops with high school students and colleges.
Each workshop involved students visiting the exhibition and talking about the work and the stories behind it, observational drawing and colour studies situ, as well as drawings from the machinery and architecture of the mill. Back at school students then worked with Naseem to turn their observations and impressions into their own artworks, creating canvasses that explored a range of techniques and processes including fabric manipulation, painting and collaged found objects. Students were invited to bring a piece of their own clothing to include in their work and to consider the themes raised in the exhibition. Many students started ambitious works during the workshop that they could then finish in their next regular art classes at school.
Another thing I’m really happy about is that my artistic presence in Bradford continues after the exhiition! You can still see “The Work of Salts”, my commission for Salts Mill, in the “People and Process” Gallery on the 3rd floor of Salts Mill.
This work is inspired by the history of Salts Mill past and present. It’s my largest ever painting – it had to be because Salts Mill is so huge that anything that isn’t big would just disappear!
For the exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum I had already made “The Secret of Titus’ Success”, a mixed media work inspired by the gorgeous Victorian alpaca/silk “lustre” dress fabrics that made Salts Mill famous – BIM holds a copy of the original 1853 sample book. The work for the Industrial Museum focused on the fact that Salts Mill used alpaca fibre imported from Peru for its fabrics and shines a spotlight on the indigenous Peruvian alpaca herders without whom Salts’ exquisite fabrics could not have been made.
For the Salts Mill installation, I wanted to make something different – something that took in different aspects of Salts Mill’s remarkable history through time, and captured the visual impact and wonderful spirit and energy that had attracted me to Salts Mill in the first place. I especially want to celebrate the work of all the people who worked hard to make Salts Mill a success then and now – founder Titus Salt, the Silver family who rescued the Mill from destruction in the 1980s, generations of mill workers from far and near, the Peruvian Alpaca farmers that supplied the Alpaca fibre for Salt’s famous lustre cloth, and the many people who work at Salts today.
It was a long process to make this multi-layered piece ). At the start of the process is a sketch (actually: many sketches!):
Moving on to the actual piece, I was stretching an image of a Victorian map of world trade routes onto 3 large stretchers, and then screenprinting a floral pattern from Salts’ 1853 sample book of alpaca/silk ‘ lustre’ fabrics on top.
I had a lot of fun adding more and more layers – including, for a more surreal effect, some of the exuberant Burmantoft ceramic pots in Salts’ 1853 Gallery, and the lilies you can’t help noticing when you enter that Gallery.
You can find more detail about my research and the process of creating “The Work of Salts” on my website
I finished the work just in time for the 2018 Saltaire Arts Trail – so exciting to finally see the work in situ!
The painting includes a portrait of one of the lovely staff at Salts Diner, representing today’s workforce at Salts Mill. I was really worried that she might not like herself in the painting – but, as it turned out, she was pleased with the result – and so were her colleagues, who recognised her immediately in the picture. Phew!
Those of you who also follow our Facebook and Twitter accounts might have noticed we got a little bit excited a couple of weeks ago when a rather large loom arrived at the Bradford Industrial Museum. Lizzie, our Curator for Social History and Technology agreed to write a blog for us to talk a little bit more about how it came to be with us.
It’s taken nearly 10 years for Bradford Industrial Museum to acquire a Hattersley Standard loom, but in October of this year, Bradford Museums and Galleries (BMG) were the grateful recipients of one. The Hattersley Standard was the only relevant loom missing from our collections. Hattersley began manufacturing the Standard model in 1921. It was probably one of their most popular looms and many of our visitors, who worked in the mills in Bradford, will recognise it.
Hattersley was a heavy engineering firm based in Keighley. The company was established by George Hattersley in 1789 and made their first power loom in 1834. It was this loom that was destroyed by luddites on its way to a mill. The company quickly rebuilt the loom and it was installed in the mill the same year. The company grew into one of the world’s largest textile machine manufacturers. By the 1980’s the business had severely declined, closing in 1983. Many textile mills around the world still use Hattersley textile machines.
Many years ago, the service was offered a Hattersley Standard loom for display, by William Gaunt of Sunnybank Mills. There were many factors that affected the offer. Firstly, the re-development of the site the loom was housed in and secondly, our ability to accept the donation and get the large object to Bradford Industrial Museum. Greg, a member of our museum team and weaving technician, was in contact with William over the years and it was through this connection that the loom finally found its way to Bradford Industrial Museum.
In 2018, William rang me and informed me that the building was being developed and the loom would be removed from the space in the coming months. Myself, the Collections Officer and Greg arranged a visit to view the loom. It was on a sunny day when we visited the site and examined the loom. Although it was very dirty, having never been cleaned after its last use, the loom appeared in good condition and Greg was confident he could get it running again. The dirt and oil from its last use has actually serves as a protective layer, protecting the mechanism from being damaged by rust over the years.
The next thing to do was to propose the loom to the collections development panel. The panel ensures that members of the Curatorial team are following the museums collections policies and guidelines and using Bradford Museum and Galleries resources appropriately. It also works as peer review, ensuring that all ethical and legal requirements regarding objects being collected are met.
All museums and galleries have a collections policy. The policy outlines what the museum collects and why and identifies gaps in the collections and priority collecting areas. The policy ensures that we are able to manage, care for and maintain our existing collections and ensures we are not collecting material that would be more suitably held in another local, regional or national museum or gallery.
The worsted collection (material relating to the industrial heritage of the worsted industry in Bradford) holds designated status. This means that it has been identified as being of national and international significance. Bradford Museums and Galleries hold the most comprehensive and complete collection of objects and material relating to the worsted industry and are the only museum in the UK that now collects worsted related material.
The Hattersley Standard loom is a significant part of the story of the woollen and worsted industry in the district. It fits our collections policies and would immediately be put on display, so the panel approved the acquisition.
The plan was for on gallery conservation and restoration work to be carried out; bringing the loom back into working condition. Maintaining and running machinery in our galleries has been an aim of Bradford Industrial Museum since it opened in 1974. Running our machines enables our visitors to see them and hear them in action, giving visitors a greater understanding of how the machines worked.
After the acquisition was approved, a surveyor was sent out to examine the Museum site and how the loom would be brought into the Museum. The loom would have to be craned up and onto the Spinning Gallery via the existing loading bay doors. A plan was drawn up and the gallery was prepared for the loom. All that was left was for the loom to be removed from its current location. This proved a little bit tricky. Old entrances to the building had been blocked up over the years, essentially walling the loom into the building. This meant that walls would have to be knocked down to get the loom out.
After many months of waiting, an email was sent announcing the planned arrival of the loom. Unfortunately the first planned date had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances and bad weather, but the loom was brought the following day, Wednesday 25th October.
When the loom arrived at the Museum, there was some concern that it wouldn’t fit through the loading bay doors. After some discussion and lots of measurements being taken, the decision was made to remove one of the loading bay doors, to lift the loom and hook it round the wall and in to the Spinning Gallery.
Once inside, the loom was then placed onto industrial skates and pushed further into the Spinning Gallery. It is currently undergoing restoration work in the Spinning Gallery before it will be pushed into the Weaving Gallery and displayed next to the other looms already on display. Over the next months, Greg will work with our Collections team and volunteers to restore the loom and eventually begin weaving cloth on it again; Greg worked on this loom during its life at Sunnybank Mill.
We are very pleased to have this loom not only on display but potentially up and running so its weaving capabilities can be demonstrated to visitors of Bradford Industrial Museum for years to come. We would like to thank visitors for their understanding and patience during the installation and restoration of the Hattersley Standard loom.
Our Assistant Curator, Kirsty agreed to write this blog, sharing an insight into some more of the stores currently being told in the Keighley’s War Exhibition, on at Cliffe Castle Museum until the 18th November.
Over the past four years Bradford Museums and Galleries has commemorated the centenary of the First World War with a series of exhibitions, community projects and events. This year an exhibition at Cliffe Castle Museum has focused on the role that Keighley and its people played in this war.
Within the exhibition Keighley’s War we have aimed to give our visitors an idea of just how deeply the war penetrated the lives of Keighley residents by focusing on a selection of people and key objects from within our collections.
When looking at the concept of exhibitions and displays we always need to ensure that we have two key things: a story and objects. It is the magical combination of these two elements that complement each other and create something that we hope to be both informative but also visually interesting for our visitors.
We had bountiful sources of information on Keighley’s role in the First World War, from books, newspaper articles, our museum records and the research carried out by the group Men of Worth.
From these sources it became apparent that a key role that Keighley played was with its provision of a War Hospital and a series of auxiliaries:
Keighley had done well for the country – first in making cloth for the troops, in making munitions; and then in making machines for constructing those terrible implements of war. They had done their duty in that respect. Now they were to repair the damages which instruments of war had caused. Recollections of Keighley’s War Hospital and its Auxiliaries
The Keighley and Bingley Joint Hospital initially opened its doors in February 1897 as an isolation hospital. It was set in a beautiful location on the slopes of Rombalds Moor, on the left bank of the River Aire, with open verandas, where patients were able to enjoy the fresh air.
On 12 January 1916, the Keighley and Bingley Joint Hospital Board held a meeting. It was proposed at this meeting that the Joint Hospital at Morton Banks and all of its equipment be offered to the War Office for the accommodation and treatment of sick and wounded soldiers. The decision across the board was unanimous and on 5 April, 1916, the Army Council gratefully accepted the proposal and the Keighley and Bingley Joint Hospital became the areas main War Hospital.
The demand for the hospital was so great that on 3 April 1917, the current Mayor, Frederick Butterfield, owner of Cliffe Castle and his predecessor Mr W. A. Brigg decided to look at the possibility of building an extension. At a preliminary meeting Frederick said that:
During the past year £12,500 had been raised for hospital purposes while £15,000 had been spent. These sums were worthy of the district and also of the cause for which they were raised, but, let it not be said that at such a time as this Keighley and neighbourhood are backward in providing for our stricken Soldiers, and let it not be said either that £15,000 or even £20,000 is the measure and the limit of our charitably patriotic efforts.
Four months later the extensions were completed.
The Hospital was seen to be so proficient in certain areas that it became a centre for American Red Cross surgeons to see the latest developments in military surgery and attend lectures on modern methods of treating gas poisoning, gas gangrene and wounds.
One of the most intriguing set of objects in this display is a selection of letters sent from a soldier who served as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps to his daughter Marjorie. The letters have been sent from the soldier’s numerous posts including France, Masham and Keighley. In his letter sent from Belgrave Mount, Keighley he tells his daughter how: The nurses at the dispensary are always sending you their love and asking when they will see you again, suggesting that the daughter Marjorie had also visited Keighley at some point.
Accompanying the letters is a really interesting miniature portrait of the soldier set in the back of a military button. The objects allow us quite an intimate look into this family’s life and experience during the First World War and their time in Keighley but the identity of the soldier is still a mystery to us.
An important thing to remember is that it wasn’t just the proficient medical care that made the War Hospital such a success. The hospital catered for the soldiers medical needs but various small organisations had been created around the hospital to ensure the comfort of the men.
The majority of the wounded soldiers arrived into Keighley by train; from here the men would travel, by foot, or by private cars which had been converted into ambulances. On exiting the trains and making their way up the station slope, each new arrival would receive a kindly greeting from Mrs Scatterly and a packet of Golden Flake tobacco from Mr Tom Crabtree.
There was a group of ladies who visited the hospital to provide company for the men, and another group of women ran a canteen at the hospital. A Welfare Committee was created where 440 voluntary women served a special tea for the men once a week; the funds for this were raised by a group of women who went house to house collecting a penny a week from all of those that were willing. A committee of women met daily to sew and prepare a vast array of medical provisions including bandages, pneumonia jackets and swabs. In June 1916, the Wounded Soldiers’ Comfort Committee was founded; they opened a depot where gifts of clothing, eggs and vegetables could be dropped off. The committee divided these goods among the hospitals. Mr Eustace Illingworth donated a motor launch, allowing severely wounded soldiers at the Joint Hospital to enjoy the water whilst the more able men were able to take to row boats which were purchased for them.
It was ensured that the men, when well enough had plenty to keep themselves busy. The resident Chaplain, Rev. H. J. Peck, alongside the Cosy Corner Cinema arranged a film screening every fortnight, and the Hippodrome theatre arranged weekly dramatic performances. There were also a whole host of activities and classes that the men could take part in including bookbinding, embroidery and crochet, billiards and wood carving under the supervision of local sculptor Alex Smith. Many gifts were also donated by various individuals, including pianos, gramophones, seating, clocks, games, cigarettes and sterilising instruments.
Another intriguing object from our collections is an autograph book. On closer inspection we discovered that the book was filled during a soldier’s time recuperating at the War Hospital. The book contains a variety of drawings and poems and illustrations, ranging from the jovial to the thoughtful, which were contributed by other convalescing soldiers and a series of women who could have been nurses or some of the aforementioned volunteers.
Many of the soldiers have written their regiment under their names, allowing us to see the mix of men who were brought here. The message at the beginning of the book From Harry to Dollie indicates that this book was probably intended as a gift to the soldier’s girlfriend, wife or sister. This identity of the soldier who owned the book again remains a mystery to us. There are comprehensive lists of the patients admitted to the hospital but they are listed by surname, something that we do not have here.
As the signatures of the soldiers’ in the autograph book suggests the hospital did not just cater for local men, but for men whose homes were spread across the country. This made it very difficult for many relatives to visit. To help solve this problem a charity cricket match was organised, raising funds to help with travel expenses. Arrangements were also made amongst local residents to accommodate the visiting relatives of the wounded.
On the 3 June 1919 the final patients were transferred to Huddersfield and the War Hospital closed its doors.
A rather poetic comment was made by Surgeon-General Bedford when reflecting on the soldiers’ situation and the hospital’s location, he said:
They knew that to some it would be the valley of the shadow of death, but to some it would be the valley of hope and healing.
Thanks to the over all care and compassion of both staff and volunteers the War Hospital and its auxiliaries treated 13,214 wounded service men, providing them with a degree of both hope and healing.
At Cartwright Hall this summer, we’ve been hosting the ‘Clangers, Bagpuss & Co’ exhibition. We thought you might enjoy hearing from some of our lovely volunteers that have been involved with the exhibition
Hi, I’m Natasha and I am one of the volunteers at the ‘Clangers, Bagpuss and Co’ exhibition currently being held at the beautiful Cartwright Hall in Bradford.
I’ve spent a lot of time visiting museums, galleries and exhibitions but this is the first time I have volunteered at a museum or gallery. When I saw the advert for volunteers at the exhibition on Facebook I didn’t think twice about applying as I loved Bagpuss as a small child (and still do now).
So every weekend I have been able to spend time with the saggy old cloth cat, who has actually aged better than me! Seeing people’s reactions to the exhibition has been great. Bagpuss is the number one attraction and the interactive parts of the exhibition including making your own stop-motion film have also been very popular.
Learning more about what is involved in the day to day running of an exhibition has been very interesting – looking after the exhibits, telling visitors more about them, reporting any potential issues but also making suggestions/giving feedback. There have been a few hiccups with the joys of technology whilst I have been volunteering, but that’s the only small challenge I’ve faced.
I have gained more confidence from volunteering and hope to do more in the future. I’d recommend anyone to try volunteering for Bradford Museums and Galleries as it’s a great experience.
Volunteering at the ‘Clangers, Bagpuss & Co’ exhibition at Cartwright Hall is my first experience in volunteering.
I’ve always been interested in art and often visited Cartwright Hall, but the Bagpuss exhibition is something new and unique to me. I come from a different country and I spent my childhood with other children’s films. I have never heard about Bagpuss until I found out that I could attend this exhibition. Before I started my volunteering, I received informative information about the TV series and its producers and I expected a group of enthusiastic children hurrying to see a pink and white old cat.
Meanwhile, this wasn’t so, because most of the visitors are adults who planted their children in front of a TV set with the included series or they saw the Bagpuss puppet. Most did not hide their enthusiasm to refresh their memories of childhood. I think that they had great fun especially when creating their own animations. Many of them spent a lot of time here.
For me, closer to hearing the characters of the English series for children was an interesting and joyful experience. I’ve also created a few of my own animations with fun.
All visitors are very polite and nice so the comments are very favorable and positive, evaluating the exhibition. It is therefore a pleasure to spend time here.
I’m Pat, and ‘Clangers, Bagpuss and Co’ at Cartwright Hall is my very first volunteering “challenge” since retiring.
I say Hello to Bagpuss as soon as I arrive, and each time the saggy, old cloth cat appears to be more snug and at home in his case here. There are other memories with Sooty and Sweep and other exhibits from Bradford Museums and Galleries, as well as the big names – Noggin the Nog, Pogles, Ivor the Engine and Clangers.
These are the characters that I watched as a child, that my kids watched and that even my grandchildren watch, since Clangers returned to the BBC on CBeebies.
It is truly an across the ages exhibition and I love it when 3 generations of the same family visit and reminisce. The younger members delighting in showing their elders how to create their very own stop motion animation on the iPads. These tend to be jerky scenes of headless bodies tossed in the air, and sheep mown down by Ivor the Engine!
Personally I enjoy being back in a working environment and part of a dedicated team. AND I’ve knitted my very own Clanger.
Then we got busy answering questions – as ever there was an interesting range to inspire a range of answers from the curatorial team.
1 – We’ve got the Wife Taming Cradle (pictured), or the gooseberry measure. We’ve also got a heart studded with nails (protective charm) that’s currently on loan to @AshmoleanMuseum for Spellbound pic.twitter.com/EojtBt9sy6
As ever, the day was a mix of humour, enquiry and sharing the love of museums and collections worldwide – as ever, we can’t share in this blog everything from the day, but we hope you’ll join us for it next year!
That's us officially finished for the day – thank you for all your lovely questions, As ever, it's been great fun getting to interact with everyone – same time next year? (Of course, we don't mind being asked questions anytime!)
I always look forward to posting the entries that our Natural Science Curator, Dr Gerard McGowan writes for our blog, as he highlight interesting aspects of our collections that I might not have been aware of before, and this is no exception.
Amongst the very fine collections in the Zoology Collections are some true iconic specimens. I have written about a couple of these before. Another pair of very rare but important specimens are currently on display at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley. They are two specimens of the extinct Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius. This blog tells a little of their unfortunate story.
The Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, was once the most numerous bird species in North America. Between 1840 -1860 their estimated numbers were between 3 & 5 milliard (thousand million). These birds would migrate in flocks so large they reportedly ‘turned the sky black’. One flock was described in 1866 in southern Ohio as being 1 mile (1.5 km) wide and 300 miles (500 km) long and took 14 hours to pass. It is estimated this flock contained around 3.5 milliard birds.
The passenger pigeon was sexually dimorphic in size and coloration. The male was 390 to 410 mm (15.4 to 16.1 in) in length, mainly grey on the upper parts, lighter on the under parts, with iridescent bronze feathers on the neck, and black spots on the wings. The female was 380 to 400 mm (15.0 to 15.7 in), and was duller and browner than the male overall. The juvenile was similar to the female, but without iridescence.
CC 426-06 Passenger Pigeon, Catesby, was donated to Keighley Museum in 1905 by Seth Lister Mosley the first Curator of the museum (1902-1910).
CC 427-05 Passenger Pigeon, Swainson , was donated to Keighley Museum in 1910 by John Miller of Otley.
Although deforestation and the disturbance of their breeding grounds led to a reduction in numbers it was the mechanization of commercialized hunting that ultimately led to their extinction.
Despite putative attempts to legislate some protection of the passenger pigeon between the late 1850s until 1890s politicians ignored the requests of conservationists until it was too late. The passenger pigeon had almost disappeared by the mid-1890s so an 1897 bill introduced in Michigan for a 10-year closed season on hunting the bird came too late.
The last verified sighting of a wild passenger pigeon was at Laurel, Indiana on 13 April 1902. Only 30 years earlier this bird species had been the most numerous on the North American continent.
It was due to overexploitation, hunting for food and ‘sport’, and destruction of their nesting sites that led to the extinction of this once most populous of birds. The Passenger Pigeon was essentially extinct in the wild by the end of the 19th century.
By the end of 1907 only three captive passenger pigeons, in Cincinnati Zoo were known, one female named Martha and two males, after the other four males held in Milwaukee died that winter.
The first of the last two Cincinnati males died in April 1909 with the other male dying on July 10 1910. Martha, herself, the last know passenger pigeon, died in Cincinnati Zoo, Ohio on 1 September 1914.
Four years after Martha the last of the Carolina Parakeet, Conuropis carolinensis, died, ironically in Martha’s old cage. This was the only native parakeet in North America. It too succumbed to a combination of habitat loss, hunting and disease brought about by human hubris.
Extinct Britain: What’s Gone Extinct Locally?
The number of animals going extinct in Britain rises each year and has been increasing more recently because of changes in agriculture, climate change, loss of habitat and over hunting. Only a few of these species are globally extinct such as the Irish Elk, Great Auk, Woolly Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros, for example. Most of the remaining species survive elsewhere. Most local extinctions, which are termed extirpations, are the result of changes in the local ecology of an area
Mammals Since the end of the last glaciation Britain has lost many mammals, most due to the warming climate. These include Cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea), Woolly Rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), Woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) all around 10,000 BCE.
At around 8000 BCE the arctic lemming (Dicrostonyx torquatus), narrow-headed vole (Microtus gregalis), steppe lemming (Lagurus lagurus) and pika (Ochotona sp) all disappeared from Britain.
By 6000 BCE the tarpan, the European Wild Horse (Equus ferus ferus), wolverine (Gulo gulo) and the Irish Elk or Giant Deer (Megaloceros giganteus) had gone too.
The wisent or European bison (Bison bonasus) died out around 3000 BCE and both the Elk (Alces alces) and root vole (Microtus oeconomus) were extinct in Britain by 1500 BCE. Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) disappeared from Britain’s shores around 1000 BCE (albeit with occasional visitors) and at the same time the wild Aurochs (Bos primigenius) went extinct too.
By 500 BCE the grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) had also left Britain’s shores. The last native Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) disappeared around 400 CE with the last brown bear (Ursus arctos) disappearing between 500 & 1000 CE. The last major mammal to go extinct in Britain was the grey wolf (Canis lupis), with the last recording in 1680 with Ireland retain grey wolves until 1786.
The Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) circa 1000 BCE, the Cappercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) mid 17th century and the Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) 1844 have been driven to extinction in Britain.
From the end of the last glaciation with a warming climate and increased pressure on the land from humans the numbers of many birds and their distributions have been significantly reduced and in many cases wiped out.
By the end of the Iron Age, circa 100 CE, the Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) was extinct due to hunting, and Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris dioedea), the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and the Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) no longer bred in Britain.
By the early 1600s the Common Crane (Grus grus) and the Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leicordia) were lost due to the draining of wetlands for farming. This practice also led to the demise of other species such as the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) in the 19th century, the Great Bustard (Otis tarda) in the 1840s, the Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) in 1885, the Ruff (Philomachus pugax) in 1871, the Black Tern (Childonias niger) in 1885 and Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in 1916.
Other birds came very close to extirpation such as the White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), red kite (Milvus milvus) and the Corncrake (Crex crex).
Amphibians & Reptiles
The Agile frog (Rana dalmatina) and Moor frog (Rana arvalis) both were extirpated around 1000 CE with the European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) last recorded in the fossil record at around 3000 BCE.
The houting (Coregonus oxyrinchus) a fish related to salmon was once common in the rivers of northern Europe and England. Most probably became extinct in England in late 19th century due to pollution and overfishing.
Over the last 150 years the following insects have disappeared from Britain.
Approximate last date
Lycaena dispar dispar
Isle of Wight Wave
The Many Lined
Scarce Black Arches
Lithophane furcifera suffusa
An additional 56 species of Lepidoptera were lost from Britain before 1900
Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)
Approximate last date
Approximate last date
A ground beetle
A ground beetle
A ground beetle
A water beetle
A water beetle
A water beetle
Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants)
Approximate last date
A mason wasp
A mason wasp
A digger wasp
A mining bee
A mining bee
A mining bee
An additional 18 species of hymenoptera were lost from Britain before 1900.
Trichoptera (caddis flies)
Approximate last date
A caddis fly
A caddis fly
Recent Conservation Success Stories
Over recent years some success has been seen at reintroducing some of these lost species.
The Capercaillie was successfully re-introduced to Scotland from Swedish stock in the mid-19th century although numbers have dramatically fallen in the last 25 years. There are fears that they may again be extirpated from Britain. The white-tailed eagle has been introduced successfully on the west coast of Scotland. The red-kite, osprey and corncrake have been successfully introduced to several sites in Scotland and England, including Yorkshire. The great bustard is currently being established on Salisbury plain.
Plans to introduce wild European beaver back into parts of Britain were begun in 2009 with the release of breeding pairs into Knapsdale, Argyll. Moose were released into fenced reserves on the Alladale Estate in the Highlands. Reindeer have been successfully living and breeding around the Cairngorms in Scotland since 1952.
The pool frog was reintroduced from Swedish stock in 2005 to a site in Norfolk.
The Large Blue butterfly (Maculinea arion) was also successfully reintroduced from Swedish stock at a number of sites in Britain. In contrast despite concerted efforts to protect the habitat of the heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia), regarded as the most threatened UK butterfly in 1980, numbers have continued to decline.
Currently, plans are being discussed to reintroduce Lynx back into mainland Britain. An application was made to Natural England in July 2017 to reintroduce 6 Lynx, for a trial 5-year period, into England’s largest forest, Kielder Forest in Northumbria, which has just reported its first Pine Martin after 90 years absence. It has been suggested by previous rewilding studies that the reintroduction of Lynx, as a top carnivore, will act as a natural predator of wild deer keeping their numbers in check. The culling of deer by humans does not provide the same benefits as natural predation because the latter changes the behaviour of the deer. With predators in the environment deer tend to remain in higher wooded areas to remain hidden. This allows regrowth of trees in open areas, which, without predators, is prevented by deer overgrazing the saplings. The regrowth of natural woods and forests provides additional habitats for other species leading to greater diversity which in turn leads to improved stability of the environment and ecosystems. A positive trial may result in additional reintroductions such as Elk, Grey Wolves, Wild Boar and Brown Bear, all once part of a more natural ecosystem across Britain.
In addition to the reintroduction to these top trophic level animals there are a number of initiatives that hope to save other smaller, but equally important, species and habitats such as the Back From The Brink project which hopes to save important insects, reptiles and plant ecosystems.
Visitors to Cliffe Castle may have noticed a rather striking exhibition on the Bracewell Smith Hall balcony area. Currently on loan to us are a collection of works by Percy Delf Smith from the Percy Smith Foundation. Much of the exhibition focuses on the work inspired by his experiences in World War One, including the compelling ‘Dance of Death’
Peter Delf from the foundation kindly agreed to write a blog post to give an added insight into a fascinating artist. Peter writes:
Percy Smith was a craftsman and very versatile artist, largely self-taught. He was a lecturer in calligraphy and typography, producing illustrations for manuscript books. This led him to produce his own printers’ flowers, printers’ marks, fleurons, initial letters, borders and head and tail pieces. At a one-man exhibition of his in 1922 his work was noticed by Harold Curwen and Curwen Press became a customer, followed by a number of other printers, such as Cape, Kynoch Press and Heinemann.
The 1914 war, in which he served as a gunner on the huge 15” Howitzer gun, led him to undertake a series of etchings but he became deeply engrossed in lettering again directly it ended, because of the widespread demand for war memorials. One of these, the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge – engaged him and his studio for nearly four years.
Other buildings in which his inscription work may be found would necessitate a long list, but internal signage for the BBC at Broadcasting House, the Royal Institute of British Architects headquarters, the National Museum of Wales, the Courts of Justice at Allahabad, as well as buildings in Canada and the USA should be mentioned. He wrote several excellent handbooks on lettering. He also created an illuminated edition of the Hippocratic Oath for the Institute of British Dentistry.
He had no wish to have a large practice and become an administrator; he liked his chosen work too much; so he actively encouraged his assistants to set up on their own and maintained the most friendly relations with them, often calling on them for work from time to time.
He was commissioned by Frank Pick of London Underground to develop a ‘petit-serif’ variation of the standard sans- serif Johnston typeface. The Johnston Delf-Smith typeface was originally used for the London Underground Headquarters building in 1928 at 55 Broadway, St James, London and can still be seen there today. The same type of lettering was subsequently used on the extension of the Piccadilly line from Finsbury Park to Cockfosters, and elsewhere.
Percy Smith’s wife, Ellen Delf, established the Botany Department at Westfield College, London. During WW1, she worked at the Lister Institute, researching nutrition for the armed forces. They were married in 1928. He incorporated the name Delf into his name in 1939, perhaps a mark of respect for her own innovative work as a botanist and professor at Westfield College, London.
Both traveled frequently and extensively in Europe. Ellen traveled to South Africa to help improve nutrition for the African population. Percy traveled to the US and built up lifelong connections. After they married they traveled to Italy and Palestine, where the artist continued to draw extensively. A habit he maintained throughout his life.
During WWW2 he enrolled as an Air Raid Warden. Dr Ellen Delf Smith is seen here with her husband at the outset of World War 2, wearing gas masks. This drawing had been intended for a book but it remained unpublished. She loved cats and so it was decided the cat should be included.
In 1940 he was elected Master of the Art Workers Guild, became a member of the Royal Society of Arts Faculty for The Royal Designers of Industry. He became Master of this Faculty between 1943 and 1945. He taught wounded Soldiers at Mill Hill Hospital and Shenley in Hertfordshire, he executed the RSA’s loyal addresses to their Royal Majesties King George V, Queen Mary, King Edward VIII and King George VI on his accession and for his Silver Wedding Anniversary.
Also during World War 2 he was commissioned to produce a number of commemorative plaques for Warship Week, presented to towns and communities that raised huge sums of money to replace ships lost in battle. Each town or community ‘adopted’ a warship, with a matching plaque for each. Keighley raised £1.3 million in their Warship Week and adopted HMS Marne, a destroyer.