Ian, one of our volunteers at Cliffe Castle, has written us another short blog with the latest ‘gossip’ he’s discovered as he continues to transcribe items in the Butterfield Archive. He writes:
Dating from 1907 there are a fascinating sequence of letters where Henry Isaac Butterfield dictates letters to a servant, Charles Parker to his son Frederick William Louis Butterfield but Parker also personally writes to him giving him the low down about what is going on behind the scenes.
Although written to Frederick , HI’s heir they have a feeling of backstairs gossip. Although having more than a touch of Uriah Heap about him, always signing off “yours respectfully” or “every respectful wish for you all” , it doesn’t prevent him from using a number of colourful nicknames, James Wright HI’s man of business is usually referred to as “Old Methody, the old sot” and Henry Isaac himself is the “old master” or the “old firm”. In his letters people “jaw” or “talk rot”.
He is an engaging correspondent and the following gives a flavour of the backstairs intrigue engaged in.
This afternoon that rotten T.L.B has been and stayed until 8 o’clock .I was sick of his talk and said I will go and get my tea and did so but bethought all at once and got up to hear if ought important was said , could not hear any talking for a bit when lo, I heard a footstep upstairs and saw your Dad coming down.
“Oh” says I “is that it?” So when he came down he shuts the room door, I hopped upstairs and looked to see if he had been for his pocket book , no it was there, then I bethought me of that bracelet I told Mrs Butterfield he had given to Mrs B.S but which I found after I had wrote , he had not, well as I say I looked to see if it had gone ; no it was there, then I looked into his pocket book , the one he carries if he goes off anywhere and he had it yesterday and I know he had £25 in £5 notes, no that was alright, then I looked into the other where I had put £100 in £20 notes and lo and behold the old firm had taken 4 out and now tomorrow I must see if he has any about his pockets , if not you can depend upon it he has given that lousy devil £20 and it’s an infernal shame , of course I won’t let him off without telling him I know it but will have to wait a few days until he forgets how I was able to get to know”.
Mrs B.S refers to Kitty Ballard Smith, Henry Isaac’s niece and Frederick’s cousin. We retained the original punctuation!
I think this gives a wonderful flavour of life literally below stairs and it’s like something from one of the Italian operas Henry Isaac Butterfield so loved – you can almost hear the Rossini playing in the background as the intrigues unravel .
Our Curator of International Art, Nilesh Mistry agreed to give us an insight into his work He writes:
Working on loans out is a routine part of a curator’s work, but the loan of 14 works to Manchester Art Gallery has been hugely rewarding and eye opening. It also represents the largest loan of artworks by black and Asian British artists in recent times . The loans were to an exciting new exhibition called Speech Acts at Manchester Art Gallery which launched on 25 May 2018 and is on free of charge until 22 April 2019.
The exhibition is one of the outcomes of the Black Artists and Modernism (BAM) project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as a collaboration between University of the Arts London and Middlesex University. The research focuses on the relationship between the art-works of artists of African and Asian descent and Modernism, in particular art-works in public collections throughout the UK. Helping the researchers from this project select works from our collection was a real eye opener as they brought very interesting new angles to the works in our collection and uncovered links to works at the John Rylands Library, the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery.
I suppose we always knew our collecting in this area had been ground breaking, but it needed fresh eyes to point out just how significant our collections had become in this field. Originally we had a long list of selected works which was boiled down to 20 and then to 14, as space in the exhibition started to be allocated. There is also a BBC4 documentary planned to show how the research project gained momentum and we have already taken part in the filming for this.
The BAM project provided encouraging findings for Bradford Museums and Galleries. After conducting a national audit of public collections it was determined that Bradford has the largest municipal held collection of works by British black and Asian artists.
On the back of this research we plan to apply for official national recognition via the Designation Scheme. Through sustained programming of exhibitions, displays and acquisitions Bradford aims to build on this by partnership and community working, working with new and existing artists and increasing access to the collections whenever possible.
Our Curator of Exhibitions, Sonja Kielty has written our most recent blog, talking about an exhibition that was held at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery recently.
Glass is a versatile and captivating medium, which touches our lives in many ways and brings much pleasure and joy to those who behold, make and design it. The artform is an ancient craft and is also at the forefront of technology. Contemporary Glass Society
This small selection of contemporary glass supported talented, new and established makers from the UK. Contemporary glass art can be functional in character or sculptural in essence or both.
‘Glisten and Shine: Glass’ presented established makers such as Vinegar and Brown Paper, Samantha Yates, Hayley Gammon, Stephen Foster, Abundant Glass and Nick Claiden. Comparing material, style and technique to those makers in Bradford’s own glass collection, which included classical Venetian glass and contemporary works by makers such as Kalim Afzal. Contemporary knitted glass by Catherine Carr sat alongside historical works inspired by the Orient and Far East, in this instance, Iran, by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Peter Layton, Priscilla Morgan-Hill and glass from Lithuania as well as Bohemian Persian perfume bottles also featured.
Visitors could view the variety of styles and range of techniques of glass by artists, designers and craftspeople.
This selection presented new work demonstrating excellence in design, creative imagination and technical skill alongside the more traditional classical works. Some work was available for purchase supporting makers to establish a strong foundation for their business. Many of these makers appeared, and still do, in the gallery shop.
The joy of these small selections in the Cellar Gallery is that they provide an intimate space for new and emerging artists and makers to exhibit their work, perhaps for the first time. Prices tend to be on a broader affordability level than the more established fine art works in the larger galleries. This creates a gallery space that is almost an extension of the shop but allows schools, visitors and artists to experience a unique experience.
Events were held and offered a variety of opportunities for visitors and artist alike, whether it be networking, workshop activities or talks.
The contemporary makers were invited to a launch alongside other exhibitions in the gallery in which they had over 500 guests to network. The regular Responses to Art sessions provided an open to the public day to which up to 20 attendees were able to attend a bespoke drawing session with a local artist, taking inspiration from the glass on show. These sessions are a full day of exclusive learning, experiencing and meeting artists and new work via temporary exhibitions. Look out for them on www.bradfordmuseums.org What’s On section.
Lizzie Llabres, our Curator for Social History and Technology has written today’s blog, looking at how death is represented in our museum collections.
Death and mourning is something that spans history with mourning rituals deeply embedded in to society. The way people have commemorated death in the UK has changed over the centuries, with social behaviours, ceremonies and even fashion adapting to commemorate and identify those who have died and those in mourning. Like most museums across the UK, Bradford Museums and Galleries collection contains a variety of objects that show how people have remembered and commemorated those they have lost.
Mourning Jewellery has been worn throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th century to commemorate and remind the wearer and their friends and families of people who have died. When Charles I was executed in 1649 many of his subjects wore rings and brooches with the letters CR engraved on them. Mourning jewellery could consist of deaths head jewellery (jewellery with a skull or skeleton in the design), items made from the hair of a loved one who had died, jewellery with compartments such as lockets or rings with areas to store hair or an item belonging to the deceased and, by the end of the Georgian period, Jet jewellery had become particularly popular as a piece of mourning wear.
BMG has an interesting collection of mourning Jewellery dating from the early 18th century up to the early 20th century, with many pieces from the Victorian period. Jet jewellery was particularly popular in the district, possibly due to its close proximity to Whitby, which is famed for its high quality jet.
Death masks were also created as mementos of the dead. Made from plaster or wax, a cast is taken from the corpse shortly after death. In some cultures death masks were created as funeral masks and buried with the corpse. In Europe the masks could be put on display, next to the coffin, as an effigy of the deceased. Casts of peoples hands were also taken as a memento mori. BMG holds one of Oliver Cromwell’s death masks, which is currently on display at Bolling Hall Museum. The mask was donated to Bradford Museums in 1933 and is part of the Civil War display, which tells the story of Bradford as a Parliamentarian town and the Siege of Bradford by the Royalist army.
Memorials are also a way that people have commemorated and celebrated those who have died, particularly those who have died in tragic events. Bradford Museums and Galleries hold a large and varied collection of War Memorials commemorating those that died during the 1st and 2nd World Wars, as well as memorials commemorating mill disasters in the district. Many company memorials, commemorating workers from different factories across the district, can be seen on display at Bradford Industrial Museum. The Industrial Museum clock tower is a memorial to those who worked at the spinning mill and gave their lives during WW1. Stained glass on display at Cliffe Castle Museum was once part of a stained glass window war memorial in Temple Street Methodist Chapel, Keighley. War memorials are created not only as an official record of those who died during service in designated times of war, but as an object to commemorate war, conflict, victory and peace. They also act as a physical marker that people can gather at to remember and actively commemorate and hold public services to those who have died, both named and unknown, in conflict.
As well as items commemorating those who have died, Bradford also holds a collection of items that tell the story of the ‘craft’ and workers behind death and ceremony. BMG has a selection of undertakers tools, used to make coffins in the early Victorian period. One of the most interesting of these items is an undertaker’s screw driver. I know a screw driver may not seem that interesting, but it highlights the variety of tasks and activities a seemingly mundane object can be involved in. This screwdriver is recorded as being used to screw down the lids of coffins in Haworth and may have been used in some of the Bronte burials.
Early undertakers were often joiners and carpenters who also make coffins at times of death. The undertaker would be summoned shortly after death, to take measurements for the coffin. The coffin would be made from hardwood and sealed with wax and bitumen to prevent leaks. The coffin would be delivered to the family of the deceased and the deceased would be laid to rest in a room of the house until the funeral. Chapels of rest didn’t become established in funeral homes until the 1950s.
Many people also collected items to commemorate the deaths of celebrities of the day. Henry Butterfield was a devoted lover of music and purchased the death bed of the composer Rossini and had it installed in his bedroom at Cliffe Castle. Unfortunately BMG does not have the bed in its collection, as it was sold in the 1950s sale of contents by the family. We are keen to find out what may have happened to it. (If you know, please contact us).
BMG also holds an image in the collection of Bram Stoker exiting the Theatre Royal in Bradford in October 1905. As well as being the famed author of Dracula, Bram Stoker was also the manager of the acclaimed actor, Henry Irving. On news of Henry Irving’s death, at the Midlands hotel in Bradford on the 13th of October 1905, Stoker rushed to Bradford and can be seen in this image exiting the theatre after disbanding Henry Irving’s company. This image is an important part of our collections relating to death and mourning, as it’s a snap shot of a historically significant moment in time, relating to two well known ‘celebrities’ of their day.
By the time Queen Victoria came to the thrown in 1836 she had inherited an established code of mourning. When the Duke of York died in 1827, the Earl Marshal issued the following order…
‘…upon the present melancholy occasion of the death of the late Royal Highness Frederick Duke of York and Albany…it is expected that all persons do put themselves in to deep mourning.’
Fashion magazines of the time printed illustrations of suitable mourning costume, with dresses of black silk, twill worsted or cotton, accompanied by suitable and fashionable mourning jewellery.
By Prince Albert’s death in 1861 mourning had become a large and expensive affair, with degrees of mourning costume, style and colour, reducing social meetings and engagements, as well as the expense of the funeral itself. A carriage hearse and horses, memorial cards, elaborate coffins and funeral food, such as funeral biscuits are all seen as an essential part of the mourning process.
BMG holds a variety of examples of mourning costume showing the different stages of mourning dress in Victorian England. The rules of what you wore and for how long were complicated; they were outlined in popular journals and household manuals of the time to help guide the grieving Victorian in appropriate dress and etiquette. Those in deepest mourning wore black clothing made from simple, non reflective, fabrics trimmed with crape. No velvet, satin, lace or embroidery could be used. After a suitable period of time the crape could be removed and the cloth colour could be gradually lightened to grey, mauve and white. Men wore black suits along with black gloves, hatbands and cravats.
The length of time you were in mourning depended on your relationship with the deceased. Widows were expected to wear mourning costume for up to 2 years. For children the mourning period was up to 1 year. Children did not often wear mourning clothes, although girls could wear white. Grandparents and siblings were expected to mourn for 6 months. There was some flexibility in the mourning period and becoming engaged during this time wasn’t entirely disapproved of. If a widow became engaged whilst in mourning she would be permitted to discard her mourning attire.
Queen Victoria famously wore mourning for the rest of her life
Mourning rituals were slightly different for the working classes. The death rate was much higher in working class households and many families would save to ensure they had funds to cover funeral expenses, often going without necessities to ensure a proper burial for their loved ones. If they could not pay for a funeral the family would be reliant on the local Poor Union, who would provide a basic Pauper’s Funeral and they would be buried in a pauper’s grave. If they could afford to, working class households would dye existing clothing black or where black or purple arm bands to signify mourning.
Spiritualism also became popular in the Victorian period. Many people tried to communicate with loved ones who had died; joining spiritualist churches in the hope of remaining connected to and receiving a message from them. The Spiritualist movement found its UK base in Keighley in 1853; from there Spiritualism spread across the UK. Prominent members of the spiritualist movement included Arthur Conan Doyle and Lord Dowding. Unfortunately BMG’s collection relating to the Spiritualist movement in Keighley is limited and it is difficult for BMG to tell the history of the movement in full.
The grant helped to improve access and documentation, provide translations and scholarly advice on the historic and cultural significance of the collection.
Former curator of the Ashmolean Islamic Collection and later the Keeper of Eastern Art, Professor James Allan provided invaluable scholarly insight into the collection comprising fine art works and decorative art objects used for ritual and secular purpose. His overall analysis of the collection has enabled recommendations on the future development of the collection.
As a result a new case of calligraphic objects is now on display in the permanent galleries at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery.
Amongst others visitors can view a stunning array of exhibits including a blue Kashan Persian pot from 12th century Iran, an official seal from the court of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1665) India and newly commissioned historic and contemporary calligraphy samples by renowned London based master calligrapher Soraya Syed.
In comparison to other Bradford collections the calligraphy collection is a relatively young collection; however it demonstrates the versatility of the art manifesting in objects constructed in ceramics, glass, brass, textiles, wood and more.
Working with the gallery Learning Team other project outcomes included professional object photography and calligraphy workshops for schools and family groups
The exhibition Cupola marks the celebration of the 250th Anniversary of UK modern circus in 2018. The exhibition showcases the work of local aerial circus company Skinning the Cat who toured internationally 1988 – 2002 and could often be seen performing in Lister Park as part of the Bradford Festival.
Skinning the Cat lived in Manningham and many of the artists involved to make their shows were from Bradford. These skills included set, prop and costume design, performance, photography, graphic design and marketing. As well as practicing trapeze above the heads of footballers in Manningham Sports Centre, Skinning the Catcreated their work as members of Bradford arts studios in Thornton.
Becky Truman, artistic director and aerialist for Skinning the Cat has created sculptures that explore audience and artist engagement through the circus experience, past and present in Yorkshire. The exhibition parallels a Skinning the Cat costume displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which marks the company’s role in the creation of contemporary circus. The exhibition includes amongst others, the costume which worked as a duo on the trapeze with the one displayed in the V&A.
The exhibition was kindly funded by a Grants for the Arts Award, Arts Council England.
Installation of the Exhibition
After meeting with Becky Truman and Jenny Wilson, Irregular Arts, a good year or two beforehand, it was brought to our attention at 2018 would be the anniversary of Circus in the UK. I personally loved Skinning the Cat as an art student here in Bradford in the 1990s, nights out on travellers sites, seeing members of this amazing troupe practising early in the mornings on ropes on trees in Bradford 7. They travelled around Europe, with babies, a strong group of incredibly physically fit young women, putting Bradford right there on the international map.
The Sculpture Court in Cartwright Hall Art Gallery is the ‘Cupola’. Immediately Becky knew she wanted to recreate the aerial experience of her skill set within the heights of this double story Edwardian building, the space overlooked from a second floor balcony.
And so it began, scaffold, trapeze, costume. Belted and roped, Becky’s team revisited their agility and talent to hoist mannequins, masks and built the original structure that was once used for Skinning the Cat performances.
Now a lecturer in sculpture at Bradford College, Becky’s artistic skills continue. In order to explore the audience reaction from the performer’s viewpoint, Becky created stunning fibre glass relief panels with her students. Ears, mouths, hands subtly surround the Court, unnoticeable at first, the eye taken immediately to the colours, sequins and sheer scale of the installation. They then become apparent, the same hue and hint in colour and texture as the marble sculptures so familiar around the building. They were heavy structures, BMG technical staff built and installed specific walls for them in order to withstand the weight.
Adjoining Cupola in the Sculpture Court we wanted to celebrate all of circus as part of the 2018 250th anniversary
For 25 decades the wonderful amazing art and entertainment form known as circus has thrilled, delighted and enchanted audiences all over the world.
But what do we know about its history and development and the many stories of dare devilry that were found in the circus ring?
From the founder of Circus himself, Philip Astley, an equestrian from Newcastle under Lyme, to the real life daring young man on his flying trapeze who gave his name to the leotard, learn the secrets of the ring, the lifestyle and the stories of the circus, the identity of the original human cannonball act in 1877 and when the big top was invented. Come and discover the part played by Berry’s of Bradford, the designers of choice for the leading British Circus families whose posters proclaimed the coming of leading shows across the United Kingdom and see examples of their work across the years.
Social history objects from Bradford’s museum collections are included plus some items on loan by private lenders, Baccara Smart (granddaughter of Billy Smart) and collector of all things circus and contemporary illustration by Emily Sutton,
Posters on loan from the National Fairground and Circus Archive.
533 guests joined us for the opening in November with aerial artist, sculptress and costumier Becky Truman in her lunchtime talk about ‘Cupola’, ‘Skinning the Cat’ and the audience response to this age old gathering of dare devilry and entertainment.
Guests viewed the exhibitions to a backdrop of sounds and smells of the excitement of the circus with accordion by former Chumbawamba’s Phil Moody, circus made popcorn, candy floss and roving circus characters – body painted by Bradford College’s Events and Make Up students. VIP thanks were given by Professor Vanessa Toulmin.
Related events and activities continue, amongst which have been:
Mask Making with artist Becky Truman half term drop in (see the video below)
As part of the Friends Lecture Series, V&A Talk: Aerial Icons with Cathy Hail (Curator of Popular Entertainment from the Theatre & Performance Department of the V&A) examined the history of aerial performance over the years.
For International Women’s Day in March 2018 the lunchtime talk ‘Women in History’ was introduced by Dea Birkett, Director of ‘Kids in Museums’ and ringmaster of Circus250, joined Professor Vanessa for an illustrated talk on the charismatic and trail blazer women who have defined circus over the past 250 years.
We’re lucky enough to hold within our collections some of the correspondence between members of the Butterfield family, who were the owners of Cliffe Castle.
They offer a fascinating insight into the past of the family, and as we begin to delve into them we are finding some wonderful stories. We have a volunteer, Ian, busily working on transcribing the letters (a slow and painstaking process), and I will frequently pop into the office to ask for an update on the latest ‘gossip’ from the letters. There’s normally something interesting or entertaining to be revealed!
He kindly agreed to write some blogs for us based on the letters as he finds some interesting stories.
This is one of a series of occasional blogs drawing on the letters of the various members of the family.
The early blogs will draw on the letters of the Butterfield women. In this entry they are ones are written by Kittie Butterfield.
Kittie was the sparky and articulate American niece of Henry Isaac Butterfield, the builder of Cliffe Castle. She was the daughter of his youngest brother, Frederick.
Via the letters, we first encounter Kittie as a school girl in Germany in 1872, writing to her cousin.
“my first day at school was very much like other days are , all the girls stared at me for the first 10 minutes then being recalled to their work by a very nice gentleman Mr Lapper, who looks like a sunbeam one day and like a thundercloud the next, they were obliged to put off further scrutiny until a more (blank )period.
After that I enjoyed myself immensely as you can conceive for I heard nothing but German until 12 o’clock. In the afternoon I had a sewing lesson, imagine my felicity, sitting two mortal hours plying my needle and thread. Everyone in Germany can knit and sew, in fact they are so zealous that a pair of stockings is a difficult thing to obtain. Not my dear that I intend to say anything against them but sewing is not in my line at all”
Kittie had an amazing way with words which is possibly why she married a journalist Eustace Ballard Smith in 1890 (of which more later).
Despite the tragic early death of her brother at 17 (he was killed in New York when he was driving a carriage to meet his father at the train station) and then the later death of her father, Kittie and her mother Caroline were very adventurous , travelling “way out west” in 1884, visiting the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Salt Lake City and California. She paints a vivid picture in her letters.
“We spent the night in a shanty of boards through which we could see and the stars were visible through the openings in the boards from our beds, imagine the situation! Still it paid, in the evening in walking abroad for a little fresh air we had the felicity of nearly stepping on a little snake that was coiled ready to spring on the one that got nearest to it first. Fortunately it had the consideration to give us warning and was dispatched in consequence before anyone had been bitten”
Later, on the same eventful trip
“ I wish you could have had a glimpse of mother entering the promised land (California) ………….The river had washed the bridge away and all passengers walked over half way on the planks and thence on a single plank into a boat , poor mother gave out half way and said she could go neither forwards or backwards. There she sat surrounded by her bags and baskets and finally by dint of tremendous efforts a boat was brought to her rescue and she was conveyed over to California”
As you will see Kittie was very much her own Woman not least in regard to her marriage. She wrote from the Grand Hotel Paris, May 30th 1890.
“I write this to say that I am marrying Ballard Smith on Tuesday the 3rd June in London , of course you know I have been engaged a very long time but three weeks ago I decided it was useless to wait any longer and so I began my preparations and now it is nearly here, the most momentous day of my existence…
Mama is most unhappy, for which I am most sorry, but she has been very nice giving me my trousseau , a lovely one and she goes with me to London -she declares she will not be present at the (wedding) but I think she may after all.”
Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, neither the recipient of the letter, who was Kittie’s cousin Frederick William Louis Butterfield (Henry Isaac Butterfield’s son who was known as Louis within the family), nor his American born wife Jessie were able to attend as they were in the USA at the time.
The event must have been far removed from the grand Society wedding which was originally anticipated by the family, which would have required more time to prepare, but her quick decision and the subsequent marriage within the time frame she set out give a good indication of her dynamic personality.
Our Community Engagement & Events intern Lucy, has written this weeks blog post, about a recent pop-up event she was involved with
The Suffragette 2018 Pop-Up Event
What a great night we had on Saturday, when we popped up with our Suffragette Collection at The Brick Box Rooms, a live arts café, to celebrate the anniversary of The Representation of the People Act of 1918, which granted the vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification. The same Act gave the vote to all men over the age of 21. The pop-up took place as part of The Make More Noise event hosted by the Brick Box Rooms and Live Cinema UK.
The event began in the evening, soon after opening the doors people began to arrive and there was a lively buzz in the air. Prior to the film, we invited people to get in role as a Emmeline Pankhurst in costume and play the board game Pank-A-Squith. The board game was used by the suffragettes as an educational device to show people the struggles women faced to get the right to vote and as a fundraiser for their campaign. The objective of the game is to get your suffragette counter from their home to the goal Parliament.
In another corner of the room, we shared The Suffragette Newspaper which contained reports of suspicious suffragette acts in Bradford, including militant arson attacks at mills causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and the dyeing of Chellow Dean Reservoir purple. We also had re-produced copies of campaign postcards from our collection. Many often satirical, one card red “No Vote, No Tax” women often refused to pay tax on the grounds they had no say within political sphere.
Using the printed campaign material for inspiration and collage, visitors created their own individual page for a zine that re-imagined what The Suffragette Newspaper 2018 would say now. The pages were often heart-warming with “Wishes for our Sisters”, political statements against trump and celebratory of female activist now like Malala Yousafzai. The zine was live risograph printed during the film screening by Footprints Workers Co-operative in the café and people were able to take their collaboratively made zines hot off the press.
The event was a huge success and visitors were incredibly engaged in every aspect of the night, reading the newspaper articles through to the end and I often caught people taking photos so that they could read more at home.
Live Cinema UK showed incredibly moving silent footage from the Suffragette movement that was accompanied by live pianist Lillian Henley, followed by a celebration of noise and dance to a female DJ playing all the female disco hits. There is something to be said about collaborating with other amazing arts organisations in our city to not only enhance the accessibility to our collections but to strengthen the cultural offer of Bradford!
I’m sat at my desk now, four days later, with a warm fuzzy feeling as I read tweets from people who came along.
Tweets like this remind me how important it is that the museum collections pop-up in the heart of the city for everyone to see in fun, friendly and participatory environments.
Coming Up –
International Women’s Day
The Brick Box Rooms, 5:30pm-9:00pm
Bradford Museums and Galleries are popping up at Brick Box to help celebrate International Womens Day.
Come and play games inspired by the Suffragette board game Pank-A-Squith. Listen to spoken word from Kirsty Taylor, the BBC Radio 3 New Voice winner, about suspicious suffragette acts in Bradford and pick up your own copy of The Suffragette Newspaper 2018 made by Bradford women now.
Throughout March there will also be an exhibition from our Photo Archive featuring incredible Bradford women and men who fought for Women’s rights, have acted radically, reformed education or changed the way women are perceived in the workplace.
Visitors to our website or indeed, to Lister Park may have noticed that Cartwright Hall Gallery was closed for the first month of the year.
Helen Thornton, the site Manager has written a blog for us explaining why….
Due to essential upgrades to our security systems at Cartwright Hall, the whole building has been closed to the public between 1st January 2018 and 1st February 2018.
This project has been essential for the gallery to meet stringent international standards. It will enable us to work more closely with high profile national and international institutions to bring some of the world’s most prestigious art to Bradford in the future. And we have been fortunate also to secure some external grant funding to help us with this work.
SO what exactly is going on?
Well, because these are security works then the precise information is, of course, sensitive! What I can say is that we are having new, state of the art (no pun intended) equipment inside and out, the latest technology to keep Bradford’s Art Collection safe whether on display or in store, day or night, open or closed. Our CCTV cameras will provide excellent images and will cover all angles within the building, on the roof and around the exterior.
We have also been able to take the opportunity of the project to improve the appearance and location of the equipment. Our contractors have been busy following old wiring through the bowels of the building and stripping out what we don’t need.
When Cartwright Hall was built at the turn of the 20th century it had an elaborate and innovative (for the time) air conditioning system with vents and passages through roofs and wall voids in order to circulate the air. So we have been able to use these to conceal new wiring. We have also been able to use smaller, better placed equipment so we don’t spoil the fabulous views of our beautiful internal and external architectural features.
Outside our contractors have had to contend with some freezing conditions to reach the roof areas and a cherry picker arrived in a break in the snow showers! <image 2>
On some galleries – such as the new David Hockney Gallery – this work would have been impossible if we were open to the public. To protect the art from accidental damage we have removed the most vulnerable items from the walls.
This has meant ‘all hands to the pumps’ to, very carefully, take large and fragile pictures from the walls and place them in designated areas with the right protection.
Our Museum Assistants have had special training in handling art and we have lots of specialist equipment.
So, with the advice and guidance of our Collection Officers and Curators, the work has been completed efficiently and without incident. This has also presented an opportunity to refresh some displays (for example in our Print Room) by putting prints from storage on display and giving the previous displayed prints ‘a rest’. We have also taken the chance to check our database records are up to date.
So all in all, despite the closure the project has been useful on many levels and will provide us with a new security system we can be proud of.
When we reopen on 1st February the work continues behind the scenes but there may be the occasional short term individual gallery closure for completing the project. But the new David Hockney Gallery and the upper floors are finished.
This week’s new blog has been written by our Natural Sciences Curator, Dr Gerard McGowan
A recent enquiry about our collections brought to mind a rare and ‘infamous’ specimen in our Botany Collection, specifically from the Herbarium Collection of Dr William Arthur Sledge (NS.30.82). Dr Sledge (1904-1991) was a noted botanist and spent his entire academic career at University of Leeds from 1928-69. You can read a short bio here and an obituary here. The controversy all centres on the collection of a very rare orchid from the last known wild habitat.
Once regarded as one of the rarest flowers on mainland Britain the Lady’s-Slipper orchid, Cypripedium calceolus, was both protected and highly prized (see Fig. 1).
This beautiful flower is a very striking and colourful orchid that is found throughout Europe and Asia. On mainland Britain, however, it became very rare indeed with only one remaining site of wild native flowers known. It was previously fairly common across the north of England especially in the Yorkshire Dales. However, due to habitat loss and over grazing by sheep the markedly reduced numbers couldn’t withstand the final onslaught by naturalists and hobby gardeners who uprooted the final few native wild specimens for their own gardens and collections.
In 1958, at the height of the concerns over the future of this orchid surviving in the wild, Dr Sledge decided to collect the flower heads at the last known wild habitat to prevent collectors from identifying the site and uprooting the only remaining specimens. This flower, collected in 1958 is now in the Sledge Herbarium at Cliffe Castle Museum, and has over the course of the last 60 years been the source of much controversy (See Fig. 2).
An article was published in the Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society (Volume 62 June 1994 page 231), a couple of years after Dr Sledge’s death in 1991, suggesting that Dr Sledge was wrong to collect this flower and he did so without authority. It even suggested that Dr Sledge should have faced prosecution for his ‘autocratic act’ but that ‘his act was covered-up by conservation officials’ and the author was himself threatened with prosecution for criticising the collecting of the specimen. (N.B. A law was introduced only in 1975 specifically protecting the Lady’s-Slipper Orchid and making its uprooting or destruction a criminal offence.) The editor of the AGS bulletin was similarly robust in his criticism of Dr Sledge. The article also noted that this orchid root recovered and 18 flowers were counted in 1993. A letter, dated 1962, to Dr Sledge from John Armitage (1900-1996), a Leeds naturalist, that is in the archives of Bradford Museum, also with a photograph, evidenced that the Lady’s-Slipper orchid was in bloom at the site in that year (See Fig. 3).
The Lady’s Slipper orchid favours a habitat of open woodland on well-drained calcareous soil. The limestone rocks in the Yorkshire Dales offered a perfect home for them. This was the very last habitat these flowers could be found in the wild. They were situated on a fairly steep sloop of grassland over well-drained soil on a base of limestone close to a wood of oak, ash and hazel trees.
This are is now nationally protected, with the Lady’s-slipper Orchid recognised as a Biodiversity Action Plan National Priority Species.
A national programme was introduced in 1992 by English Nature (now Natural England). This Species Recovery Programme includes habitat management and warding. In addition, propagation of this rare flower has been carried out at other suitable sites both within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and nationally. A good site to see this reintroduced species and red squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris, another BAP priority species, is Kilnsey Park.
Hope for the future
Dr Sledge’s specimen, collected in 1958, shows that it was cut and not uprooted (see Fig. 2). This practice would have indeed protected the plant from prying eyes of unscrupulous collectors who may have uprooted the specimen and thus destroyed the last known wild example on mainland Britain. Now, with modern conservation and dedicated conservationists this beautiful flower has been saved and its numbers are increasing in protected sites. With continued support of our conservation and natural heritage bodies and understanding from the public our most rare plant species can be saved for future generations to enjoy.