Home » The Collection » Recent Articles:

Things Sent to Other Collections

I’m now up to 1935 in the letters and have found a few more things to add to the list of objects that Mary contributed to other collections.

She gave a patchwork to Salford and the Mesmer discs (anyone know what these were?) to Liverpool, Jan 23rd 1930.

In a letter dated 7th July, 1930, there is mention of a tobacco box being sent to Fletcher Moss Museum. Probably long since defunct or is it?  Apparently she “turned Mr Sabin (curator, Bethnal Green) away with a taxi nearly full of things…”, in Feb 1930.

Amazingly she also sent some things out to New Zealand (letter, 14th Oct 1931).  She writes

“- just lately we have been sending out pictures and many objects of the past to New Zealand for a museum at Timaru”.

No mention of who or how she is connected to that particular museum, but I wonder what we could find out. Batho’s response is lovely

“How splendid of you after doing all you have for galleries in the old world that you should now tackle galleries in the new world.”

In 1932 (July, 3rd) Mary mentions a small box of things for a Mr Gilbert Williams, curator at Stockport (museum or Art Gallery?).  He is mentioned again in 1933 along with Mr Maltby, curator at Salford. So more things sent then. And in a letter dated 8th July, 1934 there is a list of more things for Stockport including an “Egg boiler with ivory or bone uprights, The Pedlar Lady, small number of kitchen toys, 1 doll (1900 cent) and a travelling ink well” (ooh Hazel an ink well that travelled – where did it go?!).

She also gave more things to the Manchester Museum, two earthenware jars (Cypriot) and a dish (Egyptian) and an Ushabti (whatever that is) in July 8th, 1932.

We already know that Mary gave lots of things to “her Westmill Museum”.  The letters show that there was a catalogue for the Westmill collection ‘The History of Westmill’ by Guy Ewing.  Mary sent a number of these catalogues to Manchester and at least 24 were placed in Manchester branch libraries (including Stretford, Eccles, Walkden and Davyhulme). One was even sent to Cyril Fox, Director of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff!  It would be fascinating to track one of these down, if they still exist, to see what was included.  We might come across some old friends!  Sharon

Caroline’s Dance Card

Sharon asked me to find out more about Mary’s sister’s dance card, which was from a place called Greenbanks and dated September 19th 1847. There were a few names on the card including Mr. P. Rathbone and Mr. Shelley.Dance carddance card open

With the Rathbone link I found out that Greenbank’s is a house in Liverpool that was owned by another notorious  family the Rathbones, who are still known today for their philanthropist ideas.  Originally Greenbanks was their summer home but eventually it became their permanent address and was prominent for parties and functions and people would attend to ‘be seen’ and promote some philanthopic opinion or scheme.

The family home of the Rathbone's

Greenbank House

The first son always seemed to be called William (of course!) and it would have been William Rathbone V’s residence when Caroline attended a dance there. Interestingly William was married to Elizabeth Greg of Styal (daughter of Samuel and Hannah Lightbody) in 1812 so perhaps the Hope family had close links with the Greg’s for a long time. It is said that ‘He and his wife entertained lavishly at Greenbanks’.

William V’s son is Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895) who could well be the ‘Mr. P. Rathbone’ mentioned on the card. As for the occasion it seems like the Rathbones enjoyed entertaining and didn’t really need one! However Philip Henry’s brother William VI married Lucretia Gair in 1847 although I can’t find an exact date. Caroline might have been invited. I expect this is why Mary kept it, it must have been an exciting event in the family to attend such a renowned family’s party.

Today Greenbanks is part of the University of Liverpool, I think it might even be used as halls of residence! I’m going to email the university to see if they can tell me any more and if I can track down Mr. Shelley.


Battle of the Gregs

August 3, 2009 The Collection Comments Off on Battle of the Gregs

In the archives I also found the annual reports which state visitor figures. It seems that Mary’s collections did eventually garner more interest than her late husband’s. However the Thomas Greg room at Mosley Street was by far their most popular room in the early to mid twenties. He was overtaken by Mary’s collections at Heaton and Platt. I’ve made a spreadsheet of the figures which unfortunately won’t fit on the blog so I am emailing it around. I got a bit involved and made a few graphs too! I’ve only gone up to 1934 as the Greg room at Mosley Street was disbanded and I’m only up to 1930 in the letters so I’m not sure if Mary’s collections change location in the later years yet.

Ps. In 1932-3 over 300,000 people saw items from the Greg’s collections at Mosley Street, Heaton and Platt. The Greg name must have been prominent in Manchester for art as well as industry.


Alphabet Counters

Alphabet Counters
Lid from a box of counters, each inscribed with letters of the alphabet from the Mary Greg Collection

Lid from a box of counters, each inscribed with letters of the alphabet from the Mary Greg Collection

Whilst researching horn books I came across an article by W.S. Churchill, ‘Nuremburg Alphabetical Tokens’ in Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, (vol.20, 1902). Churchill talks about traders who worked at the mint in Nuremburg around the mid 16th century. They would make metal counters, usually out of copper or brass with each letter of the alphabet on them, and they were generally one inch in diameter. Some counters had biblical characters, or figures from Roman history on them instead of the alphabet. Although our counters are bone or ivory I thought there could be some link.

Churchill’s article was closely linked with William E.A. Axon’s ‘Horn Books and ABC’s’ from the same journal. It details that hornbooks would also include prayers. The Pater Noster, Ave Maria and the Crede. Juliet O’ Conor also writes about the hornbook noting that they were an item that all strands of society had access to. In its basic form it was an educational aid to poorer children and in its most extravagant the horn book could be made of ivory or silver and become a family heirloom.

‘There are anecdotal references to the use of horn-books made of gingerbread, which meant that a reward for children mastering their letters was readily at hand’

I particularly like this idea!



July 28, 2009 The Collection 3 Comments

We had another day doing object photography today. Ben’s pictures are amazing – even the tiniest of objects can be blown up so that all the intricate details invisible to the naked eye become significant. Colours and torn edges on books, fine engraving on pin ends, patterns seeping through paper…

The image “http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3580/3766021367_304656ba6e.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

One highlight of the day for me was re-finding the solander boxes full of miniature books.  Mary amassed lots of children’s books – tiny ones, nursery rhymes with beautiful lino block miniature prints to illustrate, Biblical ones, and books of religious and moral instruction for children, tiny almanacs and diaries of Saints’ Days that are smaller than my thumb.  I first saw them when I started work at the gallery about two years ago, but haven’t seen them since: I’ll definitely be going back for another peek.

Horn Books

July 24, 2009 The Collection Comments Off on Horn Books

I was interested in the Horn Books that Mary collected so many of and looked up one of the books she gave to the gallery in Aug 1925; History of Horn Books by Tuer. Here is a picture from the book. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the text and learn more about it.  Melanie

young girl holding a hornbook

Miss Campion holding a hornbook, 1661, from Tuer's History of Horn Books


July 10, 2009 The Collection 3 Comments
From Mary Gregs Bygones Collection.

From Mary Gregs Bygones Collection.

Pin wheel from Mary Greg’s Chatelaine

Curatorial anxiety – as promised

July 9, 2009 The Collection 4 Comments

Hmm. On the subject of Crompton’s cotton threads and their changing status. One minute they’re the first threads from the mule, a truly momentous find, and we’re speechless with discovery. Then the dates prove impossible and they’re still fab, still curious, but we’re slightly disappointed that they’re probably not what we thought they were. Then, hang on a minute, a curator from another museum provides a bit of information and we’re back on – they COULD be the real thing. I really want them to be, I’ll believe it to be true. A curator said so. Well, he didn’t actually, he just gave me a bit of info about Crompton’s grandson. The weight of curatorial responsibility. The source of curatorial anxiety. If I say it is so, then it is so. Museums tell the truth.

Photographs on flickr

July 1, 2009 The Collection 1 Comment

Have a look on Flickr! I think Martin’s been uploading. Lovely lovely pics by Ben. For gorgeous surface detail look at this, especially the curve of the bowl, it’s breathtaking. Sharon, why aren’t you blogging!