Home » The Letters » Recent Articles:

Up to Our Eyes in it. (Snippet No.6)

June 29, 2010 Gallery, The Letters Comments Off on Up to Our Eyes in it. (Snippet No.6)

Reading through the letters brings up many interesting topics..but I can’t resist adding this to the blog even though it is rather childish, it made me laugh..and that is good enough reason at the moment.

From a letter to Mrs Greg from the Assistant curator 31st July 1923…..

“…Secondly, we have been compelled by the authorities to have the drains of this institution relaid so we are up to our eyes in it and will be until about the middle of August.”


“Moths in the Lumber Room” (Snippet No.5)

June 25, 2010 The Letters 1 Comment

Envelope addressed to Mr Batho Esq

Letter to Mr Batho from Mary Greg, June 4th 1924, talking about some dresses she wishes to donate to the Gallery…

“I want to get them sent off but not to lie in boxes in some lumber room where the moths may destroy them.”

The reply , on the 6th July 1924, is from the Assistant Curator ,who like the curators today, clearly takes great pride in looking after their collections and replies with..

“We will see to it that they will not be placed in any lumber room and you must never for one moment think we allow moths amongst our exhibits. Anything liable is examined often and kept clean.”

You can almost sense the horror in their voice that anyone would think they have moths and that  exhibits might be  stored in a lumber room.


Snippets from the Letters No.4 (Childhood Joys)

June 23, 2010 The Letters Comments Off on Snippets from the Letters No.4 (Childhood Joys)

Spellicans found on Frodsham boot sale, similar to ones in the Bygones Collection.

June 4th 1924 . Letter from Mary Greg to Mr Batho

“I am getting old!  but never I hope too old to be interested in the things that can interest others”

I love Mary Greg’s view of life, she stayed interested in things up until the end. She seems to have a particular need to provide objects that children will enjoy in the museum displays.


Snippet from letters (No.3)

June 6, 2010 Correspondence, The Letters Comments Off on Snippet from letters (No.3)

Wills cigarette card 1934

Letter from Mr Batho to Mrs Greg. Dated 3rd September 1935.

Mr Batho and his wife went to visit Mary at Westmill, and it seems the driver got rather confused and they spent a while lost, Mr Batho shows how kind and easy going he was by his response to this event:-

…Believe me we did not feel it a waste of time through the driver making the mistakes he did. My experience is that mistakes of this kind take you into lanes which you would never of seen. It was most interesting on both outward and inward journey…

I have felt a bit like that with this project..we have gone down lanes we might never of seen..and the journey is most enjoyable.


Mary The Maker

June 4, 2010 Mary Greg, The Letters Comments Off on Mary The Maker

As well as being a passionate collector, Mary was also passionate about making things (including drawings as her nature diaries reveal).  This she saw as a way of making a noble contribution to education and learning.  There are numerous references throughout the letters of her making activity and a number of objects made by her hand are evidenced in the collection.  Many of these came to light through information contained in the letters (further proof of how valuable these letters have been to our understanding of Mary and her bygones).  On November 6th, 1934 in her letter to William Batho she mentions a firescreen

….with embroidery which I worked on one side and a sampler on the other…

After reading of this in the letters we searched for the firescreen in the collection.  And there it is, sitting on a shelf wrapped in bubble wrap. Peeking beneath the plastic, we could just make out her embroidered initials making claim to her handiwork!  For a moment it was as if Mary was there in the room with us!  The real value of the hand crafted object is that it stands just one degree separation from it’s maker.

Further proof of her making activity is shown in a letter dated April 27th, 1925 she writes

….then there are three shops!  Which I am responsible for and which with help from 2 or 3 have been very much my work during the dark, dull days

She would readily involve others in the making of things too!

Mrs Greg…is getting on with the furniture of the dolls house and the bed in particular.  She wanted to know if you could get four tops made for the posts of the bed like the one I am sending.

She was particularly keen that her collection would inspire others to make things.  In a letter dated May 3rd, 1934 she writes

I should like to think that some of those who enjoy the models would make things which in the future would be equally interesting, while at the same time would give them happy enjoyment and work!  This applies to the women too!

How delighted she would be at the emerging and growing number of artist responses to her collection today.  These contemporary responses provide not only new interpretation and meaning for this historic collection but at the same time contribute a new collection of objects for future generations to interpret and respond to.  Sharon

Snippets From Mary’s letters (No.2)

Badge and packaging from 1937 Coronation

Object from 1937 "Litbadge"

Reading through a few more of the letters from 1936 and 1937, and there is a strong emphasis on both Mary and Mr Batho’s health (Mr Batho sadly died in 1937). Mary was in her eighties.

November 23rd 1936 to Mr Batho, giving him advice on his sick wife…

How I wish all invalids could throw off all doctors and try the simplest way of eating!! You will perhaps have heard of the wonderful new discovery by an American doctor Hay by name – he says we eat wrong mixtures and though we may still eat the same food to a certain extent – we must not mix them – The results are wonderful he explains all in a small book called BUILDING BETTER BODIES price 5/- ……………..you would be surprised and pleased if you saw the difference it has made here where I and Miss James are trying it we are both years younger!

It can’t have done her any harm…she lived until 1949.

Another letter to Mr Batho from Mary Greg written on June 14th 1937, also shows her approach to doctors (again talking about Mr Batho’s wifes illness)

But I hope that the new doctor may find out how to help her – medicines so often do harm -unless the wonderful wise ones given by the homeopath…………………………..they have saved my life many times and kept me jogging along all these 87 years.


Mary’s Eye

June 3, 2010 Mary Greg, The Letters Comments Off on Mary’s Eye

From reading Mary’s letters to the Art Gallery in the archive I knew she lost the sight in one eye in her later years.  I thought this may have been down to old age but when researching the Guild of St George link in the Sheffield Archive I came across another reference to this.  In a letter to the Guild dated 22nd November 1939, she writes

I have had a bad accident to one of my eyes from the handle of a lift door…..it had to be taken out to save the other….  I have to be thankful that I still have one good eye.

She was in her 90th year.  Her optimistic tone under such difficult circumstances is a reflection of both her physical and mental resilience and determination (nothing was ever going to beat her!) and I think helps further build the picture of her indomitable character.  At the time of writing she is living near Holcombe, Bath, I think with her niece and clerical husband (there is reference to this in a subsequent letter dated 20th June, 1945).

Mary carried on writing and latterly, dictating correspondence right to the end of her life.  Too frail to write herself, the last letter in the Art Gallery archive which bears her name (written on her behalf by Elizabeth Tranter) is dated June 26th 1949, a mere three months before her death on September 15th in the same year.  Sharon

A Snippet from Mary Greg’s letters.

May 31, 2010 Artist Responses, The Letters Comments Off on A Snippet from Mary Greg’s letters.

Lead Fishing Weight from the A1 Scrap Metal Collection

June 16th 1927

from Mary Greg to Mr Batho

I am writing in the garden and the wind blows my paper now and then so I hope you will be able to read my writing which is worse than usual

I can feel a set of letter weights for writing outdoor correspondance being produced very soon…..another object  for the chatelaine.


Missing Objects

April 15, 2010 Artist Responses, Hidden Stories, The Letters Comments Off on Missing Objects

Whilst reading the letters I came across an interesting discourse between Mary and Batho about some objects that she sent to Manchester that went astray (17th August 1925)

“Dear Mrs Greg….There are a few objects missing, as follows:- Two ivory figures: Cat and Dog, Two wooden figures: Dog and Donkey, Two ivory Ducks, Two Valentines…..I have gone carefully through the packing and fail to find them….I will have another search made of the packing material.”

There is no further mention of them ever being found.  I feel compelled to return these objects to their rightful place in the collection and have been working on a few ideas.  I thought I might take the trays of Noah’s Ark animals as a starting point and have used these as the basis for interpretation through drawing and clay.

Noah's Ark tray. Loved the spotty dog the blue boar and the zebra with the missing head!

Spotty dog

Sketchbook pages

Early clay test - Cat and Dog

Two ducks

A cat and a dog?

Two Valentines

Not sure yet whether the idea will develop into a dish or tray to reference the box, or something else entirely.  I’m still playing!  Sharon

Is this Mr Batho?

November 29, 2009 The Letters 3 Comments
Mr Batho?

Mr Batho?

Whilst we have been looking through Mary Greg’s Bygones collection in the museum store this painting has been looking down on us. There is, in the records, a note about a painting of William Batho in the same store.

We had a look around the walls and this painting seemed a possibility. It was a little too high up on the wall to see the signature but the date looked like 1926.

We have been reading Mr Batho’s letters to Mrs Greg and feel we know him a little, the thought that he may have been watching over us sent a shiver down my neck. I do hope this is him, he has a faint smile of approval, but also a look of take care of my collection or else..or am I reading too much into it?