Home » The Letters » Recent Articles:

Escaping to the seaside.

August 13, 2009 The Letters Comments Off on Escaping to the seaside.

I like the fact that much like in Eastenders where everyone goes to either Manchester or Spain. In Mary Greg’s world everyone goes to Colwyn Bay for a quick recovery or rejeuvenation!


William’s Obituary

I spent today in the archives looking through newspapers and reports and I came across several obituaries for William Batho…

He entered the department in 1897 as a junior, being one of a staff of eight; in 1914 he was made assistant curator, and in 1928 deputy curator over a staff of 58. Mr Batho never professed a deep knowledge of art…  “He was gifted with tact and common sense… It would be difficult to meet a more kindly, courteous and painstaking man. He would always listen patiently to grievances.”

The Guardian, ‘Death of Mr. W. Batho’, 3.9.1937


Perhaps his greatest work for the Manchester Art Galleries was the making of arrangements for the safe transportation of very valuable loan collections which came to the city from time to time.

Manchester Evening News, ‘He Guarded Art for 40 Years’ 2.9.1937

Poor William, he was in his 64th year. He was certainly patient with Mary’s grievances.

Although William was highly praised by the gallery it seems Mary was less celebrated when she died in 1949. Other than the small obituary in the Times we already know of, I found no cuttings in the archive for her whatsoever, I was quite annoyed as I flicked through the pages and other benefactors were mentioned, poor Mary. Its a sure sign I’ve become too involved with the project!


Some Wise Words

July 23, 2009 The Letters 1 Comment

‘We owe it to those who have preceded us and have left us those specimens of their painstaking and beautiful work and to those who will come after us to do likewise, to treasure good work and produce something into which we have put our best, our love, our intelligence, our power.’

Mary Greg, Preface to Catalogue, October 1922 

I like the poignancy of Mary’s words and I suspect that many museum professionals had this sort of ideal in mind when they decided they wanted to work in museums.



Mary Greg letters

Mary Greg letters

I’ve been thinking a lot about value. It’s a common thread of discussion every time we meet. The value of the collection to Mary and the lack of value (or perceived lack of value) the collection has within the Art Gallery currently. I wondered if this was always the case. The letters certainly reveal that the collection was held in greater esteem in the 1920’s. It was considered worthy enough to house a permanent display at Heaton Hall. Bathos writes (9th Oct 1924)

“….your collection at Heaton Hall is still attracting thousands weekly. Up to date this year over 154,000 visitors have passed through the turnstiles.”

And again in 1925 (Aug 17th)

“…123,208 visitors to your exhibition of dolls at Heaton Hall this year.”

There was even a Royal visitor in May 1927!

“.. Princess Mary appreciated all that was shown her”.

Interestingly in June 1927 Bathos informs Mary that Heaton Hall had 16,000 visitors over Whitsun compared to the 14,000 at the City Art Gallery. 1-0 Mary!

If value were to be judged by visitor figures alone then this collection was significant. I also think there must be some value in further research into the visitor demographic and exhibition content held at different sites. Did one appeal more to the masses and why? Are there any other historic, statistical records held at the Gallery? When and why was the collection taken off display at Heaton Hall? Is that when it went into storage?



July 9, 2009 The Letters 2 Comments

I have now carefully read twelve years of correspondence between Mrs. Greg and Manchester City Art Gallery staff and I have enjoyed the formal and polite language that they use. It is so much of its day, and you can tell instantly from the phrasing, as well as the layout and typography that these letters could not possibly have been written now… This extends to what they call each other. It is never Mary, or William – but always Mrs. Greg and Mr. Batho. She even signs herself M.Greg, never Mary…

Maybe we should rename the site!?

Bits of string, continued…

June 30, 2009 featured, The Letters 1 Comment
Bits of string, continued…

I have just found out that Samuel Crompton had a grandson who lived in Manchester, who was in correspondence with his grandfather’s most influential biographer. So it’s just possible our bits of string could be genuine! Am in touch with curators at Bolton Museum to pursue further… who was the lady from Lancashire?


June 24, 2009 The Letters 2 Comments

When I was photocopying yesterday, another piece I found was a typed essay about platypuses (or should that be platypi?) following on from the letter below… Perhaps there is more delving to be done to find out why Mary liked these funny little creatures! I didn’t have chance to read the actual essay but once it is photographed and transcribed we can have a look.
Incidentally, I had a meeting yesterday with people here to talk about how we catalogue the letters. I think we’re going to accession the whole lot as one collection, and then within that, list each individual document/letter on our content management system, KE EMu. This will mean that they are all accessible to the public and there should be a way of linking them to the blog. We are very lucky to be having a student on placement here over the summer – Melanie Williamson from Leicester University to help us do this and enable everyone to read this fascinating correspondence.

I have pleasure in sending you herewith the Platypus

June 19, 2009 The Letters 1 Comment

I only photographed a few letters..and that was one of them..
It must have been an unusual letter to open.


June 18, 2009 The Letters 1 Comment

Dear Sir William Boyd Dawkins

I have pleasure in sending you herewith the Platypus, from Mrs Greg, which you so kindly promised to hand over [to] the proper authorities in the Manchester Museum.

With all good wishes for 1923

Believe me,
Yours sincerely

Assistant Curator


June 18, 2009 The Letters Comments Off on Lists