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Mary The Second

I was wondering why there has been some confusion over Mary’s birth date.  I know in my own research I have come across reference to her birth date being in both 1849 and in 1850.  This has puzzled me, so I revisited and cross referenced the various versions we have of her family tree.  I noticed on one that there are two Mary’s marked, one born in 1849 and another born in 1850.  There were two Mary Hope Greg’s!  The first Mary Hope Greg died before the age of one, our Mary Hope Greg being born the following year. I have added my working document of Mary’s family tree so you can see my notes so far on her genealogy (I’ll draw up a better version and repost when I can).

Hope Family Tree (draft)

How tragic for her parents. Even though infant mortality rates were much higher then and the loss of a child more commonplace, it must still have been a terrible event for the family (you’ll see from the family tree that there are other infant deaths in both the preceding and following generations). How curious that they should give their next daughter the same name.  Was this a common occurrence in those days?  And, I wonder if our Mary knew about her namesake.  How did it feel for her to be named after a deceased sibling? Was this naming in remembrance and commemoration or mourning and loss?  Any genealogists out there with any knowledge of these matters?  Sharon

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

The Lead Cross and Other Stories

November 12, 2009 Hidden Stories Comments Off on The Lead Cross and Other Stories
Lead Cross made during the time of the plague

Lead Cross made during the time of the plague

This object has stayed with me from the very first visit we made to the collection.  It is a lead cross with a handwritten label which says

‘Rough lead cross. Made during the time of the Black Death, 1349, when owing to the rapid deaths there was not time to make crucifixes’

In the dingy light of the stores the cross itself appeared much darker, almost black, and I was struck by its soft, graphic quality set against the flat regularity of the card. A black cross acting not only as a symbol of belief but also death. I think I want to explore this further.

Interestingly, when I was reading the letters I came across a reference to this very object.

Written by Mary to Batho and dated 1st August 1922, she writes

….the lead cross, which I believe was of the time of the Black Death – 1349, not the plague in 1667.  I find a number of enthusiasts came to England from Hungary during the progress of the Black Death and passed through the country lashing themselves till the blood ran down their shoulders in order that the plague might be stayed – these people were called flagellants….

archive letter detailing the story of the lead cross

archive letter detailing the story of the lead cross

She goes on to talk about displaying the lead cross next to a flagellette also in the collection and placing a label alongside both to convey the story.  Mary very much liked the stories attached to objects and in some cases it may have been the story that led to her acquiring the object.  Such as Henry the Eighths spur!

In itself this is a curious addition to her collection (more often that not Mary collected a number of the same thing and there is only the one spur) and it stands out as an oddity.  I think she was seduced by the romance of the story of the spur , it’s royal connection and historical significance, rather than by the object itself.  Perhaps there is a hidden thread through the Bygones where the story is the reason for the objects acquisition.

Of course nobody really knows if the stories are true.  Was that really why the lead cross was made?  Is the spur authentic?  What evidence is there?  Has either object ever been carbon dated to ascertain the true dates?  Does it really matter?  Is an object’s value only intrinsic, academic, artistic?  Are meaning and narrative not just as important?  Who decides where value is placed?  If value is the result of context and knowledge, as time shifts does also the value of the object?

Henry the Eighth's spur

the spur

Are museums holding on to things that are no longer of any value?  How do we judge?  And what if we dispose of things today because of  a perceived lack of value and tomorrow reveals new found knowledge or cultural shifts that mean we have gotten rid of irreplaceable treasures?  The modern curator carries a significant responsibility.  But that’s another story! Sharon

William Ruskin Butterfield

October 28, 2009 Hidden Stories 3 Comments

You might remember Mr. W. R. Butterfield, a curator from Hastings museum who writes to thank Mr. Batho for recommending that Mrs. Greg send her staff of office with the arms of Hastings to them. It seems that he too like many of the other museum professionals of the time was an interesting character.

Piltdown Man

Piltdown Man

He was involved in the Piltdown Man Forgery Case, which was perhaps the most famous paleontological hoax in history. The find consisted of fragments of skull and jawbone in the village of Piltdown in Sussex in 1912. It was the ‘discovery’ of Charles Dawson a collector, archaeologist and co-founder of the Hastings and St Leonards Museum Association. The fragments were considered to be remnants of early man and a vital missing link between humans and apes. However, in 1953 the remains were deemed to be a forgery as they discovered it was the jaw bone of an orangutang combined with the skull of a modern human.

Paleontologists had doubts from the beginning and tests concluded it to be a forgery yet most of the scientific community did not acknowledge it for over 30 years. The forger has never been revealed however, Wiliam Ruskin Butterfield is one of the suspects!