Mary and the Guild of St George

Mary’s connection with the Guild of St George was revealed on our visit to Sheffield to see her nature diaries which are held in the Ruskin Collection.  Apparently Mary introduced herself to the Guild in the early 1930’s (the first letter from her to the Guild held in the Sheffield archive is dated 1935) keen […]

The Herkomer Drawing

Just as Melanie told me she had unearthed a Herkomer drawing of Mary in the archive I came across a reference to it in the letters.  On Sept 11th, 1941 Mary writes about more things she is sending to the Art Gallery including …”a portrait in pencil – or chalk – of myself by H. […]

Alphabet Counters

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 […]


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 […]

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Table Runner 2

November 5, 2010 Artist Responses, The Letters Comments Off on Table Runner 2

This project has been my main focus recently as my collaboration with weaver Ismini Samanidou intensifies!  Recent developments include some further refinements to the clay palette based on the initial woven samples made by Ismini on the jacquard loom.  I particularly liked the section woven from digital images of some of the spoons in the collection and have been working the clay to try and capture these characteristics.

Bygones spoon, worn and distorted through endless stirring

Bygones spoon with the initials of an unknown family

Cloth samples being woven on the jacquard loom

Detail of Bygones spoon woven into cloth

Translating the woven cloth back into clay

Exploring overlays of stained clay

clay colour sample responding to woven cloth

We have also been playing with ways in which text from the archive letters may be brought in to the composition.  In one of the letters there is a handwritten inventory of spoons sent by Mary to the collection.  We have been playing around with somehow combining this alongside images of spoons from the collection into the cloth.

Digitally overlaying the spoon inventory over the spoon

spoon inventory on computer screen as part of the designing and weaving process

woven spoon inventory

It’s all looking very promising but there are still a number of refinements to be made.  We are still trying to achieve greater subtlety and richness.  The cloth samples to date are still a bit too graphic visually. We want to work on that and move toward a more abstract outcome, at least in parts.  Physically the cloth is a little too thin and mean so we want to explore further combinations of yarns to yield a thicker fabric with a richer texture.  We also want to warm up the colour palette a touch and perhaps introduce some creams, golds to reflect the colour palette of the range of metal spoons such as pewter and brass.  So still plenty to do but all very exciting!  Sharon

Rosemary Snead – Student Response

November 5, 2010 Student Projects 2 Comments

Curious blackened bone with metal loop insert and twisted wire in the Bygones collection

Definitely uncanny, maybe grotesque. A bit wanting, how they were at the front of the drawer like that. Driven by some lonely bones, a peripheral fluke in the Mary Greg collection. Bones without a body separated from their beginnings with no story to tell. My work says ‘come close, go away’…all at once and demonstrates that the ugly and the beautiful are both worthy of being seen.

‘Propa Butchers’ of Bilton Grange supplied me with a selection of bones to play with. The cleaning of these bones was a very time consuming and obnoxious process; I do not have the words to describe the smell. The bones made a protest like squeal as they boiled in ugly water yet they became almost pretty as they dried out.

All bones, to me have a distinct element of dichotomy. The idea of a person wearing a cow’s foot on their hand or a chicken’s vertebrae on their blouse…a home for a bone, no longer lonely.

Chicken bones after boiling

Chicken bone pin

preparing cow bones to make into rings

Drawing of chicken vertebrae

early idea combining bone and yarn

Further developments in bone, yarn and fishing hooks

Joe Hartley – Student Response

November 4, 2010 Student Projects Comments Off on Joe Hartley – Student Response
Bygones box containing puzzle with a missing piece rplaced by a bit of blue card

Bygones box containing puzzle with a missing piece replaced by a bit of blue card

Currently showing in the Object Memories showcase in the Craft and Design Gallery at Manchester Art Gallery (until November 29th) is MMU 3D Design student Joe Hartley’s response to the Bygones collection.  He writes: –

When I first visited the Mary Greg collection I was instantly drawn towards the slide lid domino style boxes, one of the reasons for this was because my own pencil case, an old domino box that I had with me at the time looked just like it and could easily have belonged in the collection.

I especially liked one box with a wooden puzzle in it. A piece of the puzzle had been lost and someone had replaced it with a piece of blue card.

I instantly began exploring different ways of making boxes using whatever materials I could get my hands on like pine fruit crates and mahogany pulled from a skip, one box was even ceramic. Through making many boxes I came across a way of using finger joints to make a box that could be dismantled and rebuilt in different ways, a bit like a puzzle.

The final box, which deconstructs and stacks into another box, has an oak base with side pieces made from cherry, ash, mahogany and reclaimed plywood, it has a blue Perspex lid that’s supposed to reference the Bygones box with the blue piece of card.

My pencil box

Some of my early boxes

My version of a puzzle box - individual boxes that can be put together in different ways

Puzzle box within a box

Liz Milner – Student Response

November 4, 2010 Student Projects Comments Off on Liz Milner – Student Response

The initial objects of inspiration from the Mary Greg collection were the doll’s house items within the Craft and Design Gallery. These inspired me as they are objects that have transcended hundreds of years, and maintained their relevance as toys and collectors items in their own right. I developed this idea by exploring the potential narrative of these miniaturized objects, and how the viewer interacts with handmade pieces on a small scale. The aesthetic is developed as found and made objects are forced to interact. Traditional needlework skills and Victorian imagery are re-contextualised as I apply them to my ecological concept of miniature textiles. Digital print and hand embroidery on a small-scale give rich detail and a sense of preciousness, evoking the delicate tactility and intimacy relating to the handling of the collection.

Platt Hall Visit October 2010

Discovered patchwork pieces October 2010

Patchwork Pieces from Mary Greg's collection

I visited Platt Hall last Tuesday and Wednesday with 23 Interactive Arts students, split into 4 groups. They all has “Access all areas” for half a day and we saw the East and West wing storage areas, the amazing attic and the OPUA (objects of personal use and adornement) room. Everytime I visit Platt Hall I discover something else that amazes me, and I wasn’t disappointed this time. Checking the list of what is in the collection it can be hard to know what you might get from the brief description….”patchwork pieces” sounded intrigueing, so Rosie kindly found them out. They are wonderful, each one has a little snippet of a letter. pieces of envelopes with dates  and addresses. Is this a project started by Mary Greg herself? Some of the writing looks similar to hers.  I also found some other objects that I hadn’t seen before, some needle cases and a straw spiltter.

I am meeting the students next Thursday, when they will present their initial ideas.


Platt Hall Project

October 10, 2010 Student Projects Comments Off on Platt Hall Project

I went to Platt Hall on Thursday with Liz to meet Adam and Rosie and make some plans for a project with the Interactive Arts students. The students will be asked to develop ideas that we hope to use in September 2012, a celebration of Mary Greg and her bygone collection. The gallery is a wonderful building and has many unusual and  interesting spaces to use and explore. more photos soon…We also found a few dresses donated by Mary Greg,  two of which look like they could have been worn by her. I am introducing the project tomorrow.

Photo of an Unknown Lady

September 23, 2010 Artist Responses 2 Comments

I have spent most of the summer away and have rather neglected the Mary Greg project. But to my credit I have always  had it  at the back of my mind. I found this photo on a market stall in Rozelles, Sydney Australia. It was actually taken by P.L.Reid Photographic Artist, London Portrait Gallery, St John Street, Launceston. I imagine it was posted to the lady’s relatives overseas. The reason I chose it is the chain she is wearing which has an object hanging from it..I have since found a number of similar photographs with ladies wearing chains with attachments…I am hoping they are a mini chatelaines..a little useful tool close by and ready to use. I can see some are decorative, but this one looks more solid.

I am still working on the chatelaine of useless (or nearly useless) tools.


Doll face

August 31, 2010 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Just discovered this new exhibition at Bethnal Green. I wonder if the photographer, Craig Deane, might be interested in coming to look at Mary’s dolls?  We certainly saw some amazing ones at Platt, and many that have presumably been asleep in their cardboard boxes for years that we still haven’t woken up yet…


Quarry Bank Mill, Styal

August 27, 2010 People and places Comments Off on Quarry Bank Mill, Styal

Alex and I went on a little jaunt to Quarry Bank Mill in Styal last week (19th Aug.), it being the place where the Gregs made their fortune in producing and trading cotton. We entered the mill with the main aim of seeing the ‘Greg Room’ (of course, we got distracted by all the other exhibits and it took us an age to even reach that room!), and who should be our guides but Thomas and Mary!

our guides, Thomas & Mary

Ok, so it wasn’t our Thomas and Mary, but still a nice coincidence!

It was a really educational trip and we found out loads about the Greg family (and about cotton!) From what the costumed interpreter told us it seems Samuel Greg was quite a nice master and treated his workers well (i.e. he never beat them), but while that’s good to know, how much of it is actually true we will never know!

We also discovered some living family members. At least, we assume they are living, since they loaned some portraits for display in the Greg Room. Are we going to track them down? Yes, I think so!


Studio Magazine

August 13, 2010 The Letters, Uncategorized Comments Off on Studio Magazine

I was having a flick through the letters and came across this:

“I am in receipt of a letter from Mr. C. G. Holme of the Studio who informs me that the Special Winter Number is to be devoted to ‘Children’s Toys of Yesterday’, and that in course of search for illustrations he wrote to you and you told him that part of your collection was given to Manchester and suggested that he should apply to me for the loan of some photographs made at the time of presentation”.  (from Mary to William Batho, 16th June 1932).

…and then after lots of faffing over quality of photographs…

“We have received from The Studio their very fine book on ‘Children’s Toys of Yesterday’… It is a wonderful production and my Committee are greatly interested in it. The reproductions are very fine, and your examples hold their own and should help to draw attention of the outside public to the collection at Heaton Hall”. (from William Batho to Mary, 12th December 1932).

Intrigued, I had a little dig around and found a copy of this edition of The Studio (winter 1932) for sale! here:

Any takers?


Want to get involved?

Mary's Hospital Ark

If you are a maker - in whatever discipline - and are interested in contributing to the project through your creative practice, then we'd love to hear from you. Please contact Liz Mitchell: Email:


  • Liz Mitchell: No, Laura has been through the archives and there is nothing...
  • Alex Woodall: Wow - this is so exciting - must go and see this exhibition ...
  • Margery L Brown: I am a direct descendant of Samuel Hope and would like to co...
  • Anthony J B Hope: Hello, re post by Joan Borrowscale regarding connection betw...
  • Alex Woodall: I like these very much! Can you use them to actually do the...