Coming Home…….”Miss Moody’s Doorstop”

BARITE (BARYTE) – Aggregate of white-pink (iron stained) tabular barite crystals, “cockscomb” habit with small transparent nail-head calcite crystals on massive barite.

Miss Moody's Doorstop

 The best form of this mineral in the Museum’s Geology collectionRosemary Roden

Miss Catherine Moody was a well known Worcestershire artist and a member of the Malvern Circle of Artists. She was the daughter of Victor Hulme Moody who was a founding member of Malvern Art College. On her father’s death, Miss Moody became the College’s Principle. Sadly, Miss Moody passed away in 2010. Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum has two of her works in the fine art collection.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Moody in her home in Sling Lane, Malvern and visited her on many occasions afterwards.  During one of these visits I interviewed her and recorded her memories of the local art world and her recollections of Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery.  Her memories of exhibitions at the gallery were incredible given fine details of works that were hung as far back as the early 1950’s.  Asking her what she remembered about the museum she told me to go to her front door and look at her doorstop.  I picked it up and examined it and thought it may have been barite, which later, our Geology curator Rosemary Roden confirmed.  I asked where did you get such a nice piece from, she replied Mr Smith the curator had given it to her.  It appears that Miss Moody had taken her students into the Museum to see the display of crystal formation in the Geology gallery (Gallery IV at the time) and Smith had given it to her so that she could use it for the students to draw back at the Art College in Malvern.  When she said Smith had given her the mineral she actually meant loaned the mineral as it would have been naughty to have given away such a gem from the City’s collection!!!

It was very easy to date when this “transaction” had taken place as Vincent Smith was only here a short while in 1949/50. 

It was very sad to read that Miss Moody had passed away earlier this year and the entire contents of her home were up for sale.  Serrells Auctioneers were asked to conduct the sale and we received their catalogue but Miss Moody’s doorstop was not listed.  I rang the sale room to see if it was one of the items that would be described on the day of the sale.  They thought not but asked me along to have a look myself.  The following day I visited the sale room and looked through all the lots but alas it was not there.  I saw Mr Serrell and spoke with him and told him of the article and he kindly introduced me to Miss Moody’s solicitor.  I told him the whole story about the doorstop and how I had assumed that if it was not in the sale it had most likely been lost, stolen or put on the garden rockery.  He asked “would you recognise the piece if you saw it again?” I said yes and without hesitation he said jump in the car and we will go to the house and have a look.  I walked up the path to the front door and it was still there where it had been for many years.

The following day I took the specimen back to the Museum where it had not been for over 60 years and gave it a good clean, all these years outside had given it a green coat but it cleaned up well and was ready for Rosemary to inspect and identify. She confirmed it was barite and comparing it with the specimens we have it had many similarities with ones that had been found in Malvern – is this one from Malvern?  We may never know ……………

This blog was written by Garston D Phillips who curates the Natural Science collections at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum. He can be contacted at museumcollections@worcestershire.gov.uk

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