Mary J Newill (1860-1947), Bromsgrove Guild Designer

Design for Garden of Adonis from Spencers Fairie Queen Bromsgrove GuildMary Jane Newill (who signed her work Mary J. Newill) studied at Birmingham School of Art. She went on to teach needlework there between 1892 and 1919, with a brief period at the turn of the century spent in Florence studying tempera painting.

She worked as a painter, illustrator, embroiderer and stained glass designer. By 1906 Newill had her own studio in Great Western Buildings, Livery Street in Birmingham. She was a member of the Birmingham Group, the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and a designer for the Bromsgrove Guild.

Most of Newill’s work was commissioned and purchased for domestic homes and so little is held in public collections. Two examples of her work that can be publicly seen are a stained glass window in the lady chapel of St. Mary and St. Ambrose Church in Edgbaston (1906), and one in the north side of the nave of Wrockwardine Church in Shropshire.

Worcestershire County museum collection includes this beautiful hanging, The Garden of Adonis, which was commissioned for the architect E Butler’s home in Sutton Coldfield. It pictures a scene from Spenser’s Faerie Queene and it hung below a painted frieze from Ivanhoe by Fred Davis.

Crouch and Butler

Garden of Adonis embroidery by Mary Newill Dining Room Mr Butler Sutton ColdfieldCrouch and Butler were a firm of architects based in Birmingham and both partners built themselves fabulous Elizabethan-revival Arts and Crafts houses full of decorative commissions. Birmingham was a fertile place for the Arts and Crafts movement of design, with many of the most famous proponents of the style such as William Morris, John Ruskin and Edward Burne-Jones having a Birmingham link.

Crouch and Butler had a close relationship with the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts which was formed in 1898 by Walter Gilbert. They designed the original Guild premises on Station Street in Bromsgrove and many of the Guild’s early commissions came through the two architects who were clearly passionate about the Guild member’s work.

The Pitman Chambers building on Corporation Street, Birmingham is one of the few remaining Crouch and Butler buildings where the love for Arts and Crafts decoration can be clearly seen. Just above the shop windows runs a terracotta frieze designed by Benjamin Creswick. Creswick taught modelling at the Birmingham School of Art and was mentor to many of the Bromsgrove Guild founders, including Walter Gilbert.

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