Thomas Woodward was born in Pershore in 1801, son to a solicitor in the town. Woodward’s first exhibited picture was the portrait of a favourite horse belonging to a Mr Berry, which was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1821. On the recommendation of his friend Sir Edwin Landseer, who had a high opinion of Woodward’s work, Woodward painted many portraits of horses for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and became a celebrated animal specialist.
Of all his pictures, his battle pieces achieved the greatest fame. One of his finest is now in the Worcester City museum collection and depicts The Battle of Worcester in 1651; it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837. This painting shows the young Charles II in the midst of bloody battle, gesturing towards the Cathedral at Worcester. Although the painting doesn’t accurately describe the way the battle went, it captures the horror of hand-to-hand fighting during the Civil War, and the bravery of Charles in the face of overwhelming opposition.
The collection also includes Woodward’s sketches for this painting – more information on these made up a previous Research Worcestershire post.
Many painters famously have a muse, a model they are inspired to draw over and over again, someone often deeply entwined into their personal as well as their professional lives. Landscape painters, too, may have scenes that they turn to regularly over their career, becoming re-inspired as they interpret the view in a new way.
Birmingham-born artist David Cox (1783-1859) painted a large watercolour of Kenilworth Castle in 1806, the year after he first exhibited at the Royal Academy. This painting is now in Birmingham Museum’s collection and is critically considered his earliest important work. He went on to revisit this landscape throughout his career.
By contrast, this watercolour from the Worcester City museum collection by Cox dates to the very end of his career, just two years before his death. By 1856 his health meant he was no longer able to paint out of doors unaccompanied, but that didn’t stop him returning to the inspiration of his muse landscape. Even as he was suffering from his final bronchial illness in 1859, he still managed to send seven pictures for exhibition to the Watercolour Society.
Other watercolours of Kenilworth by David Cox are held in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Government Art Collection, and more at Birmingham Museums.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the talented Scottish sculptor William Brodie turned his hand to create this lifelike bust of Edward Evans. In 1830 Evans, along with William Hill, founded the vinegar makers Hill & Evans, who by 1903 had the largest vinegar works in the world, in Lowesmoor, Worcester.
William Brodie (1815-1887) was born in Banff in Scotland and became a prolific portrait sculptor who, thanks to the verity and technical skills shown in his works, became a member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1859. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a popular way to depict gentry, land owners, politicians and other important figures was to commission well-known sculptors to create marble, bronze and plaster busts. The Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum sculpture collection includes works by Brock, Papworth, Baily and Kirk, in addition to this bust by Brodie which is on display in the museum.
By 1851, Edward Evans was also Managing Director of the Worcester City and County Banking Company. This bust originally belonged to the Worcester Bank, along with the bust of R Padmore by Papworth and we have evidence that both pieces were loaned by the Bank for display at the Worcester Exhibition of 1882. Worcester Bank was taken over by Lloyds and they presented these busts to the gallery in 1902.
Garston D Phillips
“Day or night, gloves will always provide you with a splash of colour” Christian Dior.
For centuries, Worcester was THE centre of the British glovemaking industry. We know that its history as a leather-making town goes back to Roman times and with the arrival of the Dents glove factory in 1777, it became world famous for its wares. By the twentieth century, fashion houses were commissioning Worcester firms to make their gloves. One firm, Milore, worked with several young fabulous designers including Zandra Rhodes and Manolo Blahnik before he became more famous for his shoes beloved of celebrities.
These gloves from the Worcester City collection were made by Dents in Worcester late in the 1950s, just as the fashion for gloves changed to wrist-length rather than the longer and more formal-looking.
Christian Dior had exploded onto the fashion scene in 1947 with his feminine ‘New Look’. This collection made a sensation and rejuvenated post-war Paris. Each dress was made from a luxurious 20 metres of fabric, very different from war-time restrictions.
Dior was a shrewd entrepreneur as well as a designer. He quickly opened a ready-to-wear boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York and expanded their range so that a woman could buy every piece of clothing – including gloves – she needed just from Dior. He also trained Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent, with YSL going on to design the collection and taking it to even more radical styling after Dior’s early death in 1957.
Worcester was first represented at a national parliament in 1372 by John Atte Wode, a local landowner. At the time, parliaments were called irregularly by the King and were principally a way for the monarch to raise taxes.
Between 1386 and 1885, the City of Worcester was represented by two parliamentary members and they include many names that left their mark on the city and the country. Perhaps the greatest legacy is from John Somers, Worcester’s MP in 1689, a Worcester lawyer who was the Attorney General and the architect of the UK’s Bill of Rights which sets out the authority of the British Parliament, the freedom of the election process and the limits of the monarch’s power. This document directly influenced the wording of the American Declaration of Independence.
From the 1770s, MPs professed a political party allegiance and from this early time the Worcester voters supported Conservative, Liberal and Whig candidates. At the 1997 election, the term ‘Worcester Woman’ was created by pollsters, describing a swing voter more interested in a prospective MP’s message than their political party; Worcester residents have been voting this way for at least two centuries.
The Worcester City museum collection includes political leaflets from all parties from the mid-C19th to the modern day. These leaflet photographs from the 1983 election were published by Peter Walker who was Worcester’s MP from 1961 to 1992. Peter was followed into parliament by his son, Robin, the city’s current MP and smaller star of these pictures!
Boehm of Malvern was a company formed to manufacture fine bone china and porcelain, opened by Helen Boehm in 1971. Whilst visiting London, Helen Boehm had heard about the high quality of English porcelain and discovered the work of former workers at Royal Worcester Porcelain who had formed Cranleigh Art Ceramics.
A studio in Tanhouse Lane, Malvern was set up, amalgamating Edward Marshall Boehm of Trenton, based in New Jersey, USA, with Cranleigh Art Ceramics to form a new company which Helen would finance and manage the sales for.
Worldwide sales were quickly established, and many of the sculptures were inspired by flowers, birds and animals. Seeking inspiration for their designs, the model makers were regular visitors to Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum to study the taxidermy collection, and even borrowed specimens to take to their Malvern studio for examination.
This sculpture from the Worcester City museum collection depicts a pair of long-tailed tits perched among the spikey foliage of a gorse bush. It was originally listed as a 400 limited edition piece, but manufacturing costs were increasing and the company prizes quality over quantity, and therefore only completed 162 of these by 1976.
The tradition of carrying flags into battle dates back thousands of years, although it was the Roman army and the European wars of the Middle Ages that made rallying behind a flag part of battle strategy. The flag or colour became the command point for each regiment and the way a commanding general could identify placement on the battlefield. Battalions were trained to arrange themselves in relation to the colour and to reorganise from there when the battle became chaotic.
As battle tactics changed and the armies moved to khaki in the field, the use of colours in battle became more of a threat than a strategic advantage. The practice died out for the British Army during the Boer War and official policy changed in 1891. Other countries were still carrying flags into battle in WW1 and even WW2.
By the end of the Civil War at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, both sides were exhausted – the Parliamentarian army had reportedly jogged in their shirtsleeves to make the journey at speed – and knew that organisation and motivation on the battlefield would be essential, something that Cromwell’s New Model Army excelled at. The Royalist Scots troops used white field signs and so Cromwell ordered his army to wear nothing that was white. King Charles spent the early stages of the battle in Worcester Cathedral’s tower where he would have been watching the placement and struggle of each regimental colour across the city and the floodplain to the south.
This sketch from the Worcester City museum collection by Thomas Woodward (1801-1852) was made in preparation for his great painting The Battle of Worcester. In his finished painting, three colours fly over the churning battle. Although Victorian painters tended to romanticise the experience of war, Woodward captures the chaos it must have been at the Battle of Worcester.
This article was written by David Prince who took part in Museums Worcestershire work experience programme in 2016. He discovered a fascinating collection of invitations to events known as “smoking concerts” across Worcester in the late 19th century.
Popular especially during the Victorian period, smoking concerts were a method of entertainment for gentlemen only. They started out as only available to the higher classes of society but gradually lower classes were allowed to attend. Often musical performances, the event was suitable for men to gather and have conversations and debates, usually about politics. They would also drink, dine and smoke, listening to the newest musical forms of the era as well as take part in the entertainment themselves.
Smoking concerts were regular occasions held across Worcester. Whilst many were held at local inns, hotels were also where the event could take place, such as the Lansdowne Hotel in Lowesmoor. Both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh favoured these events at the time.
There were numerous types of smoking concert too, mainly depending on social status. Private aristocratic societies as well as smoking concerts for the armed forces provided entertainment.
If you have enjoyed finding out more about our collections in storage and our curatorial expertise, you may be interested in booking onto some of our behind-the-scenes events. These take place at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum and at the Museums Worcestershire Collections Centre. The full listing for 2017 can be found here.
The first talk, taking place on 7 February at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, will be a highlight of the year as Garston Phillips, curator since 1969 and a mine of knowledge, shares some of his best stories.
Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum is also the site for our series of lunchtime talks about the collection, which take place on the second Tuesday of each month (except January). A pdf download (400kb) of 2017 bite-sized talks can be found here.
We hope you will be able to join us to discover more about the work we do!