Starting in the summer this project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been exploring Gawthorpe Hall through oral history, photography and the creative arts, in a project we’re calling Portraits of the Past.
Gawthorpe Hall is much loved by the Padiham and Burnley community who surround it. The historic property also currently hosts Catherine Bertola’s contribution to our Contemporary Heritage series, entitled Flicker. We asked for people to share their photographs of Gawthorpe to develop an online archive, and to let us record their memories of time spent there to create oral histories that will be stored at the North West Sound Archive. The project is ongoing with schools’ work starting later in the autumn but we had some fabulous days in August and September that we’d like to tell you about.
In August we had two days of family friendly activities on the lawn outside the Gawthorpe Hall entrance. On both occasions we were joined by David and Andrew from the sound archive who eagerly recorded visitors to the event. We were also pleased to have members of Padiham & District Photographic Society with us, who introduced visitors to their work as well as some fantastic antique cameras kindly loaned by the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.
To encourage the budding photographers of tomorrow (and their parents), on the 21st artist Cath Ford ran a workshop making miniature cameras out of scrap materials which went down a storm. All afternoon you could see children wandering around the grounds proudly wearing or pretending to take pictures with their matchbox creations. There were also photo scavenger hunts for those with a working camera or camera phone!
On the 28th artist Caroline Eccles held a mask making workshop as well as providing a huge dressing up box which young and not so young couldn’t resist, the fake moustaches were particularly popular! Once the masks and costumes were on everyone had a lot of fun posing for pictures in front of the hall. Joss joined us for the day as a volunteer and took some wonderful pictures of the action.
In September we had a wonderful day at Padiham Library and Gawthorpe Hall concentrating on collecting oral histories. Once again David and Andrew from NW Sound Archive joined us and were kept busy recording memories, new and old, of times spent at the Hall. In the morning Alison and Carole at the library organised a coffee morning and were so welcoming to us and all those who visited, we lost count of how many brews they made! They had been very busy persuading library users to visit on the day and tell us their stories. Most people were rather bashful at the idea; we heard many times that, ‘you won’t be interested in me’. But they were wrong and once Melanie and Dom had enticed them with cakes and a brew they all relaxed enough to make a recording. We were also made very welcome by Ann and Bob at the Padiham Archive which, along with the library, is part of the town hall. They are custodians of a huge number of artefacts ranging from the everyday to items of important historical significance. If you’re interested in the history of Padiham you should pay them a visit, there isn’t anything about the town that they don’t know!
In the afternoon David Smith joined Dom, Andrew and David at Gawthorpe Hall for the Heritage Open Day. It was an extremely busy afternoon at Gawthorpe and Rachel and her team very kindly set us up in the Dining Hall where we were perfectly placed to draw in visitors who had tales to share. Of the stories we’ve recorded so far some cover every day uses of the hall and grounds as a place to walk the dog or picnic with the family, others recall working there when it was a family home and others of childhood encounters with Lady Shuttleworth. They are all fascinating and equally worthy of a place in the Portraits of the Past oral history collection.
Thank you to everyone who has participated so far. You can add your own photographs to the online archive here or get in touch with us if you need help doing that. If you have any memories of Gawthorpe Hall you want preserved get in touch with us and we’ll send the boys from NW Sound Archive round!
There’s a lot more to come as artists work with schools this autumn term, so look out for further blogs. In the meanwhile huge thanks to the North West Sound Archive, Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham Library, Padiham & District Photographic Society, Padiham Archives, MOSI and of course our funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund.