Category Archives: Gawthorpe Hall

Family History Exploration: Computers and Creativity!

Starting in summer 2013 and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we’ve been helping the local community explore Gawthorpe Hall, through oral history, photography and the creative arts, in a project called Portraits of the Past.   We wanted to capture what the Hall means to the community that surrounds it. Focussing on the heritage of this magnificent 17th century house in Padiham, Lancashire, we looked to encourage local people to engage with its magnificent collections and learn about the fascinating stories of the people who would have lived, worked and used the Hall and its grounds.

To achieve this we’ve organised a series of events and activities and the most recent was on the 4th April, when a group of people interested in exploring their family history joined us for a day. It started with exploring Gawthorpe Hall and the history of the Shuttleworths and then they researched their own ancestry and finally explored the mysteries of creativity!

We started the day at Gawthorpe Hall where Rachael Pollitt de Duran, the Museum Manager, gave us a guided tour along with lots of information about the family that had lived there, the Kay-Shuttleworths.

Some members of the group had not been inside Gawthorpe Hall before and found the building and its history fascinating. In the Long Gallery it was hard work for everyone to obey the instruction not to touch the amazing wallpaper, thank goodness there’s a small sample to touch!

Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth - Caricature in Vanity Fair 1904

Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth – Caricature in Vanity Fair 1904

Once the tour was completed we headed down to the kitchen where the Lancashire County Council Community Heritage Team gave a presentation on how to begin tracing your own ancestors, using the Shuttleworth family as an example. Lots more was discovered about the family during the presentation, not least some of the more interesting first names. The group was particularly taken with Ughtred!

The team guided the group through the various online sources available for research as well as providing useful tips for getting the most out of searches. Everyone was very pleased to learn that the websites Ancestry and Find My Past are available to use for free through Lancashire Libraries, where you can book up to two hours computer time a day. You can find out more about the online resources available from the county here. As Fiona from the team said, “they’ve paid so you don’t have to”.

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Next everyone headed over to Padiham Town Hall, which also contains Padiham Library. We stopped for lunch, although in fact, the discussions about Gawthorpe Hall and family history continued throughout. After everyone was refreshed the group split into two.

Group One worked with the Community Heritage Team in the library’s computer suite getting to grips with researching via online resources. Group Two worked with artist Cath Ford to discover creative ways to display their family trees, photographs and mementos. Although many of the group were not experienced computer users, the thought of doing ‘art’ seemed much more frightening that using the computers! That didn’t last long though. Cath is very experienced at working with people who think they can’t be creative. It didn’t take her long to get them all experimenting with frames, craft paper, old magazines and other materials to create backdrops for some of the family history artifacts they had collected. Marriage certificates, discharge papers, medals, stamps, maps, adverts and of course photographs were added to flat and box frames to create very thoughtful and personal pieces of art. With the added bonus of being able to put on display some of these wonderful mementos. Nobody finished completely, mainly because they were leaving space for items they had at home, but they left with their frames and a bucket load of materials and ideas.

Halfway through the afternoon Group One and Two swapped over and the feedback was that each had enjoyed both activities. Cath and the Community Heritage Team made a good number of creative and computer converts!

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The final event of the Portraits of the Past project will take place at Gawthorpe Hall on April 26th between 1-4pm. Find out more on our website, but to whet your appetite…

Take a walk through the grounds with storyteller Steve Fairclough; discover the joys of letterpress printing with Print for Love of Wood; explore the strange delights of The Palace of Curiosities and meet Betsy the Victorian scullery maid!

Teapoys and Wallpaper: A Voyage of Discovery at Gawthorpe Hall

With a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are exploring Gawthorpe Hall through oral history, photography and the creative arts in a project called Portraits of the Past.  As part of the project artist Kerris Casey-St.Pierre worked with primary school groups local to the Hall.  Here she tells us how it went…

This was a really interesting project for me. Like many of the children I had not been to Gawthorpe Hall before, so taking part in the tour with one of the schools groups was fantastic and really informed my decisions about what kind of work I would do with the children afterwards. Being able to see their reactions to the objects in the Hall meant that I could choose things to work with that I knew they would respond to. Taking part in the tour myself created a shared memory with all the groups.

During the tour we did two activities. First we went to the kitchen where we were treated like new staff and told to polish the silver. The children really liked this and learned about the life of a servant. Next we went upstairs to set the table IMG_0161 - propswith the silver, learning about where things go and why. The actors in costume engaged children straight away. The Butler was very good and it was hard not to go along with it.

After that we had an upstairs tour of the Hall by the housekeeper. We looked in the entrance and the withdrawing room and learned about Charlotte Bronte. The children were interested in all the different and special things. The Teapoy, a box on a stand where they kept tea locked as it was so expensive, stood out as interesting.

We saw the ceiling and chandeliers, secret doors, commode, cupboard and learnt about the special sideways chimney.

In the Long Gallery we looked at the portraits and were told about the different uses of the long gallery, including for exercise and cricket. The children liked the wallpaper. They were very hands on with the sample and enjoyed being able to feel the gold and velour textures.

They had noticed the monogram KS everywhere.

When I arrived at the schools I first talked to the pupils about their tour and what they remembered. They remembered a lot actually, sometimes with a little prompt.  But the fact that there were people in costume and that they had been actively engaged (polishing the cutlery and laying the table) not only captured their imaginations, it had also made it easier for them to relate to the people who would have lived there in the past. Having been there and seen all the objects and heard about them whilst looking at them meant that they recalled most of the information they had been given.

The works we created were in response to the wonderful wallpaper that many of the children had been impressed by and had enjoyed feeling, and the Teapoy in the withdrawing room.

We made Teapoys using flat packed boxes from the scrap store. They had to put the boxes together and think about how they would decorate/customise it. There was no right or wrong and there were lots of different ways to achieve the same thing. We covered and lined them, and some of the groups created their own monogram to personalise their boxes further. Keyholes also developed as the project went on.

Creating their own Teapoy or special chest to keep precious things in gave the children a chance to really express themselves, as well as something special to keep, which will continue to remind them of their visit to the Hall and all that they had learned there.

We also looked at wallpaper, linked to wallpaper in the Hall, and had a go at making or enhancing wallpaper designs ourselves. The children added materials to wallpaper squares to enhance the texture and also added lots of gold shiny papers like the gold leaf to make it bespoke, to make it special. This didn’t always get finished so I left this with the schools, and they seemed very keen to continue and finish after the session.

I used materials from the scrap store and told the pupils about the store, which was also a learning experience as most of them hadn’t heard of it, and was a good connection to recycling and re-use.

The practical experience at the Hall was a really good way of engaging the children and helping them to learn. Walking there was a good experience, walking up the drive and seeing it all and how big it is.  The making process also helped the children to connect. They remembered a lot and then made something with a connection to the Hall and to themselves. Everyone really enjoyed the workshop and seemed very engaged throughout, probably because it was very personal to them.

A nice extension for the project, or for future project development, would be to have an exhibition of children’s work in response to the collections, spending longer on the making and take it a step further.

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As part of Portraits of the Past MPA is running a Family History Engagement Day on 4 April.  The event is FREE but places are limited and booking essential.  Find out more on our website.

Portraits of the Past

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.     PoP day - 21.8.13 5

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 Image by C Ford - participant in activity day - 21.8.13 - 2pictures 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.

Image by C Eccles - participant in activity day - 28.8.13 IMG_0518

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 Alison and Carole - Padiham Libraryat 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 Bob - Padiham Libraryby 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.

Image by C Ford - participant in activity day - 21.8.13

Contemporary Heritage Launch Events Defy the Weather!

With two launch events on subsequent weekends in March the MPA team, artists and venue staff have been working flat out to have everything ready on time.  All was planned down to the last detail including preparations for rainy spring weather.  What we got was two weekends of bitterly cold winter weather including serious snowstorms for the second opening.  Despite this everything went ahead, with the addition of extra layers, hats, scarves and gloves!

K-Scope at Turton Tower on Saturday 16 March

Turton Tower is a wonderful gem of a venue that is a delight to explore.  Owl Project‘s installation there is in the library and the gardens.  As the rooms are rather small we thought we’d have a marquee in the beautiful gardens for refreshments, speeches etc, not realising just how cold it would be.  Thankfully our guests are a hardy lot and over 80 turned up for the event and enjoyed the hot coffee and cupcakes provided by the team at the Tower’s cafe.  We were especially pleased that so many brought their children with them as K-Scope is an ideal contemporary art installation for young people.  The wooden analogue Listening to a speaker horncomputer in the library is interactive, you need to turn the handle to see it come alive, so kids (big and small) loved that and there was a queue for much of the afternoon.  As for the listening horns in the gardens, all the guests were fascinated by what they could hear.  Was it really the sound of James Kay’s amazing subterranean workshop?

MPA’s Creative Director, Nick Hunt, acted as master of ceremonies for the launch and we were delighted to be joined by Steph Murfin, Pennine Lancashire Museums Curator of Applied Arts, who talked about the ‘Wonderful Things’ campaign which is celebrating the amazing, weird and wonderful collections and stories of Pennine Lancashire Museums.

K-ScopeThe final speaker was Simon Blackmore, one of the three artists, along with Antony Hall and Steve Symons, that make up Owl Project.  He explained the research and development that had taken place that had lead to the creation of K-Scope which gave a fascinating insight into the history of Turton Tower.  Simon, Antony and Steve spent the rest of the afternoon talking to people about the work and demonstrating how it works, which was much enjoyed by the guests.

Flicker at Gawthorpe Hall on Saturday 23 March

On Friday 22nd we woke to snow storms, snow drifts and freezing cold weather.  After much deliberation of the logistical problems (staff being able to get to Gawthorpe to open it, for example) we decided to go ahead.  120 people had booked to come to the launch and in all honesty we thought less than a quarter would make it, so we were delighted when over 80 people joined us to celebrate the opening of this beautiful and emotive work.  Many of the volunteers from the photoshoot, which was integral to the work, joined us and enjoyed trying to spot themselves in the finished installation.  Unfortunately the artist, Catherine Bertola, wasn’t able to make the journey from the North East and was very disappointed not to be there. However we were lucky to have some other very special guests who helped us open the work.  Nick Hunt acted as MC again and introduced: Bruce Jackson, County Heritage Manager, Lancashire CC; Jane Beardsworth, Regional Director, Arts Council England and Co Cllr John Shedwick, Chairman of Lancashire CC who did the official honours of declaring the installation open.  In lieu of Catherine, MPA’s Project Manager for Contemporary Heritage, Lucy Green spoke and thanked all the many volunteers, partners and funders who have made Flicker possible.  It was a bitter sweet moment as it was Lucy’s last day with MPA (she’s moving to Contact Theatre, Manchester) and a bit emotional for the rest of the team.

FlickerWe were delighted with the reaction to Flicker and how worthwhile the guests thought their journey through the snow had been.

As with K-Scope at Turton Tower many of the guests had not visited the venue before and as well as enjoying the contemporary art had discovered a fascinating heritage venue that they will visit again.  The perfect response to a Contemporary Heritage installation.

Flickers of the past

As a volunteer at MPA I was excited when I was asked to help with a photo shoot for the upcoming Contemporary Heritage installation at Gawthorpe Hall, Flicker by Catherine Bertola.  I have visited the hall on a couple of occasions and I felt privileged to be able to see behind the scenes and learn about the history of Gawthorpe from some very knowledgable people.

For the first two days of the shoot I tried to be as helpful as possible, getting people into costume and making sure everybody was comfortable.  Two sets of re-enactment groups took part in the project and it was engrossing to see them transform from 21st century people into characters from the 1600’s.  Even more amazing was the way that their transformation created a dramatic change in the space, passing a 17th century physician on the staircase really made you feel like you had gone back in time!

On the third day of the shoot it was my turn.  Early on in the process of selecting the cast for the shoot there was a call for a petite female with dark hair, as I fitted the bill I put myself forward to help.  Little did I know that I would get the chance to dress as a 17th century lady of the manor and wear an incredible dress! I began my day by being strapped into a very small corset and a floor length dress.  I began to realise why ladies had such a need for servants as bending, sitting down and even walking suddenly became very difficult without some help.  Then it was time for the photographs and I really enjoyed chatting to my fellow cast members while trying to ‘look natural’.  The day was a lot of fun even if it was a little chilly and I can’t wait to see the images that come out of it.

Flicker will open on Saturday 23 March and run until October, see Mid Pennine Arts website for details.

Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing is an ambitious programme of site-responsive artist commissions at stunning historic sites across Pennine Lancashire.  The commissions, inspired by Pennine Lancashire’s heritage, animate each site and offer visitors a rare chance to experience major works of art by artists of national and international standing outside urban centres.

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