Art To Macclesfield. Those of you who’ve been following my travels around the public art collections in North-West England will have detected a fairly large gap since my last visit, Townley Hall in Burnley which I wrote up in January 2...
Art To Macclesfield. Those of you who’ve been following my travels around the public art collections in North-West England will have detected a fairly large gap since my last visit, Townley Hall in Burnley which I wrote up in January 2011 but actually happened a few months before. I hadn’t actually realised it had been this long, but life intervened, various Liverpool Biennials and the fact that most of the remaining venues are pretty difficult to approach without public transport. But along with all of the other projects I’ve had on the go, I’m going to try and complete this by the end of the year, weather, life and health permitting.
To Macclesfield and to West Park Museum, which in the end was more accessible than I expected, with a train from Liverpool changing at Manchester Picadilly and a short walk from the city centre to West Park where it’s inevitably situated. Macclesfield also boasts various exhibition centres and a Silk Museum which seems to be the key recommendation for most visitors to the town. But because of time and my ongoing adventures with this lingering cold, after a quick wander around the town centre I pretty much mostly concentrated on the museum. Which is fine. Given the distances I’ll be travelling to elsewhere, there won’t be much time to do much else there either.
I did manage to see two of the local sights:
In St. Michael's Church, the tomb of Sir John Savage the Fifth (d. 1492) who commanded the left wing of Henry Tudor's victorious army at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485) and at the siege of Boulogne (says the accompanying information card).
Sarah Storey's gold post box for her fourth gold medal win in the Paralympic Road Women’s C5 Road Race, athough I've just had to look that up. There are no plaques on site. No words of explanation.
Edward Morris dedicates just two longish paragraphs to West Park Museum in his book each highlighting the institution’s main features. As he explains, this is another example of philanthropic curatorship, having been donated by the Brocklehursts, one of the wealthiest families in Macclesfield, who made their fortune from silk and banking. The endeavour was mainly spearheaded by Marianne Brocklehurst, who had amassed a relatively notable Egyptian collection after three expeditions there and she wanted somewhere for this to be displayed as well as parts of their art collection and various natural history curios collected by her husband.
A museum leaflet, researched by Luanne Collins to celebrate the centenary of the museum in 1998 suggests that the whole thing was quite scandal. Having selected an architect Purdon Clarge, the then deputy director of the South Kensington Museum in London, and approved of his design, for some reason the local town councillors took objection to it, and according to a letter to the local press, it was variously described in a meeting as looking like a “dog kennel”, “an abortion”, “a tool-house” and “a mortuary” though as Collins ponders, perhaps the plan they saw had been misinterpreted by the copyist. In the midst of these objections, Mrs Brocklehurst withdrew her offer.
Then four years later she quietly proposed the whole thing again, with the same plans, actually modelled on the interior of the South Gallery of the Whitworth in Manchester, and it was built and opened in October 1898. Mrs Brocklehurst sadly died just a few weeks after the opening and didn’t live to see the museum completed. Luanne Collins notes that arrangement of the museum was in the style of the time, every exhibit for itself, “Egyptian relics and the paintings would have been packed closely beside tropical beetles, models of Canadian settlements, ostrich eggs and a stuffed tiger.”
The floor plan is still somewhat within the spirit of this original structure. The fine art collection is predominantly overwhelmed by a particular artist, which I’ll return to, but amid that are still related natural history items and a