‘Heavenly Lights: The Untold Story of Stained Glass Artist Margaret Agnes Rope’ exhibition comes to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery this autumn.

Deer hi-res Shrewsbury Cathedral window detail med

A major new exhibition telling the untold story of one of the great female artists of the early twentieth century comes to Shrewsbury this autumn.

Margaret Agnes Rope, born in 1882, produced stained-glass that can be found in churches and cathedrals on three continents, and which is now also collected by American museums – but she is now largely forgotten here in the UK, and even in her home town of Shrewsbury.

Now an exhibition of her work will be staged at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery from 12 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.

‘Marga’, as she was called, was an instinctive rebel – known for smoking cheroot cigars, riding a motorbike and wearing her hair short – in an era when women were largely suppressed. Without backing from a patron, rich family or husband, she made her own way in her career, one of a new generation of artists as much at home in a workshop as in a drawing-studio.

Her work – influenced by the ‘Later Arts & Crafts’ style – soon became well-known for its jewelled dazzling colours, its personal stamp, its startling modernism, and its sense of spiritual vibrancy.

Yet, within barely a decade of her first success, she chose to become a Catholic nun, moving into an ‘enclosed’ convent. However, even now, shut away from the world, she continued to work, in a small studio provided by the other nuns.

An intensely private person, she left barely any records behind her, and even asked that some of her remaining works be destroyed after her death. Art historians, perhaps frustrated by this lack of information, have since marginalised her achievements.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery has sought to right this wrong by creating a special project, formed by a group of volunteer archivists, not only to re-research her life and works, but to mount a major exhibition bringing together works and artefacts from all over the country. Many of these works have never been seen in public before. A state of the art projection system will screen giant images of her finest stained-glass windows.

Meanwhile, across her home-town, complementary activities will run alongside the exhibition – from lectures, walks and concerts to the publications of new books about her life and times.

Stuart West, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and leisure, said:

“Margaret Rope was one of the greatest stained-glass artists of the early twentieth century, and her works can be seen all over the world.

“Despite her obvious genius, her name is hardly remembered at all; and we hope this exhibition – the first dedicated solely to her work and times – will give her reputation the boost it deserves.

“The Rope family were prominent in Shrewsbury before the Second World War, and many local people may have knowledge, or even memories, of Doctor Rope and his wife and six children – of whom ‘Marga’ was one.

“So, as we prepare and build up to the exhibition, there will be a lot of research and archive-studies into her life and works.”

Anyone with any memories or information about Margaret Rope can email [email protected]

 

 

 

New book on sale in our shop – Slow Travel Shropshire

SLOW TRAVEL SHROPSHIRE by Marie Kreft

Published by Bradt Travel Guides £12.99

About this book

With no directly competing titles, Bradt’s Slow Travel Shropshire fills a much-needed gap in the market for a guide to an area that, of all of the UK’s regions, is perhaps most synonymous with ‘Slow’. This new title from Bradt written by local author Marie Kreft places an emphasis on car-free travel, local produce and characterful accommodation. It includes detailed descriptions of place, historical overviews, ghost stories and folk tales, and first-hand accounts from Shropshire locals, as well as hand-picked restaurant recommendations based on long-standing knowledge and consultation with locals. Warm and witty writing combines with a natural enthusiasm for the region making this an indispensable guide to one of Britain’s most scenic areas. Ludlow is acknowledged as the Slow Food capital of the UK, while the region as a whole is much celebrated, described by PG Wodehouse as the “nearest earthly place to paradise”. The guide is unapologetic in taking you the long way round: through ancient woodland, over bridges and ‘Blue Remembered Hills’, back in time, down footpaths, into castles, churches and interesting pubs, cheerfully savouring the authentic, the offbeat and the local.

About the author

Marie Kreft is a former winner of the Bradt / Independent on Sunday travel-writing competition. She lives in Birmingham, a short hop from Shropshire to where she and her family escape at weekends for long walks and big dinners. Marie loves camping, real ale, old music, new theatre, cooking, backpacking, rail travel, secondhand books, odd historical facts, vintage shops, and spending time with her husband and son – who have helped her to slow down and enjoy the little things in life.

Contents

Going Slow in Shropshire, Chancel encounters, Revered hedgehogs & beloved bugs, Festivals & fairs, Shropshire as inspiration, A taste of Shropshire, Geology, Planning your visit.

How this book is arranged:

1 South Shropshire – Getting there & around, Ludlow & Bromfield, Craven Arms to the Clun Valley, From the Stiperstones to the Welsh border, Around Church Stretton & the Long Mynd, The Clee Hills & Corvedale to Cleobury Mortimer

2 Southeast Shropshire – Getting there & around, Bridgnorth & around, South of Bridgnorth & the Severn Valley, Much Wenlock, Staffordshire borders

3 Ironbridge Gorge & The Wrekin – Getting there & around, Around the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, Telford, Wellington, The Weald Moors to Newport

4 Shrewsbury & Mid Shropshire – Getting there & around, Shrewsbury, North & east of Shrewsbury, Towards South Shropshire

5 Oswestry & Northwest Shropshire – Getting there & around, Oswestry & around, Whittington & north of Oswestry, Maesbury & south of Oswestry

6 North Shropshire – Getting there & around, Ellesmere & Shropshire’s ‘Lake District’, Towards Shrewsbury, Wem to Whitchurch, Market Drayton & around Accommodation Index

Call for information about Margaret Rope

Great news!  We now have the definitive dates for the Margaret Rope exhibition taking place at the museum next summer.  The exhibition will run for three months, from 12th September 2016 – 15th January 2017.

Margaret Agnes Rope, who was born and raised in Shrewsbury, was one of the greatest stained-glass artists of the early twentieth century,  and her works can be seen all over the world.  But, despite her obvious genius, her name is hardly remembered at all; and we hope this exhibition – the first dedicated solely to her work and times – will give her reputation the boost it deserves.

The Rope family were prominent in the town before the Second World War, and many local people may have knowledge, or even memories, of Doctor Rope and his wife and six children (of whom ‘Marga’ was one).  Marga herself was something of a rebel in her Shrewsbury days – known for her cigar-smoking and for riding motorbikes!

However – hardly anything is known of the actual details of Margaret’s life.  She left no records, as far as we know, nor did her family.  We don’t even know what schooling she received as a child.  There are less than half-a-dozen known photos of her.   So, as we prepare and build up to the exhibition, there will be a lot of research and archive-studies into her life and works!  Do YOU know anything?  Even the slightest snippets of information may help. Please contact Phil Scoggins, our Interpretations Officer, if you have any leads for us at all – email [email protected]

Shrewsbury Museum Volunteers set for accolade!

Our fantastic Volunteers at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery have been nominated to receive a prestigious Mayor’s Award for their contribution and devotion to the museum and surrounding town.

Without their drive and commitment to support the museum, we would struggle to share our vast array of fascinating treasures with you, the community. So they are more than deserving of this recognition.

The Volunteers will be handed the award by Mayor Beverley Baker at the special Awards Evening to be held on Wednesday 22nd April 2015, 7:00pm, in the Council Chamber, Guildhall. We hope every Volunteer from the museum will be in attendance at the ceremony.

 

Time for Tea

The 18th cenury England the demand for tea grew dramatically. In 1664 The East India Company placed a cautious order for 100 lbs of tea. By 1750 annual imports had reached 4,727,992 lbs.  Drinking this new fashionable beverage meant you needed a new fashionable tea set to serve it.  Porcelain companies were etsablished to fufil the demand and boomed as a result.

shrms_2010_0312aIn 1775 Thomas Turner began manufacturing porcelain at Caughley in Shropshire. Initially production concentrated on functional wares with under glaze blue patterns heavily influenced by Chinese and Worcester porcelains. In fact, Caughley is credited by some with creating the ever popular willow pattern.

Printing from copper plate engravings enabled designs to be mass produced on common tea and dessert wares.  Alongside this more economical mode of decoration, Caughley continued to produce more esclusive hand painted porcelain  in a range of oriental and european styles.

Shropsire Museums has one of the finest collections of Caughley in the country including some rare and, in some cases, unique pieces.  This week the Caughley Society began a project with us to update and imporove our online collection catalogue.  This involves checking each piece against its catalogue record and photographing each item.  Their expertise will ensure that accurate and detailed descriptions of each piece can be added allowing both our physical and virtual visitors to find out more about this remarkable collection.

In the meantime, a small selection of our collection can be found by searching for ‘Caughley’ in the search box above right.

 

When is a Great Auk not an Auk?

AukOur Great Auk is back home from its visit to Simon Moore’s Conservation Lab. However, mystery still surrounds our Great Auk specimen – is it a rare example of this extinct bird or a model made up of bits of other taxidermy specimens? 

Investigations to date have been inconclusive.  It appears to be the work of Shrewsbury’s famous nineteenth century taxidermist Henry Shaw who is known to have prepared four Great Auk specimens. However, it is still unclear if it is a true specimen or not.  Many taxidermists at the time used bits of different birds to create reconstructions of the Great Auk for collectors keen to display this rare ‘must-have’ species.  It is hoped that DNA samples from the preserved skin will soon be able to settle this mystery once and for all.

In the meantime, she (the specimen is displayed proudly standing over an egg) has had a thorough clean and treated for wear and tear.  She will form a central part of our Collecting Gallery as an example of how over collecting in the Victorian period help to drive many species to extinction.  Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund our Great Auk will hopefully survive for another two hundred years.

Rare Glimpse of The Dana

We are extremely grateful to the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery who, with the support and assistance of the Lord Lieutenant, have kindly donated this remarkable painting of The Dana by Michael ‘Angelo’ Rooker. This painting is a significant work by an important Old Master. 

The Dana by M. Rooker

The Dana by M. Rooker

In 1788 Rooker began to make autumnal tours in the country, drawing mainly architectural remains.  This picture is part of that body of work.  With minute attention to detail and a wonderful understanding of light, Rooker has created a true tour de force of watercolour painting in this work. 

This picture will be an significant addition our Fine Art Collection which is an important record of the changing townscape of Shrewsbury.

Telling Shropshire’s Stories

Museum staff, volunteers and both local and national experts have been hard at work completing the painstaking and detailed research for our new exhibitions.

Mike Parker Pearson, Archaeologist and Prehistorian

Top archaeologists have been invited to contribute their thoughts in the museum’s Prehistoric and Roman galleries. Mike Parker-Pearson, excavator of Stonehenge and a ‘Time Team’ regular, has given us the latest views alongside those of other scientists, historians and archaeologists.

These stories are being told in a whole range of different ways. Newly commissioned models, audio recordings and hands-on exhibits will all help to bring the past to life.