▪Nathalie’s Tribute in glass

One great piece of news is that a glass artwork, which was inspired by the Margaret Rope Exhibition (which took place in Shrewsbury in 2016), is soon to see the light of day.

Nathalie Hildegarde Liege, a stained-glass artist working in Shrewsbury, was commissioned to produce her piece at the time – and we are told that it is now finished and will be unveiled this summer (2019).
It is to be installed in Shrewsbury Museum.

Nathalie Hildegarde Liege in her studio
Nathalie Hildegarde Liege in her studio in 2018 with designs for her tribute window

The imagery of the stained-glass panel tribute will centre on the natural world.
Thus it will reflect a number of themes: Margaret Rope’s own marked interest in wildlife, both flora & fauna; the watery location of Shrewsbury (a town which is looped by a large river); and of course, Shrewsbury Museum’s own extensive collection of fossils & ancient rocks.

For Sale

To get an idea of what the finished piece might look like, we can look at a piece of Nathalie’s which is currently for sale by her.

Nathalie 'Seasons' x 2 Autumn Spring
Two panels, for sale, one depicting Spring-Summer, one Autumn-Winter

This double-piece called ‘Natural Seasons’ uses ‘earth’ colours; and the images are in Nathalie’s usual fragmentary style, though all the subjects in the piece are quite identifiable.
If the new work is anything like this one, the new work will be one of the most attractive pieces to be in the museum!

Incidentally, ‘Natural Seasons’ was inspired by thoughts from the children of St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School, where Nathalie did some of her regular workshops.
Contact Nathalie for details if you’re interested in buying the piece. (The panels have an H-shape outer-leading – which will fit more glass pieces if one wishes to install each panel in a larger leaded structure in an existing window frame).

Unveiling of tribute-panel ceremony

The date for the unveiling of the Tribute Window at Shrewsbury Museum is Friday August 16th. As usual for a new installation at the museum, there will be an official reception, so, if you think your name should be on the list, just contact the museum  and ask them if they would put you on the guest-list.

And, as is usual these days, we can all be kept up to date with the progress of the project by subscribing to an online diary.  Nathalie calls her online site the Marga And Collections Blog, and it has a Twitter hashtag too – #margaandcollections. It’s worth subscribing just to see the creative way the webpage is designed…

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Nathalie Hildegarde Liege – biography:
Nathalie works as an architectural glass designer and fine artist based in Shrewsbury. She established her ‘Couleurlive Studio’ between 1998 and 2000, having been awarded The Journeyman’s Award by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers & Painters of Glass.
Nathalie has completed commissions for public, domestic and sacred buildings, including stained glass windows for the X-Ray Department at the Orthopaedic Hospital, Gobowen.

She is a member of the BSMGP

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▪Coton Hill 1901

Among the works of art by Marga to be found today in Shrewsbury are some of her most significant – but there is one teenage effort there too!

Buried in the collections at the county archives (near the railway station) is to be found a small watercolour, done on sketch paper, about six inches wide – a youthful landscape effort. On the back of it, it is identified as ‘Coton Hill about 1901’.

 

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In 1901, Marga was turning 19 and was just about starting studies at Birmingham Art School.
It is the earliest piece we have by her.

Talent

Marga may well have picked up her liking for watercolour from her uncle, George Thomas Rope.
GT Rope was a well known minor artist, whose work now hangs in some provincial galleries. (See: Margaret family tree).
He was an artist of the outdoors, clearly loving nature, and particularly landscapes – he used the countryside around his East Anglian home for many of his scenes – and his watercolours can be counted among his best works.
His ‘Landscape With A Stream (1894)’ is typical – and is the sort of piece that may have inspired ‘Coton Hill 1901’.

Margaret and her siblings would have spent holidays at GT’s home in Suffolk; and, much later of course, she came to create windows for the Rope family church at Blaxhall.
Perhaps Marga may even have inherited GT’s talented genes.

Two spires

The Coton Hill watercolour looks like it was just something dashed off in the moment, as it has one curious quirk to it.

To find the viewpoint of the artist, it is necessary to walk up Coton Hill (which is the Ellesmere road out of Shrewsbury), then turn into a narrow passageway (or ‘shut’ as they are called in this town) which is, rather quaintly, denoted ‘Pig Trough’, and take the gate off it on to the riverside path.
An artist ‘en plein air’ could then look back along the river-course and see the town beyond.
(The high-angle of the view suggests she may even have been in one of the gardens of the houses which rise steeply up behind the river-path).

Even given the space of over a century, the scene of Marga’s watercolour is recognisable.
Except that… look again at the photos, up the page … she has the spires the wrong way round. The higher one (of St Mary’s) should be to the left, not the right, of the lower (of St Alkmund’s).
It’s a curious mistake.
One can speculate … did rain fall while she was painting, and did she dash away, to fill in the spires later – but misremembering their positions? Perhaps.

Henry collection

The reason that the watercolour comes to be in Shropshire Archives at all is that it is one of the pieces in a small collection there of some effects which belonged to her brother, Henry.

Like Marga, Henry was a convert to Catholicism and he too was fervent enough in his faith to become a religious: in his case, a priest.
It was clear he was too eccentric – despite his learning and his talents as a writer – to make an effective parish priest, and he was often moved about. (See: Henry’s story)
He was even posted to Rome for a long time, which is where most of his archival papers are to be found.

One can only surmise though that this small collection in Shrewsbury – of postcard albums, one-off letters and so on – must have been kept by his mother (who lived in Shrewsbury until her death in 1948), and deposited later with the town archives.

Favourites

Henry and Margaret Agnes Rope as childrenIt’s touching to believe that Henry retained this watercolour by his sister deliberately.

We know from his diaries (which are kept at the Rope Family Archives in Suffolk) that she was his favourite sibling – they were the two eldest children (see pic right), and must have spent a lot of time together. They also did summer walking tours together before she entered the convent in 1923.

The Coton Hill watercolour is hardly a precursor of the great talent that Marga was later to become, so one can only surmise that Henry must have kept it as a kind of remembrance.
Which is, actually, rather a nice thought.

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Stop Press:  Thanks to Ellie Gray who emailed us this painting of The Shrewsbury Severn by Alan R Yates (below), which hangs today in Shrewsbury Library.
Although made many years after Marga did her watercolour, it could almost have been created on the very same spot – though Alan has the spires the right way round…

Painting of The Shrewsbury Severn by Alan R Yates

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Shropshire Archives is open to the public. The document reference number for ‘Coton Hill 1901’ is M1829/4.

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▪Glass House records listed

The latest edition of the ‘Journal of Stained Glass’ is devoted almost entirely to an examination of the output of the Glass House – the London studios where Margaret Rope worked between 1911 and 1922.BSMGP Journal 'Glass House' Edition cover

As Peter Cormack says in his all-too-brief introduction, the venture, set up by the suffragist Mary Lowndes and her business partner Alfred Drury in 1906, was a “great feminist enterprise”.

Hive of industry

It is only in recent years that the full value of Mary Lowndes’ contribution to both stained-glass and to suffragism has been fully recognised.

As a stained-glass maker and graphic artist herself she observed a contradiction in the creative industries at the time: women were being allowed to train at art-schools, but very often had little opportunity to establish themselves in wider industry.
Her Glass House complex, by providing studios, a team of technical advisers, and in-house facilities including kilns, to both women and men, was designed to break the mould and encourage independent working – especially benefiting women.

Peter Cormack quotes Mary Lowndes’ words of 1909: “Glass Painting has of late years received a great impetus in this country, and women are taking their part with men in the front ranks of the new movement – though it is probable that 20 years ago there was not among artists a single woman glass painter.”

It may sound comical to us, but one of the most thoughtful achievements of the Glass House was to install separate, custom-built ladies lavatories…

Data

In this instance however, the Journal seeks not to go deep into the importance of the Glass House or its place in history, but rather to provide the data for others to do that.

So, here we have instead a sober profile of the business.
Included are: thumbnail sketches of each artist who hired out the facilities (including Margaret Rope); an outline of the business’s history right up to 1973; a tenancy list; and – the point of this exercise really – a detailed breakdown of some 3,500 invoices issued by the firm (including clients, cost, date, and description of item). This list of invoices – transcribed by BSMGP member and author Alan Brooks – takes up some 150 pages of the journal!

Latchford Church, Fisher and More
Marga’s Latchford Church windows – finished at Lowndes & Drury

Researchers will find such data fascinating. Already it has helped us identify the sort of prices stained-glass windows could raise, and gives an insight into how these artists worked – sometimes step by step, sometimes being able to commission a huge project at once.
Marga is represented of course; she maintained her relationship with Lowndes & Drury all her career. In fact the records pertaining to her have also turned up one item which was previously unknown to Margaret Rope reseachers.

However, the list of invoices, long as it is, is also frustratingly incomplete. This is not the fault of the authors however; the fact is that, for certain periods of the firm’s existence, the documents are simply missing.
The fact reminds us that histories are never complete (more’s the pity).

Journal

The ‘Journal of Stained Glass’ is the long-established annual publication put out by the BSMGP (British Society of Master Glass Painters) for its members, though anyone can buy a copy (on mail-order) if enough are left.
This particular edition is a rather hefty item, over 300 pages long, but it is a lovely, glossy thing. It’s almost worth buying a copy for the fifty lovely colour plates of windows by Glass House artists, including a photo of one of Marga’s Blaxhall Church pieces.

It’s good too to realise how timely this edition is.
The year 2018 has seen so much about the anniversary of the granting of the vote to women – and Mary Lowndes’ efforts in bringing that to pass – that it is fitting that one of Mary Lowndes’ greatest achievements on behalf of women should also be celebrated in this fashion at this time.

The Journal of Stained Glass Volume XLI – ‘Glass House Special Issue’ – is available on mail-order for £28.

▪Blue plaque for Margaret

Another small milestone has been passed in the campaign to get Margaret better recognised in her home-town of Shrewsbury. The local civic society has formally honoured her, by installing a blue plaque on the house she lived in for twenty years with her mother.
The plaque is now securely attached high on one of the exterior walls of Shrewsbury College (Welsh Bridge campus), and can easily be seen by passers-by walking the river path.

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The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the afternoon of November 1st with a gathering of the great & the good.

Extraordinary Woman

A most moving speech at the ceremony came from James Staniforth, the Shrewsbury joint-colleges principal. He said that, in approving the project, he thought of his own daughters, who didn’t have to face the societal prejudices that women such as Margaret Rope had had to face one hundred years ago. Nevertheless, he said, it was well to remember the example set in the strength of lone women such as Margaret – and that the struggle for women’s equality was not yet fully achieved.

The event was timed to be part of the Civic Society’s celebration of ‘Extraordinary Women’.
The nationwide Extraordinary Women initiative was organised by the Heritage Days project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in Britain.

Priory

The eighteenth-century building now called Priory House is so-called because it’s on the site of an Augustinian Priory which was there in the middle ages.
It was the home of the Rope family from 1901. Mrs Rope and some of her children, including Margaret, moved in there two years after the death of Marga’s father Henry Rope.
On the house’s large kitchen table, Margaret is said to have created the designs for her first commission, the Great West Window at Shrewsbury Cathedral.

In 1911, when she was 29, Margaret started to rent a studio in London at the ‘Glass House’ run by Lowndes & Drury. However, she never seems to have taken up a permanent residence in London, and most likely lodged with her aunt, in Putney, whenever she needed to use the studio.
As Margaret Rope historians will know, any records relevant to her are very unclear, and no family documents exist from this period (except a family Christmas card made by Marga in 1915 – see pic right)Ropes 1916 Christmas card, so establishing exact dates for Margaret’s life at The Priory’, as it was called back then, is virtually impossible.

What we do know is that after 1921 she started to spend more time in Suffolk, where she was able to study the life of the convent that she was to enter in 1923.
Mrs Rope continued to live on at The Priory, and may even have run a home for girls there; the census records are frustratingly unclear!

In fact Mrs Rope seems to have been something of a revisionist in her traditional ways (much as her son Henry was), being remembered as ‘the woman with the lanthorn’: in the winter months, she would walk up from The Priory to Shrewsbury Cathedral (where she worshipped) holding a candle-lit lantern to light her way.

After Mrs Rope’s death in the early fifties, the building appears to have been bought by the local authority, became a school, and was absorbed into the complex of buildings in that neighbourhood run by the authority.

(Photos by Simon Caldwell St Gabriel Press)

▪A little-known soldier

Among Margaret Rope’s many wonderful stained-glass works in Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral is one dedicated to a lowly, virtually unknown soldier – Private Eugene Cox, who died in the Great War aged just 20.
The window shows scenes from the lives of St Martin and St Ignatius (who were both soldiers themselves), and ranks among Marga’s best, especially for its exuberant colouring.
Historian Arthur Rope dates the window to 1919-20.

The work is very large – some twelve feet in height, made up of two main lancets plus smaller pieces of tracery and two topmost lights – and fills the north side of the cathedral’s Sacred Heart Chapel.  (Click here to jump to an image of the window at the bottom of this page).
It is full of careful details and thoughtful images. Among the well-researched images are ones connected with the Irish Guards, Eugene’s regiment; in fact one of Marga’s trademark ‘hidden references’ is present – in the dog by the horse, an Irish Wolfhound.
It is one of a number of war memorial windows completed by Marga.

But this is not a usual war memorial window. Usually such a window featured a Biblical scene or saint, with the only reference to the soldier who died being in the dedication scroll. However, in this window, in both of the two topmost lights, we see Eugene Cox himself, in his soldier’s tunic.
This would seem to be a very personal, and unique, work.

Mystery

Whatever else it is, it is a very ambitious venture – and surely must have been very expensive to commission.
Yet… and here’s a great mystery … it was commissioned by Eugene’s mother, a poor widow working as a shopkeeper…

Maude Cox, Eugene’s mother, had arrived with her family in Shrewsbury sometime around 1910. She was an Irish Catholic by birth, and appears to have worshipped at Shrewsbury Cathedral.
With her husband, Sidney James Cox, she was given the management of the grocery & tuck shop at Shrewsbury School, the famous public school in the town, probably around 1912. (She took up residence at ‘Schools Cottage, Kingsland, Shrewsbury’, and was to continue in this post until her retirement in 1939).

But her husband died (aged just 42) in 1913, leaving her with a young son and daughter as well as the business to look after.
Which begs the question: how could a poor widow, far from home, possibly have afforded to commission a grand window?

A humble private

There is no clue to the answer in any profile of Eugene. In fact we know almost nothing about Eugene. (Another Eugene Cox was quite a well-known hymn-writer, but that is not our man).
Apart from the fact that the census records him as attending St Bede’s School in Manchester for a while, and that he served in WW1, he is lost to history.

His military record is thin too.
We know that Eugene enlisted for service in World War One in Shrewsbury, and chose the Irish Guards for his regiment – presumably because of his mother’s nationality.
Next we know is that, in 1917, dispatches state that he was badly wounded in the Bourlon Wood engagement (part of the Battle of Cambrai), taken prisoner by the Germans, and then died, two weeks later, on December 15th.
Cambrai, which lasted three weeks, was a brutal encounter, resulting in nearly 50,000 Allied casualties and some 9,000 taken prisoner. (Rudyard Kipling gives a full account of Bourlon Wood in his history of the Irish Guards).

So, Eugene’s military experience seems to have been short and sad, and (as far as we know) he earned no particular accolades in his time in the army.

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Certainly, the cathedral’s Roll Of Honour mentions many others of the congregation who were among the fallen during WW1, so Eugene was not unique in that sense.
So we must look elsewhere for reasons for the creation of this window.

Determined

There seems to be little doubt that Maude was a determined woman.

We see this characteristic come out in her extraordinary decision to exhume her son’s body from its military grave, and have it transferred to a nearby civilian grave.
Eugene had originally been buried in 1917, in Fourmies Communal Cemetery in France, in a ‘war plot’, where there are a number of British WW1 graves. But Maude appears to have decided that this wouldn’t do, and in 1920, Eugene was exhumed and reburied a few yards away in the adjacent civil plot, i.e. in a private, family-owned grave among civilians.
On the face of it, it is a strange and puzzling decision: and what’s more, a very expensive, bureaucratically-fraught process.

Maude wasn’t to stop there in ensuring her son was to be properly remembered.
Another project of her’s (though she may have been aided by her uncle) was to create a full monumental gravestone in Dublin, remembering her father, husband and son all on one stone. (At first, the inscription even leads one to believe that Private Cox is buried there – but this is what is known as a ‘cenotaph grave’, in that it commemorates someone buried abroad in war).

With this sort of driving force in her, did Maude ‘persuade’ the cathedral to create a window for her son?

Eugene

There’s no doubt that the window is a very personal tribute.
In one light there is a portrait of Eugene hearing mass at the Cathedral, and in the other he is depicted as receiving a ‘martyr’s crown’ from Jesus as Saints Martin and Ignatius look on approvingly. Quite a remarkable tribute to a young man!
Soldier Window - detail, Cox lightsRoger Hall also identifies a tiny piece of text (hard to see with the naked eye) across the altar cloth in the left-hand light. It reads: Mitis Sum et Humilis Corde (“I am gentle and lowly in heart” – Matthew’s Gospel 11;29).
Can one deduce from this that Eugene was also much loved in his community? With Margaret also a strong member of that cathedral community, she too may have admired his ‘gentle and lowly’ qualities and been moved to offer her talents.

But… we still don’t know who could have paid for the window. Margaret, though a professional working woman at this point, was not rich enough to have provided the funds, even if she had put a ‘discount’ on her own fee.
Also, so far no ‘faculty’ for the window has been discovered (a faculty being a document that explains the need and the finance for a church project). Such a document, if ever found, might explain the puzzle.

We are in the dark.

Speculation

One game for the amateur historian is informed-speculation. While there is little proof for the speculation I’m about to produce, it might be a research-line worth following.

One person who could have afforded to pay for the window was the administrator of the cathedral, Canon Moriarty. Not only was he very ambitious to promote the cathedral (which was less than 70 years old) as a great church integral to the region, he was also Margaret’s patron, having commissioned a number of windows from her already, including the cathedral’s Great West Window, and a rich man in his own right.

He may also have been aware that political rights had been given to Catholics in England only some 90 years before, and Catholics were still regarded suspiciously at the time. The rebellion in Ireland in 1916, right in the middle of World War One, had given rise again to the thought that Catholics might not be as loyal as they professed to be – especially those of Irish ancestry.

But this ‘Soldier Window’ proves the opposite point: that Irish-ancestry Catholics were just as ready to lay down their lives for their country as any other community. Did Moriarty ‘select’ Eugene – at Eugene’s mother’s strong prompting perhaps – to be the figurehead in a great & prestigious illustration, one which would prove to the town that Catholics now deserved to be accepted fully into English society?*
Certainly, many of the Catholics worshipping at the cathedral would have been Irish, or of Irish ancestry, following a wave of immigration into the region in the 1850s.

Much research still needs to be done. With such a cupboard bare of facts, this article can only be the first part of this project. So – any more information would be very welcome! If you can help with comments or your own research, please email us.

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Research that this article drew upon must be credited to, among others: Roger Hall, Jane Morgan, Anne O’Donoghue, John O’Grady and Bill Pearson. Thanks to them all.
Roger Hall’s booklet ‘Letting In the Light of Christ’ gives a detailed two-page account of the Soldier Window.

(* The cathedral was marginalised by the town even until the 1950s. See Cathedral neglected)

Soldier Window, Shrewsbury Cathedral
The ‘Soldier Window’, Shrewsbury Cathedral. Photo copyright: Arthur Rope

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▪Extraordinary Women

The most fascinating thing about the Ten Extraordinary Women of Shropshire exhibition which is on at the Bear Steps Hall in Shrewsbury right now (Sept 2018) is that highlights an amazing generation of women. Six of the women featured (including Margaret Rope) were born within twenty years of each other.
This was the generation who grew up as second-class citizens in the Victorian era, only to then refuse, as adults, to accept the oppressed status they had been born with.
Because these women all would have lived only miles from each other, Margaret Rope would surely have come across almost all of them.

Pioneers for equality

It’s hard to imagine how depressing the era must have been for women. When a ‘feminist’ such as Arnold Bennett can still be writing, in 1920, a whole book explaining (“kindly”!) why women are intellectually inferior to men (famously refuted by Virginia Woolf*), then you see the issue.

Margaret Rope seems to have approached the issue with a non-serviam attitude – by moving (at the age of 29) to a woman-friendly set of studios in London, refusing to marry, refusing to take part in the (male-dominated) ‘art-scene’, and then eventually joining an all-women community.
But the five contemporaries of Marga featured in this exhibition also “did it their way” – even though each had a different solution.

Eglantyne Jebb - pic from WikipediaThe suffragist and social reformer Eglantyne Jebb (born in 1876, six years before Marga) was already heavily involved in social reform work before the Great War.
She became increasingly horrified by news of the desperate state of children in war-damaged Germany and Austria, and founded the Save The Children organisation to help them. Amazingly, in an England which had grown to hate the Germans, she managed to raise large sums of money from the British public for this! One can only guess at the energy, commitment and powerful personality which she must have shown…

Katherine Harley too was already active in public life by the time WW1 came round. She had greatly dismayed her family by leading national votes-for-women marches, but when the war came she was told to “go and wait at home, woman!” by the British authorities when she asked to establish nursing units – so, she took her (all-women) volunteers group to Serbia, where the government was hugely grateful for her offer to set up mobile hospitals alongside the battlefields.
She refused to take a behind-the-lines role, and died in a bout of enemy shelling.

Teresa Hulton (later Lady Berwick of Atingham Park) was another contemporary of Marga’s. Born into money, she could have settled for a quiet life, but she is another for whom World War One was a catalyst. Like many young men come 1914, she was one of the young women who yearned for ‘action’, and her change came when a friend wrote and asked her to join an ambulance unit on the Italian front line saying, “we also have daily air raids, generally one for breakfast and another for tea, and two bombs have been dropped not far from our little chalet. But I don’t suppose that worries you.”
(Incidentally, Marga’s sister Irene was another woman whoo refused to sit on the Home Front, and who also joined an ambulance unit, in Serbia).
Teresa also took part in some secret intelligence work, of which little is known. She went on to become Lady Berwick and spent much of her life restoring Attingham Hall, which is now a National Trust property.

Mary Webb the author was born in 1881, just one year before Marga, and is best known for her ‘free spirit’ novels, in which a young woman finds freedom and purpose only in nature and natural behaviour. Three of Webb’s novels have been reprinted by Virago.

Agnes Hunt (born 1866, thus sixteen years older than Marga) became disabled early in life, suffering osteomyelitis of the hip. This didn’t stop her (in fact, it probably inspired her) to take up the cause of disabled children, and she eventually opened a convalescent home for them.
This home was affiliated to the Salop Infirmary hospital at Shrewsbury, where Margaret’s father was a surgeon working extensively in paediatrics. It’s quite possible that the young Marga may have even met this extraordinary woman.
Agnes Hunt went on to develop the home as a virtual mini-hospital of its own before founding another establishment, the Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) in Oswestry in north Shropshire.

Exhibition

The exhibition at the Bear Steps Hall is in the form of information boards rather than cases of artefacts, but, in that much of the information will come as revelations to most of us, it is still fascinating. The curator (and Civic Society member), Bibbs Cameron, is to be congratulated on the astonishing researches she’s undertaken.

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Designed to tie in with the national Heritage Days appeal for nominations of ‘forgotten’ extraordinary women, the exhibition fulfils the brief exactly.
This exhibition has also been a moment to pause and think in this year of the 100th anniversary of the granting of the vote to women in Britain. It is incredible to consider that, as little as one hundred years ago, people of this great energy & creativity could be denied political equality on the basis of their sex alone.

Anyone who missed the exhibition will be glad to know that the displays will not be taken down until December (2018) but you’ll need to make an appointment to see them as they are being kept in the ‘Rex Connell’ gallery, which is usually locked. Contact Bibbs Cameron to ensure the gallery is opened up for you.

Apart from the six women already mentioned, there are displays featuring another four other women associated with Shropshire: –
Ethelraeda (aka Æthelflæd) warrior queen; the indefatigable Julia Bainbrigge Wightman, the temperance-movement leader who wrote the astonishing work ’Arrest the Destroyer’s March; or, Lift Ye Up a Banner’ in 1877; Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters) the historian born in 1913, who also wrote the Cadfael Chronicles; and Esmeralda Lock (born 1854) the gypsy free-spirit who scandalised Society with her ‘wild’ ways.

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*Footnote. You’ll find the refutuation in Virginia Woolf’s collection of essays called Killing The Angel In The House

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▪National stage for Margaret Rope lecture

The news that the national Stained Glass Museum is to stage a lecture in October (2018) about the works of Margaret Rope is another milestone in the slow rediscovery of her achievements.

Despite producing stained-glass works of the highest quality & art across three decades in the first half of the twentieth century, Margaret Rope has been virtually ignored by art-history since (see ‘Neglected’).
(Although her work has featured, in the last forty years, in two exhibitions, sadly neither of the museums that showed her work were central.)
This lecture is part of the process to right that wrong.

Arthur Rope

The person selected to give the lecture could hardly better chosen. Arthur Rope is a cousin of Margaret Rope and grew up hearing stories about her, her strange life, and the band of female artists that surrounded her in her early years.

His interest piqued, he has spent years researching her life and works, and is now the definitive expert. His website is the go-to place for Marga facts and details. He has visited virtually all the churches in the UK holding Margaret Rope’s works – and photographed them.
Thanks to him, previously undiscovered works have been identified and added to the canon.

Arthur Rope at a book signing
Arthur Rope at a book signing

His efforts majorly contributed to the success of the Margaret Rope Exhibition in Shrewsbury (the only time such a large range of her works have been shown); and he has been the driving force behind the recent establishment of a custom-built space for the Margaret Rope archive.
He has published a number of books on both Margaret Rope and her cousin, the stained-glass M.E. Aldrich Rope (who acted on occasion as Margaret’s collaborator).  Arthur is something of an expert on the latter’s work too.

Lecture

An integral part of the lecture will be the showing of many of Marga’s works – not just church windows, but also pieces from private collections. The display-screen in the room will be a dazzle of colour!

Mr Rope will be endeavouring to show not just Marga’s mastery of colour and line but also how she fitted into the ‘Later’ Arts & Crafts tradition.
Arthur is a stained-glass artist himself, and so is well-equipped to explain the unique way in which A&C artists approached glass-working and why it was so different from what had come before – or later.

Inevitably, there will be a discussion of Margaret’s life. Little is known of the details of it, but there has been intense research by enthusiasts over the last ten years, and new facts are coming to light all the time. Some of those will be outlined.
The new research helps a little to explain why she did religious subjects almost exclusively, and how a deep understanding of religious symbology informed her work.

Stained-Glass Museum

For those travelling to the lecture, you could consider spending the day in the town. The lecture takes place in the afternoon (2pm), so you could build your visit around that.

The Museum itself (see pic below) is housed in the triforium of Ely Cathedral and displays around one hundred works of glass, from across the centuries, in the most up to date conditions. (Although no works by Marga are there, there are some small roundels by her cousin M.E. Aldrich Rope).
Stained Glass Museum, Ely
Ely Cathedral itself is a huge joy (literally!) for any church-crawler, and there is a perfect cup of tea to be had in the tea-rooms that lie across the cathedral green.
The town-trail is small enough and quaint enough to complete in two hours.

The lecture takes place on Wednesday October 10th 2018 at 2pm.
Tickets are £9 (discounted for Museum Friends) and are available in advance – see https://stainedglassmuseum.com/lectures.html

One thought…. before attending the lecture you may want to familiarise yourself with Margaret Rope’s artworks. Arthur’s own photo-book of her works is available on mail-order for £10, though, in this online age, you can now download a digital version if you prefer that.
Copies will also be available for sale at the lecture.