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Heritage Volunteers are teams of committed non-specialist volunteers who work under the guidance of curators and other professionals to help conserve our heritage. Heritage Volunteers undertake projects for:

  • museums
  • National Trust properties
  • historic houses
  • libraries and gardens

They give their time to care for collections, record documents and act as guides and stewards.

Projects may include:

  • On-site conservation of books, manuscripts, archives and maps
  • Cataloguing documents and archival listing
  • Conservation of arms and armour, medals and military silver
  • Preventative conservation of textiles, replica work and creation of period costumes
  • Guiding and stewarding in museums, historic houses and gardens.

We work with TAS Shrewsbury, about two thirds Wrekin one third Shrewsbury. We are very fortunate to have so many enthusiastic volunteer members who work well together.

 The team, led by Paul Joseland, who organises the rota for volunteers, has previously worked at the IRONBRIDGE GORGE MUSEUM on the John Scott Collection and the Elton Collection, as described by Paul: 

The John Scott Collection

In August 2013 the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) acquired the John Scott Collection from the collector; John Scott. The Collection comprises around 1,300 objects. In the main, these objects are single ceramic tiles or panels of multiples of 4 or 8. However, included within the collection are around 30 larger tile panels some of which comprise around 48 tiles. The tiles date from c1830 – c1930 and represent perhaps the finest collection of ceramic tiles from this period in the UK. The collection is now housed in a new dedicated gallery at Jackfield Tile Museum. Before these objects could be put on display they had to be condition checked, recorded, photographed and have a light clean where necessary. Following on from this initial work, contextual historical research relating to the tiles, the designers and the buildings in which they were previously installed has been undertaken. Groups from the Wrekin, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton societies were delighted to be asked to help with this work.

THE ELTON COLLECTION

The volunteers have also worked for the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust assisting in the cataloguing of one of the Museum’s most important collections, the Elton Collection. Sir Arthur Elton bart was a contemporary of John Betjeman at Marlborough and they shared a passion for trains. His career was in the film industry for the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit later taken over by the Post Office. Most of his films were based on the lives of ordinary working people. He produced propaganda films during the war and after was production head for Shell films. He gave his house at Clevedon to the National Trust in 1960. He died in 1973 and his collection was taken by HM Treasury in lieu of death duties. In 1978 the collection was deposited with IMGT. The Collection consists of over 4,000 books on transport and the industrial revolution as well as drawings and paintings, film making papers and ephemera. It is the IGMT’s largest collection.

Tong Church Pulpit Fall

The Society supported St Bartholomew’s Church Tong in the cleaning and display of an Elizabethan embroidery which was given to the church in 1635 and was used as a pulpit fall.  It is at present with the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace where it has been cleaned and is now being stitched and couched to a backing cloth which will then be secured to a rigid conservation board.  After this it will be framed and displayed in the church. I will keep the Society informed of progress and there will be an opportunity to learn more about the conservation process.

Compton Hall Heritage Project
If you were able to attend our last lecture you may have already heard a little about this new and exciting joint Heritage Volunteer project. Here Caroline Cundy tells us more about Compton Hall Heritage Project and gives members who would like to do so, the opportunity to become involved.

Compton Hall and Laurence Hodson 1863-1933
Wolverhampton & Wrekin Arts Societies are undertaking a joint Heritage Volunteer project: researching an important local patron and collector of the Arts and Crafts, Laurence William Hodson of Compton Hall.
Laurence Hodson inherited Compton Hall, now home to Wolverhampton’s hospice Compton Care, from his father in 1890. His father purchased the Hall in 1885 following the family’s move to Wolverhampton on him becoming a partner at Springfield Brewery. On the death of his father in 1890 Laurence Hodson inherited Compton Hall and his father’s interest in the Brewery, and on the death of William Butler in 1893 became Chairman of William Butler & Co Ltd.
Laurence Hodson was a great patron of the Arts, in particular the then contemporary Arts & Crafts, amassing an important collection of art, books, furniture and objects at Compton Hall.

William Morris visited Compton Hall in 1895 when Laurence Hodson commissioned Morris & Co to redesign the interior. The oak panelled drawing room bearing the Morris & Co stamp, fireplace with William de Morgan tiles and the original painted ceiling are still in place, as are the panelled library with William de Morgan tiles, the dining room and panelled hall. Morris & Co designed a wallpaper called Compton; a scaled down modern version is available today, the original can be seen at the V&A.

For the drawing room, three of the Holy Grail tapestries designed by Burne-Jones were woven at Merton Abbey. Only three sets were woven, this second Hodson set are now at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. (Tapestries from the other sets are owned by Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who loaned his for the Burne-Jones exhibition at Tate Britain).
For the drawing room, three of the Holy Grail tapestries designed by Burne-Jones were woven at Merton Abbey. Only three sets were woven, this second Hodson set are now at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. (Tapestries from the other sets are owned by Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who loaned his for the Burne-Jones exhibition at Tate Britain).
Hodson commissioned the Scottish artist, William Strang, to paint a series of ten paintings for the frieze in his library on the subject of Adam and Eve, ‘The Temptation’ is now at Tate Britain.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/strang-the-temptation-t07518
(click on this link to see the image)

Two Heritage Volunteer projects are running side by side 

A ‘church recording style’ recording of the interior with photographs headed by Paul Tromans from The Arts Society Wolverhampton 

 Research into the life of Laurence Hodson, his collections and his associations, headed by Hilary Boucher also of TAS Wolverhampton.

As a prominent citizen of Wolverhampton, Hodson became a councillor and chaired the Fine Art Section at Wolverhampton Art Gallery of the ambitious 1902 Wolverhampton Industrial & Fine Art Exhibition loaning many exhibits to that exhibition. John Masefield, who later became Poet Laureate, was his secretary. Several of Strang’s preliminary drawings for the Eve cycle and a portrait of John Masefield are in the collection at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Laurence Hodson sold up and left Wolverhampton in 1906. Compton Hall was sold by Nock and Joseland in Sept 1906 and many items from Hodson’s collections were sold over three separate 1906 sales at Christies. The next important sales from the Hodson collection were in 2013, of special interest were the four Phillip Webb watercolours of the hare, fox, raven and lion now at Wightwick Manor, and Hodson’s extraordinary collection of William Morris’ Kelmscott Press and other press books of that period attracting much interest at the time. These catalogues are proving to be a valuable source of information.

Of local interest is Hodson’s patronage of his lifelong Wolverhampton Grammar school friend, the artist Arthur Gaskin & his artist wife Georgie, subject of a recent TAS Wrekin Study Day by Dr Sally Hoban.

The completion of the project will see three Heritage boards on the walls of the Compton Care coffee shop in the Lodge to give information and interest about Compton Hall. Dr Sally Hoban is lending her expertise for the boards.

Carolyn Cundy
The Arts Society Wrekin

If you have found this of interest, you may also find this article about the 1902 Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition rather interesting if you haven't already seen it. http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/1902/exhibition.htm

The catalogue for the exhibition is also online - https://archive.org/details/wolverhamptonart00wolv.

Many of the paintings were loaned by Laurence Hodson or the artists themselves but many other local familiar names are represented: eg Col. Shaw-Hellier from The Wombourne Woodhouse, the Earl of Dartmouth from Patshull Hall, as well as City Corporations and museums. 

Update on the Compton Hall Heritage Project

Glenis King

The project was to create large educational information boards to be erected in Compton Care Coffee Shop and produce a record of any elements of the Morris &Co refurbishments which still exist.

A 2.4m x 1m board, History of Compton Hall and its owners plus details of the Morris & Co refurbishment is complete and ready to go to the designer. This board will be erected in the snug in Compton Lodge, now Compton Coffee Bar.

A further 2m x 1.2m board, images of Laurence Hodson’s arts and furnishing collection is also complete. This is to be erected in the main part of the coffee bar.

There is a meeting with the designer on Tuesday and the contents of the 2 boards will be handed over.

Hilary Boucher has completed the audit of the 1906 auction catalogue and where possible has obtained images of the items and the institutions they were sold to. A very time consuming piece of work. Hilary has also researched the history of Laurence Hodson.

Paul Tromans and Howard Berry have completed the identification and descriptions of any  Morris & Co items of refurbishment which still exist and Tim Roberts (Wrekin) has provided excellent photographs to complement the description. This information will form part of the Compton Hall Record Book, a copy of which we shall fund for both Compton Care and The City Archives.

Carolyn Cundy ( Compton Care Heritage Champion) has done an incredible amount of research into all aspects of the project enabling an accurate (as far as we can tell) history of the hall and the refurbishment contents. Carolyn has also, at her own expense, researched the pattern of the missing curtains Morris & Co provided for the library and purchased a set to replace them. They look fabulous. Carolyn has also purchased and had framed the prints of the four Forest Animals (now at Wightwick) also to hang in the coffee bar.

Carolyn has tracked down some of the William Strang paintings commissioned for the library.

Carolyn has liaised with the appropriate staff at Compton Care to provide access to the building when we have required it, the staff who run the Coffee Bar and the product department who are now sourcing Morris decorated items.

The staff at Compton Care have been incredibly helpful, even clearing out the Library so that Tim would have an empty room to photograph.

Still to do

The 2 boards need to be printed.

We are editing the contents of the Record Book and that will go to the printers.

We are producing a set of notelet cards, based on photos and drawings we shall be using for the boards, which will be for sale. We shall cover the costs of the first run.

We are also considering producing a set of leaflets to provide further information.

Further fascinating lines of enquiry are continually cropping up.

There will be what is apparently called a ‘soft’ event in February during the evening where we shall hand over the boards and hopefully the record book. This will be for members of Compton Care Board, people who have helped with our research and key members of The Arts Society, about 30/40 in all. We are hoping there will be access to the Hall.

There will be a summer event for both Wrekin and Wolverhampton members to access the Hall and perhaps afternoon tea.

 

Carolyn Cundy

The project is moving forward a pace.  Glenys will email regarding suggested events and I will update on the research.

Firstly an update on Compton Care, the Compton Hall site is looking very good, with their building project well underway, the grounds and gardens looking very good, the new memory garden being a wonderful addition, and the coffee shop selling a range of William Morris themed gifts.  

We have returned the Morris design Bird weave to the library.  Documented to be the curtains in the Library in Laurence Hodson’s day, a pattern designed by William Morris as a woven fabric for the walls of his drawing room in Kelmscott House, Hammersmith.  Bird weave has just been reintroduced by Morris & Co and the colour way ‘brick’ perfectly matched the Library.  The new curtains are up using the original Morris & Co brass curtain pole & tie back hooks c1896.  Very pleasing.

TAS project - The heritage boards

There will be two heritage boards on the walls of the Coffee Shop, both approx 2.4 m x 

1.2 m, one in the snug and one near the counter.  I have done the first draft, and since  spent quite a lot of time checking the detail before we can press the button for final design and print.  This has proved to be a much longer task than expected with many leads opening up.    The wider research into Laurence Hodson and Compton Hall will continue but we are satisfied we have plenty of information for the boards.  Further detailed information can be provided in written form: leaflets and at a later stage on line.

The boards will depict a time line for Compton Hall, its owners and its use from when it was built in 1845 to it opening as a hospice in 1982.  The boards will then concentrate on the story of Laurence Hodson and detail the William Morris interior with the help of Tim’s interior photographs.  There will be a section on the Holy Grail tapestries from the drawing room.  We now have an image of the letter written by William Morris to Laurence Hodson arranging the date for him to visit Compton Hall now held at Harvard University library amongst the Hodson papers sold in 2013, which is excellent.

There will be a section on the Compton design wallpaper.  The archive department at Morris & Co have been very helpful.  They have found the original carved woodblocks for the hand printed Compton design, and have sent me images of 16 of the 28 woodblocks required to print the original large scale design.  A story in itself, which will be briefly outlined on the boards, with greater detail in a later leaflet.  

After 8 months, Colin & I managed last month to find a mutually convenient date for us to visit the home of the London Art dealer, Philip Athill, who researched and wrote the catalogue for the 1982 exhibition on the artist William Strang.  You will well recall that Laurence Hodson commissioned Strang to paint the Adam & Eve series of ten paintings for the library at Compton Hall and you organised an excellent trip to Wolverhampton Art Gallery's archives after the coffee morning at Compton to view their Strang collection of the preliminary sketches for the Eve Cycle & the rather lovely large canvas portrait of John Masefield.  Apparently the  Eve cycle of paintings came on to the market in the late 1970’s.  Around that time The Tate acquired ‘Temptation’ and Philip Athill acquired three.  When I viewed his three paintings  I was delighted to see the original frames exactly match the wood of the book shelves in the Library at Compton.  I still need to arrange to see Temptation at the Tate.  The whereabouts of the rest remains unknown, but he did have a sheet of photocopied polaroids taken at the time of their sale, so I now have images, albeit small, for each painting in the series, which is a huge step forward.  With the measurements done by Howard & Paul of the Compton frieze voids in the library,  knowing the titles of all the paintings and the dimensions for five I expect to be able to match a void to a picture.  Very exciting.  

Hilary Boucher & I attended the Morris & Co symposium in London at the beginning of November organised by the William Morris Society & the National Trust.  There were nine papers presented over the day including Helen’s paper (house manager from Wightwick) comparing Wightwick Manor & Compton Hall. Hilary & I made some useful contacts and interesting leads for our wider research.

Whilst we were staying in London, Colin & I visited the National Trust property Standen House near East Grinsted, a house designed by Philip Webb and furnished with Morris & Co.    It was the last week of an exhibition within the house ‘William Morris, inspired by nature’ sponsored by Morris & Co, and it was very useful to see their layouts  & content.  

On the Standen house tour I was delighted to discover the pierced brass door interior finger plates designed by Philip Webb and called sunflower are the same design as at Compton.  Something to add to the board.  The house was started the same year William Morris visited Compton.  As with Wightwick, William Morris did not visit Standen.  They also had the large scale version of Compton as curtains in the billiard room, something to follow up with Morris & Co, as they I don't believe they stock the large scale version.

Glenys and I are meeting with Hilary on Tuesday morning to see her research on Hodson’s art collection, and I am meeting with Robin Greenwell at my house that afternoon to further look at the board design.

 

 

Help is needed in the archive research relating to the Laurence Hodson collection & Compton Hall: contemporary newspapers around the 1902 exhibition and 1906 sales, Wolverhampton photographic studios of the day for any archive photographs of the interior of the Hall and the Hodson family. If you are interested in helping please contact Carolyn Cundy - cascundy@gmail.com

 

The Arts Society AGA Rangemaster Project

Recently we told you about this new project with The Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust which started in March. Aga Rangemaster kindly donated £500 to The Arts Society Wrekin, to assist with the purchase of conservation materials required for this work. Here is an update on the project which has been abridged from an article received by our President, Paul Joseland and written by Archivist, Sarah Roberts, the project supervisor, which we hope will be of interest.


Heritage Volunteers from the Arts Society Wrekin and Shrewsbury are currently engaged in a project to clean and catalogue a series of plans and drawings from the former AGA Rangemaster foundry at Coalbrookdale. Items range in date from the late 19th century up to the 1970s and include plans of the site, technical drawings of plant and machinery, and designs for products such as downpipes and manhole covers.
The collection was donated to the museum when the foundry closed in 2017 and comprises approximately one thousand individual items. The majority of items are ‘oversize’ and have been stored for decades either folded or tightly rolled in bundles which is not good for their ongoing preservation; fold lines weaken paper and cause it to tear, while materials such as drafting paper will eventually become too brittle to unroll without crumbling so that their valuable information becomes irretrievably lost. The first part of the cataloguing process has therefore been to carefully unroll/unfold each item and to keep it weighted under boards, sometimes for several weeks, to restore it to a flat position. Each drawing is then surface cleaned using archive methods and potentially damaging items such as paperclips, staples and adhesive tape are also removed.

(Heritage Volunteers at work)


Once clean, each item is assigned a temporary catalogue number and an item description is prepared, noting key details such as its creator, content and condition, and its date and method of production. The item is then photographed so that we have a digital record of each drawing in the collection.
It’s clear from the condition of some of the drawings that it was very much a working collection and not just confined to the office; many of the items physically attest to repeated handling and reuse, with some literally bearing the marks of the factory floor. Given the fundamentally functional nature of the collection, and the industrial environment in which it was created, used and stored, it’s a wonder that so much has survived, and in such relatively good condition.

When all of the items have been cleaned, described and photographed a catalogue will be compiled. The collection will then be stored flat, in a protective environment, away from light sources and excessive fluctuations in temperature. As each item will have a digital copy, once in storage it should not be necessary to keep handling the fragile originals, as the collection will still be available for virtual inspection and research.
Since the beginning of the project in April over three hundred items have been processed by the team of volunteers. Already the collection is revealing its potential as a record of the activities of the company; its various corporate incarnations, the companies it worked with and for, and the development of its products, its plant and its machinery. Early 20th century site plans have, for example, already helped to enhance understanding of the archaeology of the area which is now the Museum of Iron car park.

Outline Plan of Coalbrookdale Ironworks, December 1912

Future use of the collection has the potential to go beyond the intellectual content of the drawings and could include research areas such as developments in technical drawing practice over the best part of a century, and methods of reproduction used over the same period, from hand-tracing and blueprints to dyeline print and possibly more.
In the meantime, we continue to unroll and flatten, to clean and describe, and to discover more of what this fascinating collection holds.

Thanks have been received from The Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust for the valuable contributions both financially and through the Heritage Volunteers in supporting this conservation project.

Aga Project Update

After a break in August the Heritage Volunteers have just started on the third rota of the Aga Project which covers September and October.  Sarah Roberts the Archivist, who is our supervisor, has requested some more materials.  There is sufficient money in the donation from Aga/Rangemaster and I have passed the details on to Jim and Terry.  Good progress is being made and I think that we may well finish before the end of October.  I am not sure if our help will be required for the computerised database which will be prepared when the initial descriptions and photographs have been put into logical divisions and chronological order.

There will then be the question of where the plans can be stored in suitable conditions – preferably plan chests. 

Paul Joseland

Further Aga Project Update

The first and main phase is completed.  This comprised flattening the plans followed by cleaning, measuring, allocating a temporary number, describing and photographing.  This work was carried out in a random order as the plans were taken out of the previous storage.

The next phase, now in progress, involves the Archivist (our supervisor Sarah Roberts) sorting the new information into different categories and an appropriate order with a permanent accession number.  In this she is being assisted by a small number of volunteers.  Permanent storage of the archive is yet to be arranged and it is probable that the Museum does not have suitable plan chests for flat storage.  They may be looking for financial assistance for this and another approach to Aga Rangemaster to make an addition the balance of the sum already given may be indicated.  I have requested details of what is required as soon as this can be established.

 New Projects

Gillian Crumpton has promised further projects, including some more of the Elton Collection.  Another possible project would involve putting into digital form a talking history recorded in the early 70’s which is at present on disc but only typewritten on paper. 


If this article has piqued your interest to find out more about becoming a volunteer please contact Paul Joseland or any committee member.

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 Anyone interested in helping with Heritage Volunteering projects should contact

Paul Joseland 

 phj@blueyonder.co.uk