Heavenly Lights

A Friend who is also a Museum volunteer writes:

This exhibition, ‘Heavenly Lights’, featuring the life and work of Margaret Rope, a native of Shrewsbury, ran from September 12th 2016 to January 15th 2017.
The Friends gave £5,000 towards the costs – the most we have ever given for an event like this. And we were well rewarded for our support. The number of visitors was high and people came from all over the country and even a few from abroad.

This was the first-ever retrospective of the life and works of Margaret Agnes Rope, who was one of the leading stained glass artists of the early twentieth century.
Exhibitions of stained glass are rare because of the obvious problem of acquiring appropriate exhibits, but the Museum overcame this by installing a state-of-the-art projection system to show giant images of windows on the Museum’s walls, including the Saint Winefride window from Newport RC Church (below).

Saint Winefride window (detail) by Margaret Rope
They also worked co-operatively with Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral which has seven beautiful windows made by Margaret Rope, including her first commission.

The Museum staff and Mark Stewart & Arthur Rope did a large amount of research and begged and borrowed exhibits from private collections all over the country, including photographs, original documents and letters. Rare glass panels made early in her career were on show, as were her sketches and designs, which gave a valuable insight into how stained glass artists work.
A local glass artist, Nathalie Hildegaard Liege, was also on hand to lead workshops.

Free talk is the last event of Margaret Rope exhibition

We are now into the last few days of the very successful ‘Heavenly Lights’ exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum. It ends its four-month ‘run’ on Sunday January 15th.

The Friends agreed to be one of the two main sponsors of this exhibition; and that has proved to be a very worthwhile decision, having shed much light on the work of Margaret Agnes Rope. The stained-glass works of this very fine artist, who was born in Shrewsbury in 1882, will now be much more highly valued, we are very sure.


A number of big public events have taken place alongside the exhibition, and one of the last of them takes place on Tuesday, January 10th at 6pm.
A free public lecture, exploring the contribution of the Arts and Crafts Movement to the field of stained glass design will take place at the University Centre here in Shrewsbury. (Margaret Rope herself is always associated with the early twentieth century ‘Arts & Crafts’ Movement).

In her talk, the art historian, Dr Claire FitzGerald, will discuss how a woman artist such as Margaret Rope managed to carve out a space for herself inside the world of stained glass making during this period.

The Shrewsbury-native Margaret A Rope was a student at the progressive Birmingham Municipal School of Art, where she learnt her craft under the guidance of Henry Payne (1868-1940). This entailed an integrated approach to design, in which the artist was involved throughout the process of its realisation.
Moved by a deep engagement with Catholicism, Margaret Rope’s art decorates Catholic edifices across Great Britain, as well as in Italy and Australia. Alongside the analysis of the rich symbolism and narrative quality of her windows, a case will be made for the compatibility of some of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement with Rope’s journey of faith.


Dr Claire FitzGerald specialises in late 19th- and early 20th-century British art and design. She recently completed a PhD at the University of Warwick, which was funded by a University of Warwick Chancellor’s Scholarship. Her thesis focused on Birmingham-trained craftswomen working in book-illustration, tempera painting, stained glass and embroidery. She is currently preparing elements of her research for publication.

The lecture will take place at the Guildhall (Frankwell, SY3 8HQ) site of the University.  It is part of the university’s ongoing Public Events programme.
The event is free but booking is recommended. Please email communications@ucshrewsbury.ac.uk to reserve a seat.
See also the Shrewsbury University website

Worcester visit

The Friends in Worcester, November 2016

This was the last of the three visits the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery made in 2016.
Our guide and lecturer, as on many previous occasions, was Tim Bridges, an expert in the field of church history and architecture. He is advisor for the conservation of buildings to the Victorian Society in the West Midlands and is also support officer for church buildings for the Diocese of Hereford. He has under his care about 300 buildings many of which are Grade I or Grade II listed. So we were in excellent hands!Friends Visit to Worcester 2016In the course of a most interesting and rewarding day Tim took us first to two Georgian churches in Worcester, St. Nicholas (now a pub where we had coffee) and St. Swithun’s. We were then given a short tour of the Assembly rooms before continuing down the beautiful medieval Friary Street towards the cathedral.
After lunch, in what was formerly a pilgrims’ hostel but now a hotel, we spent the afternoon in the Cathedral.

You can read brief details about St. Swithun’s church and the Cathedral below.

St Swithun’s Church

St. Swithun’s is one of the two Georgian churches we visited. The tower is all that remains of the Tudor church, and the rest of the exterior is classical, executed probably by the Woodwards of Chipping Campden.
According to Pevsner the Georgian interior is marvellous with all the furnishings of the period, including the organ, the box pews and a beautiful wrought iron altar table. There is also an elegant three decker pulpit under a wonderful tester, surrounded by a pelican feeding her young. The workmanship is of the highest quality throughout and the unaltered Georgian architecture is probably the finest in Worcestershire.

Worcester Cathedral

Worcester has been the seat of a bishopric since the seventh century. The building was founded in 680 as a Priory and the historian Bede records that there were monks and nuns here from this date. The monastery became Benedictine in the tenth Century. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the monks were removed and replaced by secular canons. The cathedral has important parts representing every period of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic.Worcester Cathedral, EnglandThe earliest remains today are to be found in the Norman crypt. Also from the Norman period is the circular chapter house, which was made octagonal on the outside in the fourteenth Century. From this period there are also fine misericords. The cathedral was extensively restored in the nineteenth century by W A Perkins and Sir George Scott. The most famous monument in the Cathedral is the tomb of King John and the finest piece of architecture is undoubtedly the central tower, described as ‘exquisite’ by the historian Sir Alec Clifton Taylor.

Margaret Thorpe
(Photo of Friends by Linda Clutterback; Worcester Cathedral credit: Wikipedia)

Fish Tales

The Fossils in Shropshire project (FiSH)

The Fossils In Shropshire project (FISH) aims to digitise and make publicly available the highly important geology collections held in Ludlow by Shropshire Museums.
An application for support, for a grant of £250,000, was made by the Friends of Ludlow Museum to the LIBOR fund – set up by the government to spend the fines levied on banks – and, with the support of Philip Dunne, Ludlow’s MP, they were successful.

FossilThe significance of the collection was the key to securing this funding and it is hoped that this will lead to a wider knowledge of what is in the collection and how it relates to other collections.
It will also provide accessibility to all those who will want to know details of what is one of the most significant geological collections in the country.
The funding, over a three-year period, pays for the costs of three staff members plus equipment costs. This work will extend beyond fish, indeed beyond fossils, to embrace the whole of the geology collection.

Work began in April 2016 by examining the collections, as well as testing out equipment and techniques to be used in the main part of the project. With an estimated 40,000 specimens stored in over 2,500 drawers and boxes, undertaking a full inventory of the geology collection stored at Ludlow is time consuming.
However, by doing a specimen by specimen check, information from existing labels about places and collectors has been harvested. The preliminary work has also identified the most important objects to concentrate on for digitisation and research.

You can keep in touch with developments by the project website http://fishproject2020.wix.com/news or through the twitter feed @FISHdigitise

Daniel Lockett  (extract from FSMAG 2016 Newsletter)

The Claverley Hoard

In March 2015, metal detectorists discovered a hoard of Iron Age gold coins in Claverley Parish near Bridgnorth.

The hoard has subsequently been declared Treasure and offered for purchase – it has only been since the introduction of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the revision of the Treasure Act in 2002 that significant finds have been reported and made available to the public. This was a unique hoard of coins and a priority for acquisition and The Friends were delighted to be able to help.

Claverley Hoard coinThese seven coins were the first recorded Iron Age coin hoard from Shropshire.
Single finds have been made before, but Iron Age coins are extremely rare within the County, and the local tribe, the Cornovii, did not produce their own coinage.
Some of the coins are associated with the Corieltavi tribe in the North-East and others with the Dubonnic tribe whose power base was in the Gloucestershire/Bristol area.
There was no monetary system active in Western Britain and coins acted more as a token of allegiance and identity and probably were used to strengthen bonds between areas and peoples.

The intention is to permanently display the hoard within the Late Prehistory displays in Shrewsbury Museum’s Roman Gallery.
A major exhibition of Iron Age material from Wales and the Marches, which would feature this find as a key artefact, is also to be jointly explored with the National Museum of Wales.

Based on information from Emma-Kate Lanyon, Curator SMAG

Friends’ Summer Party 2016

David and Verena Waterhouse very kindly hosted the party at their house. Friends Summer Party 2016This was a wonderful setting: the terrace was just the right size and we had lovely views of the garden and the river beyond. Add to this the good wines selected for us by Phil Johnston, plenty of tasty canapes, served by the attentive waiter of the day, David and Verena’s grandson, good friends and conversation, what more could we ask? Even the weather smiled on us.

It was a most enjoyable party and a good chance to catch up with a number of old friends and meet new ones. Even Boris the dog was happy!
Our huge thanks to David and Verena and to all those who helped in the organisation, and in producing the canapes.