The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2012.
Fifty three of us left Dulwich early, on the morning of June 19th, for the Garden Group’s outing to the Savill Garden at Windsor. Fortunately it was a fine day after all the heavy rain of previous weeks. The Savill Garden was created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930’s, with the support of King George V and Queen Mary. It is a well-signposted garden and for two hours we were able to wander at will through woodland and informal planting, by the lake bordered by many water-loving plants and through areas of native and exotic species to the new Rose Garden, with many different cultivars, opened in 2010 by HM the Queen.
After lunch in the new bright and airy Savill Building, we were transported a short distance by coach to Runnymede for a boat trip to Windsor and back. We were given a running commentary on the way and told many interesting anecdotes. We saw Beryl Reid’s house, which, in her will, had been left to her many cats; when the last one died recently the house was sold for an enormous sum! We passed by a weir, through the Old Windsor Lock, one of the few remaining operated by a lock-keeper living on-site and under two bridges named ‘Victoria’ and ‘Albert’ built on the orders of Queen Victoria to facilitate her travel to Windsor Castle. Apparently this was the first time the launch had been able to pass under the bridges for many weeks, as with heavy rain the river had been too swollen.
Soon after this a small canal was pointed out which was the original entrance to Windsor Castle by royal barge, used by Henry VIII when coming from Westminster and indeed was the way that Anne Boleyn was taken on her last journey to the Tower of London! Finally we saw Windsor Castle from the river, fronted by manicured lawns, a beautiful sight. On our way back to Runnymede welcome tea and scones were provided. We then boarded the coach back to Dulwich after a full and most enjoyable day.
Dulwich Picture Gallery has announced that it has been granted £2 million in endowment funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Catalyst Endowments scheme. The grant has however not come without some serious strings attached. To qualify for the grant the Gallery is required to raise another £4 million in matching donations to create a new £6m endowment fund for visual arts learning and it needs to raise this by 2016.
Income from this new endowment fund will be dedicated to safeguarding the sustainability and growth of the Gallery’s award-winning and life-changing learning and community engagement programmes, curatorial research and the provision of research services for students. In addition, it will help the Gallery attract new supporters and encourage existing donors to give towards its endowment.
Major Conservation work confirms Dulwich painting from Studio of Titian
Recent conservation and scientific analysis have identified Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Venus and Adonis as an authentic 16th-century work executed in Titian’s studio.
The painting was originally acquired for the King of Poland in the 1790s by the Gallery’s founder Noël Desenfans as a work by Titian, but due to extensive retouching and its deteriorating physical state the painting was demoted to the status of a late 17th-century copy and removed from display over 100 years ago. Until now the heavy layers of yellow varnish have obscured the painting’s workmanship, but careful conservation has revealed the work to be an evocative rendition of an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, centering/ upon the last meeting of the ill-fated lovers Venus and Adonis. The delicate luminosity of Venus’s flesh tones and the exuberance of Adonis’s hounds as they depart for the hunt indicate that the painting was created in Titian’s studio and within his own lifetime.
Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Venus and Adonis is a version of the celebrated painting sent by Titian to his patron King Philip II of Spain in 1554, now at the Prado Museum, Madrid. Venus and Adonis was one of the artist’s ‘poesie’ - an ambitious series of large-scale paintings dealing with mythological themes - and proved to be one of Titian’s most sought-after and enduring masterpieces. Demand for the composition motivated the artist to produce made-to-order versions, often with changes included to suit the patron, such as the Tyrolean hat that Adonis wears in this rendition.
Dulwich Picture Gallery has organised a special display which will run from 10 July 2012 to 13 January 2013 to celebrate the return of this significant work to the Gallery, where it will hang as the centrepiece at the end of the historic enfilade. The painting will be joined by two other works from the permanent collection: the Gallery’s 17th century copy of Titian’s Rape of Europa which was part of the original Poesie series (now at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston), and Rubens’s oil sketch of Venus mourning the death of Adonis to illustrate the tragic conclusion to the story of the two lovers.
Venus and Adonis was so highly rated by the founders of Dulwich Picture Gallery that they commissioned a special frame to display it. This highly ornate frame has also been in storage for over 100 years and the Gallery is currently seeking funds to restore it to its original spendour. Despite its present condition it will be reunited with Venus and Adonis for the first time since the 19th century.
This display is part of a celebration of Titian’s Poesie in London this summer. The Wallace Collection’s Perseus and Andromeda will be on show at the museum’s Great Gallery, while Diana and Callisto, Diana and Actaeon will be united at the National Gallery’s exhiibition’Metamorphis:Titian 2012 (until 23rd September)
Lecture:Venus and Adonis unveiled
Tuesday 2nd October 7.00 for 7. 30 pm Linbury room
£10, £8. Friends (Includes a glass of wine)
Lecture given by Dr Xavier Bray, Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Secret Greenhouse is a community ‘grow your own’ project tucked away on a small plot behind the Methodist Hall in Half Moon Lane. It is worked by volunteers who grow vegetables and fruit. A new team has just taken over the running of the garden and they are actively seeking new recruits to join them in the garden’s development. To help launch the new effort The Dulwich Society has given £200 for the purchase of garden tools.
The Secret Greenhouse is holding an Open Day to welcome anyone who wants to learn more on food growing or share their expertise on Saturday 22nd September (12 - 3pm) for an end of season day to showcase the project.
Find out what they plan to grow next, what were the successes of summer - and eat some cakes! Visit secretgreenhouse.blogspot.com or email
London Wildlife Trust’s 30th Anniversary of managing Sydenham Hill Wood
By Rowan Porteous, Sydenham Hill Wood Volunteer Warden
2012 marks the 30th Anniversary of London Wildlife Trust managing Sydenham Hill Wood. The wood has been a key London Wildlife Trust project site since the Trust’s formation, and is a lifeline for wildlife and people in urban South London. The ongoing active management of the wood is vital to preserve this rare example of an urban ancient woodland for all to enjoy.
The wood is one of the few places in London where we can see magnificent, naturally growing trees that have not been planted. In fact, some of the management aims to control rather than encourage the trees, to provide vital grassland refuges for many animals such as butterflies and bumblebees. The site includes patches of the ancient woodland that used to stretch all the way from Selhurst to Deptford. Walking around the site, it’s possible to see and experience an ecological community that thrived well before much of London was built. At the same time, it is possible to read the history of human development and use in the wildlife and the landscape.
The history and ecology of the wood
The wood has been exploited for timber and fuel for much of its history by management such as coppicing, which allows the woodland to regenerate and encourages many wild species. More recently, in Victorian times a railway track was built through the middle part of the wood and the upper slopes became the grounds of mansions with large gardens.
The mansions and railway track have since been demolished, and the woodland has reasserted itself with great energy. We can see this by looking at the painting by Pissarro that depicts the view from the Cox’s Walk footbridge in 1877 and shows a landscape of unbounded fields and scattered houses. It is now impossible to see for more than a few metres in the dense stand of willow, maple and ash trees, and the air is filled with the calls of jays and the spiralling of purple hairstreak butterflies. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary local artist and London Wildlife Trust volunteer Ray Newell has painted the view from the footbridge as it exists today.
The railway track itself is now a woodland ride and still supports many characteristic ancient woodland plants, like wood anemone, which have thrived here for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. These mingle with more commonplace species that like disturbed soil and have spread along railway tracks, such as rosebay willowherb, that may have arrived when the track was built.
The area of the wood that was once Victorian gardens sports a number of historical features including an old folly and also has an ecology of its own, with ornamental garden plants and nutrient hungry colonizers like nettles, which are an important food plant for many caterpillars.
The management by London Wildlife Trust
Human management for wood and timber has been a crucial part of woodland ecology for thousands of years and the unique ecology of the wood has to be maintained by active management. London Wildlife Trust acquired Sydenham Hill Wood in 1982, and manages it for wildlife and the enjoyment of people.
The open glades and rides are cut in early autumn in a way that imitates the actions of grazing animals to maintain wildflowers and the diverse invertebrate life they support. Some coppicing is still carried out to promote the growth of herbs and shrubs, and the wood is retained and used in dead hedges as barriers that provide habitat for many invertebrates. The dead hedges are also used to control trampling by people and dogs and prevent disturbance of ground nesting birds.
A recent success story is the regeneration of the Ambrook and Dewy pond, which began last year. At one time waterbodies in British woodland would have been maintained by animals such as the native beaver. Since there are no beavers in Sydenham we have to do this ourselves! The pond and stream have been dredged and reprofiled, oxygenating aquatic plants have been introduced, and some of the surrounding trees reduced to let more light in. The area will need to remain fenced off for two years to allow everything to grow. Already, as a result of the management, newts have been observed in the water, frogs have spawned, and mallard ducks are nesting here for the first time in many years.
London Wildlife Trust will continue working to preserve this precious fragment of ancient woodland in South London so that it shines as an example of how nature conservation can work in harmony with people, providing a place for reflection, recreation and education.
To celebrate the 30th Anniversary the trust will be hosting an Open Day on Sunday 9th September. If you support our work why not join the Trust as a member? See www.wildlondon.org.uk for more details.
Ashley White who has managed the Wood in recent years and has been a frequent contributor to these columns is moving to Wiltshire to work for the Wildlife Trust . We wish her every success.
Visitors to Dulwich and Sydenham Woods are familiar with what appears to be a ruined chapel on the south side of the former railway line. It is a garden folly, created as an architectural ruin and a familiar device of Victorian landscape designers anxious to add dimension and atmosphere to a wild garden.
The folly is built of brick covered in Pulhamite, an artificial stone material invented by Messrs James Pulham in the nineteenth century. According to English Heritage who published a guide to the work of Pulham and Co in 2008, some eight residents of Sydenham and Forest Hill employed the services of firm by 1877. Pulhamite was principally used by garden designers to create grottos and rock strewn pools.
The folly actually seems to have been in the garden of The Hoo, built in 1861 and occupied from 1871 by Richard Thornton, a wealthy member of the Leathersellers’ Company and a garden enthusiast. It is possible that the contract for the folly was made after 1877. There is no mention of a folly in William Blanch’s Parish of Camberwell published in 1875 which describes the grounds of The Hoo in some detail. What we may therefore have, is a folly (possibly designed by Edward Milner, the garden landscape designer who lived at 1 Fountain Drive and who executed a number of local commissions), set in the wild area of the garden bordering the railway line which was added to the original plot of the garden after negotiation with the Dulwich Estate.
A dry March followed by torrential April rainfall and June will have been a disaster for some species and a boon for others. Any bird that nests in a hole was probably alright and also for those high enough in the bushes. The beneficiaries will have been our Blackbirds, Thrushes and Robins which have had an abundance of available worms, slugs and snails and many appear to have been able to raise two broods. Ground nesting birds such as some of our Warblers many have been washed out. We do not appear to have had Little Grebes nesting in Dulwich Park this year, so they may have suffered the same fate.
It has been a real setback too for our butterflies and readers may have noticed an absence of Peacocks, Tortoiseshells and Commas in our gardens with only the occasional Cabbage White. However before the deluge there was a good number of Orange Tips and Holly Blues and we will now have to wait and see if our colourful butterflies return with better weather. Those who walk up Green Dale from East Dulwich Grove will pass an unmanaged field full of Thistles. This on a hot day in July proved to be full of our Grass Butterflies, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Skippers and an abundance of bees feeding on the thistle flowers. The Vetch growing in this field is, I discovered, a Goats Rue, an uncommon garden escape. Our intended wild areas such as this are still the refuge of much of the wildlife missing from our countryside, and our gardens are the nation’s biggest nature reserve.
In May a Red Kite was seen flying over Sydenham Hill. The last report of a Red Kite was ten years ago, also in May, so this could well have been a migrant bird. The abundant Red Kites to the west of London have not so far penetrated as far as us even though in medieval times they were common in London. They were eliminated in the nineteenth century but have thrived on reintroduction. Buzzards, previously in the north and west, have now spread all over the country and one or two possible sightings over Dulwich have been reported. Hobbys which are summer visitor falcons are regular visitors and may breed nearby.
A Reed Warbler was singing vigorously in the newly established reed beds in Dulwich Park in July. There was no evidence of breeding so this was probably an unmated male, ever hopeful. However its presence gives hope that we may get breeding birds in future years where their elegantly woven nests will perhaps be seen suspended in the reeds.
Swifts are declining but there were screaming parties in July indicating that there has been breeding and there are at least House Martins around Burbage Road although I can only see one nest. There are hedgehogs reported in Great Brownings but not elsewhere recently. There was an unfortunate report of a dead young Great Spotted Woodpecker which made me think of how rarely we see dead birds in spite if what must have been quite a high natural mortality. Most of those we have seen have met with accidents which was probably the fate of this one.
Please maintain your records. They are the substance of my articles.
Peter Roseveare, Wildlife Recorder (Tel 020 7274 4567)
At the time of writing I’ve just settled at my desk with the sounds of the African savannah and the Norfolk fens still ringing in my ears. As I sauntered through Dulwich Park over the lake boardwalk I was confronted by a male Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus busily singing away, high on the top of a reed with his scurrilous, yet enchanting, chattering voice. In ecology the `Field of Dreams` hypothesis stems from the Kevin Costner film of the same name where he famously quoted `Build it and they will come`; create the appropriate habitat for a species and they will eventually occupy that habitat. In the case of the Reed Warbler, mature phragmites, reed grasses, are their favourite haunt as they provide the requisite insectivorous food source along with concealed nesting opportunities. Measuring five inches in old money and weighing the equivalent of two teaspoonfuls of sugar, these birds traverse the Sahara from their West African wintering grounds, travel through Southern Europe and reach the U.K. at the end of April and through May. To fully appreciate and marvel at that Bradley Wiggins type effort I urge you to take a teaspoon and measure out the sugar ... see unbelievable! More exactly named the Eurasian Reed Warbler, to differentiate it from the 38 other family members, the U.K. attracts two other closely related species the Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, and the much rarer and sadly declining Marsh Warbler, Acrocephalus palustris; Acrocephalus translating as pointy head. The Sedge Warbler provides its own amazing endurance story: it increases its weight by over 50% and flies back through Europe over the Sahara to West Africa non-stop, a distance of over 3000 kilometres! The Reed Warbler`s journey is a much more leisurely affair afforded by a more generalised diet, punctuating the flight back with several feeding stop-overs.
Climate change seemingly has had a positive effect on the Reed Warbler in the U.K. as the generally warmer weather has allowed a wider more northerly range for the species, laying dates have become earlier creating more chance of two broods, and earlier growth of reeds is potentially increasing nesting opportunities whilst at the same time decreasing predation risk. In East Anglia the Reed Warbler has another form of predation to contend with, the Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus. Favouring the Reed Warbler as a host species the Cuckoo lays an egg, which mimics the colour and markings of the warbler’s egg, in the warblers nest and leaves the Reed Warbler parents to fledge a very hungry and large chick.
For our Reed Warbler we must hope that a partner is found and that a territory or two evolves in the next few years. Until then I’ll luxuriate in my own field of dreams where the sound of Reed and Sedge Warblers is punctuated by the evocative cry of the Cuckoo.
Perhaps the most graceful of our native deciduous trees, the ash family is well represented in Dulwich. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon aesc, but also in part from ask, the Scandinavian name. Many place names up and down the country are derived from these names: in Wales, many are similarly derived from onnen, the Welsh word for the tree.
The common ash, Fraxinus excelsior, self-seeds profusely in Dulwich. It can be distinguished from our other common native trees by its leaf, which is compounded of many leaflets. This design ensures that, even in high summer, you see plenty of light shining through on to the pale smooth branches and on to the trunk, which is a soft fawnish-grey (ash-grey) in colour. Most ash leaves end in a terminal leaflet, thus having an odd number of leaflets but even-ash leaves can be found and, like four-leaved clovers, are sometimes thought to bring good luck. The tree is normally the last to come into leaf, well after the oak. On that theme, The Woodland Trust has gone to the trouble of pronouncing that there is no truth in the old saying “Oak before ash, in for a splash/ Ash before oak, in for a soak”. In the autumn, the leaves usually fall early and come down in one piece, rather than leaflet by leaflet. They attract earthworms, which drag the blades down and leave the stalks in view, standing out at odd angles.
When not in leaf, the ash can best be identified by its striking black buds, well caught by Tennyson’s “More black than ash-buds in the front of March” (from ‘The Constant Gardener’); as well as by the bunches of ash-keys which tend to persist on the tree through the winter.
There are a number of Fraxinus excelsior cultivars around Dulwich, such as the Weeping Ash ‘Pendula’, to be seen in a number of places including outside Ash Cottage in the Village, and the Golden Ash ‘Jaspidea’, which can be seen both in Dulwich Village and on Frank Dixon Way. The splendid Manna Ash, Fraxinus ornus, that once adorned the garden of Brightlands Boarding House is, sadly, no more but other examples are to be seen on College Road and in Dulwich Park. College Road, the single most distinguished road for trees in Dulwich, also has good specimens of Fraxinus angustifolia, the Narrow-leaved ash and Fraxinus diversifolia, the Single-leaved ash.
The Claret Ash, Fraxinus angustifolia ssp.oxycarpa ‘Raywood’ has been planted in Druce Road (as well as in most British supermarket car parks).
Annie Horniman portrait by Emma Magnus, c 1935 ( Manchester Theatre Collection)
The remarkable Annie Elizabeth Fredericka was born in 1860 in Forest Hill, the daughter of Frederick and Rebekah Horniman. Her grandfather, John Horniman was a grocer when he had the idea of selling pre-packaged tea. Before then tea was sold loosely, allowing the possibility of adulteration with used tea leaves, copper carbonate, lead chromate and even sheep’s dung. The Lancet had been leading the campaign against the adulteration of food and pronounced that John Horniman’s tea passed its purity tests “in triumphant fashion” which must have been a great boost to business. Horniman became known as “Honest John”.
The firm became incredibly successful and by the 1890s was said to be the biggest tea trader in the world. Like many merchants at that time the Hornimans were Quakers and John Horniman was said to be a splendid sight riding his black horse in full Quaker costume, perhaps not unlike the Quaker Oats man. Annie’s father, Frederick joined the family firm, became Liberal MP for Penryn and Falmouth at the age of 66 and was a noted collector. He had a butterfly, beetle, bug and moth named after him after he founded the Horniman Museum.
Annie grew up in a large detached Victorian villa, set in fifteen acres in Forest Hill. Family life for Annie and her younger brother, Emslie, was run on strict Quaker lines despite her father having converted to Congregationalism on his marriage. The house was gradually filling up with Frederick’s curiosities, collected on his travels but life for Annie and Emslie was rather quiet. They were educated at home and fairly dependent on their governesses for contact with the outside world. Playing cards were forbidden as was going to the theatre but when Annie was 14, she and Emslie were taken to a performance of The Merchant of Venice at The Crystal Palace by a German governess and this sparked a lifelong love of the theatre in her. In 1882 she and Emslie both began studying at the Slade School of Art which had only opened its doors to women eleven years before. She regularly travelled abroad wearing trousers and cycling across the continent alone on a man’s bicycle, “ladies’ bicycles are mere hen-roosts…serious travelling on them is ridiculous”, she said. George Bernard Shaw said that it was “monstrous and unheard of” to ride as she did. She went to Paris to see the Impressionist paintings which were then causing such a stir and it was while attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany that she became aware of the German subsidised theatre scene and its cultural importance. Back in Britain she joined the Independent Theatre Society and this led to her becoming a pioneer of the modern repertory theatre movement.
She was a fervent supporter of women’s suffrage and sexual equality. She cut her hair short and was a prolific and public smoker at a time when that was considered quite daring for a woman. She dressed flamboyantly and often used furnishing fabrics from Liberty’s to make her distinctive gowns: Sybil Thorndike described her as wearing “beautiful stuff that you would only think of for curtains”. She also had distinctive jewellery including an enormous elaborate dragon pendant with ruby eyes and made of 300 opals which she had collected on her travels.
She joined and helped finance an occult society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She also financially supported one of the founders of the order, Samuel Liddell Mathers, who had worked for her father at the Museum until he lost his job (and his tied accommodation on Horniman’s estate in Forest Hill) following an argument. Fellow members of the order included the famous occultist Aleister Crowley, Bram Stoker, author of Dracula and the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats who called her “The Quaker Lady”. She was expelled from the order in 1896 for insubordination and it was at about the same time that she stopped financially supporting Mathers. She was reinstated four years later.
In 1894 she inherited £40,000 from her grandfather; the equivalent sum today would be several millions. Insisting on strict anonymity so as not to incur the wrath of her family, she funded a season at the Avenue Theatre in London including the first public production of Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats’ first play in London: The Land of Heart's Desire. A financial disaster but a critical success, it was referred to by Annie as a “fruitful failure”. She developed a strong affection for Yeats and an appreciation of his work led to her becoming his unpaid secretary for many years. She also made the costumes for a play of his performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, a theatre set up by Yeats as a home for the Irish National Theatre. Finding that the theatre had no permanent home she said to Yeats “I will give you a theatre” and funded the purchase of a property which opened in 1904 with plays by Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory. It quickly established an international reputation for championing new Irish plays and a high standard of acting.
Annie’s mother died in 1895 and two years later her father, aged 61, married Minnie Louisa Bennet, aged 21. Annie strongly objected to the marriage, boycotted the wedding and broke off all contact with her family including her brother. She never spoke to her father again and later claimed to have been disinherited by him although he did in fact leave her £25,000 when he died in 1906 though this was a small proportion of his fortune. Emslie approved of the marriage and his daughter was a bridesmaid at the wedding. Emslie had joined the family firm and would later inherit the family fortune together with the children from his father’s second marriage and go on to become a noted anthropologist, Liberal MP for Chelsea and, following in the family tradition, a philanthropist and collector. He endowed an acre of land in Chelsea to be laid out as a park and it still exists today as “Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance”.
In 1898 her beloved family home was demolished to build what would become the Horniman Museum and this may have been the time she bought the flat in Portman Square which she was to own throughout her life and where she lived alone save for two tabby cats.
Meanwhile back at the Abbey Theatre, there was some resentment both of an English woman funding the Irish National Theatre and also of the level of control Annie wanted to exercise. She wanted to choose the plays, the management, the ticket prices but most of all to stem the tide of nationalist fervour which was undoubtedly rife at the theatre. There were many internal disagreements and in 1907 Annie shifted her energies and chequebook to Manchester, buying the Gaiety Theatre a year later and opening it as the first modern repertory theatre. The final straw came when the Abbey Theatre inadvertently stayed open the day after King Edward VII’s death in 1910, when other theatres in Ireland were closed. Annie misinterpreted this as a political act (although it seems to have been more cock-up than conspiracy) and she stopped subsidising the Abbey completely. Sadly, Annie’s long friendship with Yeats didn’t survive the altercations.
Annie hired the noted theatre architect, Frank Matcham to completely refurbish the Gaiety Theatre with excellent sightlines, good acoustics and the latest comfortable tip-up seats. Its repertoire ranged from Euripides to Shaw but was most closely associated with writers of the ‘Manchester School’. Annie was involved in every aspect of the theatre, from management to designing programmes, from arranging tours to reading over 40 plays a week looking for material. She allowed no star actors and was rigorous in sharing out parts, with actors taking turns at both large and small roles. She organised paid coffee breaks and was known as “the actors’ best friend”. The theatre was enthusiastically supported by the Manchester Guardian and underwrote the careers of many playwrights and actors. Annie caught the zeitgeist with this venture, attracting young mill-workers who were becoming aware of the wider world beyond Manchester. One such worker, Alice Foley, described a Gaiety matinée in her autobiography, A Bolton Childhood: "Over tea, brown bread, peaches and cream, we animatedly argued and discussed the philosophy, art or satire of the productions. The whole outing cost about five shillings each but we returned home like exultant young gods, tingling and athirst with the naïve faith that if only sufficient human beings could witness good drama and comedy it might change the world."
Living part-time in Manchester Annie became a popular local figure, always ready to get on her soap-box regarding either women’s rights or the theatre. In 1910 she was awarded an honorary MA by Manchester University for services to the theatre and the cultural life of Manchester, after which she often proudly wore her subfusc for photographs.
In 1913, she appeared onstage in a non-speaking role, playing herself in Nothing Like Leather, a satire on the Gaiety Theatre. She received an ovation and later remembered it as one of the great moments of her life.
Unfortunately audience numbers didn’t hold up. The theatre ran into financial difficulties and despite her financial support the company collapsed and was disbanded in 1917. Asked whether she would attend the last performance Annie said, "Of course I shall be there. Every corpse must attend its own funeral." She leased the Gaiety to other companies for four years but in 1921 the theatre was sold to a cinema company. The headline in the Daily Herald read, “Miss Horniman Compelled to Sell Manchester Gaiety. Heavy Blow to Drama”. Many other provincial cities followed the Gaiety Theatre repertory model with more success however, and George Bernard Shaw said that she “really started the modern theatre movement”.
In 1921 Annie packed up, left Manchester and moved back to Portman Square for good. She gave the Durer engravings which had been in the theatre to Manchester Grammar School and her Rossetti painting to the City Art Gallery. She never again became actively involved in a theatre, although she remained a frequent and enthusiastic theatregoer and supported the movement to establish a National Theatre in London. She had a wide circle of friends and correspondents including J M Barrie, Arnold Bennett, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, John Galsworthy, Emmeline Pankhurst, Marie Stopes, Sybil Thorndike, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and Israel Zangwill. In 1918, at the age of 58, having received the right to vote as a female graduate over the age of thirty, she voted for the first time. She then refused an invitation to stand for Parliament as a Liberal, saying that she voted Labour. In 1933 she was made a Companion of Honour for her work in the theatre. She died in her sleep at Shere in Surrey in 1937 at the age of 76. George Bernard Shaw declared that she should be buried in Westminster Abbey but she was cremated and her ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance at Woking.
Glenys Grimwood, a Dulwich Society member, and distinguished designer of ecclesiastical vestments talks about her work:
Embroidery has been a major part of my life for over 50 years. I had been introduced to it in primary school but my real interest developed after I passed the entrance examination to the Joseph Wright Junior Art School in Derby. Art, and design, together with craft skills were a central part of the curriculum. I learnt to observe, draw and design which for me form the foundation for a successful piece of embroidery.
After teacher training I taught in north London and several years later began to attend courses run by Constance Howard who was for many years the Head of Embroidery at Goldsmith’s College. She was one of the main influences in my development as a designer and embroiderer. I was involved, together with a group of her former students, in founding The New Embroidery Group in 1968 and have exhibited regularly with the Group.
I developed an interest in ecclesiastical embroidery in the 1980s through studying the history of the subject and then taking a course in contemporary design for church textiles. During the course we were directed to visit our local church, study its main architectural features and design a chasuble and stole incorporating some of these features. I drew inspiration from my own church, St Faith’s, North Dulwich, designing and making a Festal chasuble and stole which the church now owns. This was followed by a commission from St Faith’s church for a green altar frontal which, together with a matching lectern fall, was completed in 1989 and is still in regular use.
In 1987 I was elected a member of The Society of Designer Craftsmen. Shortly after this, some of my early work was seen by Beryl Dean, a prominent ecclesiastical embroiderer. Miss Dean was planning an exhibition which she described in the exhibition catalogue as, ‘The best of British ecclesiastical embroidery gathered from all over the British Isles’. The exhibition, ‘British Ecclesiastical Embroidery Today,’ took place in 1990 in St Paul’s Cathedral. Two pieces of my work were selected, the first was a stole, the second was the St Faith’s altar frontal which was photographed for inclusion in the exhibition catalogue. Later that year I exhibited work in Coventry Cathedral in a Festival of Ecclesiastical Crafts. During the Dulwich Festival in 1993 and again in 2000, I held exhibitions of my commissioned work in St Faith’s Church. The items on show ranged from a red altar frontal loaned by Dunstable Priory Bedfordshire to a festal cope and a set of stoles for St Barnabas Church, Dulwich.
Most of my commissions have come from clergy and churches in south east England. I have had regular commissions for stoles as ordination gifts for new clergy but my main work has been in designing and making vestments and altar frontals for churches. The design is developed in cooperation with the sponsors. It can be inspired by architectural features such as a chancel screen in the church, lettering such as Biblical texts, plants or flowers like the Passion flower. After the details of a commission have been agreed I spend time in the church, photographing the interior and sketching any special features which may provide a basis for the designs. Colours that I plan to use in the commission have to be tested to check that they will show up inside the building.
The Church of England uses a different colour to denote each season in the liturgical year. White is used for festivals such as Easter, purple for Advent and Lent, red for Pentecost and green for general use (known as Ordinary Time). The design and the colours used in the embroidery must be strong enough to be seen at a distance in even the largest church and also provide interesting textural detail close up.
The commission for Christ’s Chapel Dulwich is an example of how the process works. I met the vicar and Chapel representatives in June 2005 to discuss the brief and the budget for a green set to be completed by June 2006. The Set consisted of an altar frontal, pulpit fall, veil and burse, bible marker and a stole. The design was to be based on the cornflower which has associations with Edward Alleyn. This immediately presented a challenge as the colour blue recedes, especially on a green background.
My first task was to select a suitable green fabric for the set. I chose a silk fabric similar in shade to the green in the stained glass window above the altar because it would stand out clearly against the oak panelling of the altar and the surrounding walls. I could then plan the design and started by drawing cornflowers and analysing the colour of the petals and leaves. A visit to the De Morgan museum in Putney to study the repeat patterns on the ceramic tiles gave me the foundation for the final design which was worked as a repeat pattern along the frontal, enlarged for the top of the pulpit fall and scaled down for the smaller items. The final designs were drawn quarter scale on A1-size cartridge paper.
Samples of the design were then worked in fabric and thread. Bright blue and mauve silk was used for the cornflowers which were outlined in pale mauve rayon thread with additional edging in silver and gold. The leaves were worked in a multi-shaded green rayon thread. All the embroidery was stitched by machine. The design, together with the embroidery samples was then submitted to the Chapel representatives in October 2005. They accepted the designs and sent them to the Southwark Diocesan Advisory Committee for its approval and by December 2005 the designs had been officially approved and returned. I then had six months in which to embroider and make up the set.
This commission and my next one for Holy Trinity, Wimbledon, were examples of the commissioning process working well. Communication was good. Both churches knew what they wanted but were willing to take advice. My designs were scrutinised, approved and sent to the diocese without delay. I was able to begin the embroidery while the designs were still fresh in my mind. Not all commissions proceed so smoothly!