History of Marlborough Artists

Researched and written by Pat Goldsmith in Feb 1994

“Marlborough Artists” (MA) was founded in 1949 by two enthusiastic painters who worked in Marlborough.

Guy Barton (art master at Marlborough College), who became its first chairman, was one of them, and Jean Latham, the other. Jean had trained at the Chelsea and Westminster Schools of Art. At the latter, two of her contemporaries were Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore. She became the first ‘secretary’ of the new society although she didn’t adopt the title. It was she who rang round to enlist help and find artists to take part in the first exhibition.

From the start, MA was conceived as a society that should be ‘fun’. Its annual exhibition would be an opportunity for professional artists to show their work. Those who qualified for that hard-to-define title were persuaded to present their pictures and sculptures at a hall behind the Castle and Ball, owned by the hotel.

A small committee was formed, either elected or selected. They chose the work to be shown, hung it, catalogued it and manned the exhibition. How that first exhibition was funded is a little unclear, but it seems that there were well-meaning local patrons, including Sheila Chichester (a very versatile lady, married to Francis of ‘Round the World’ fame).

It is difficult to pick out all the characters that played a part in those early days. Peggy Wickham was one of them, and almost certainly joined the first committee. Peter Banyard made frames for the members (and still does, in the basement of The White Horse Bookshop). A Dutchman called Baljon had been stranded in England during the Second World War, and made charcoal, which was used by some of the artists. There were Roy Beddington, Dr. Ennion (father of Hugh) who painted birds, Herbert Whatley, and Miss Faskin, whom I recollect as always wearing tweeds and thick woollen socks (when they were not fashionable), and many others.

When the hall at the Castle and Ball was demolished, the society rented the Public Library. It was really too small, because at some point, probably in the early sixties, the annual exhibition had been opened to non-members.

By this time, Rosalind Ord had become the chairperson, taking over from Guy Barton, and remained in that office seventeen years (from 1960-1977). She had trained at the Slade and the Royal College of Art, and was an expert needle-rug maker and a co-founder of the local tile factory, which bears her name.

The chairpersons over the years have all been ably supported by their secretaries, treasurers and committee members. Mr Lowndes, Mary Spencer and Winifred Evans acted as secretaries during Rosalind Ord’s time.

Guy Barton retired from Marlborough College in 1966 and moved to Yorkshire with his wife Maire, who though not I think a painter, was a tremendously creative person, and among other things made costumes for Marlborough College plays and operas. She also helped to form a work-group of ladies to sew kneelers and cushions, designed by Guy, for the College chapel, and worked many of them herself. The least skilled of the group were given instruction by Sybil Matthews, a skilled needlewoman, who had published books on the designing and making of rugs. Guy’s work in the chapel led to other commissions. Outstanding among them were needlepoint embroideries for Lancaster Priory. Meanwhile, the other founder member, Jean Latham, continued to be active in the society.

As the membership grew, the society had to become more formally organised. Winifred Evans became the chairperson in 1977. She had trained at the Royal College of Art and had recently moved to Wiltshire. It must have been during her tenure that the location of the annual show was moved once more, this time to the Marlborough College gym. The gym gave much more space than the Library and was made available to us for two weeks during the Easter school holidays. (The drugget that was put down to protect the flooring proved to be a hazard, as it wrinkled, and was apt to trip up our visitors!) I suspect that it mist have been during this period that screens were made at Marlborough College and later modified by one of our members, Hugh Ennion. They have been in use ever since.

John Simson took over from Winifred in 1981. He lived in Hungerford and, like Winifred, was a fine painter. He had been chairman of the City Artists in London. After coming to this areas, he painted murals for Hungerford Town Hall.

Helen Hankin, long associated with the society (and the co-founder with Meg Nicholas of the flourishing and enthusiastic Milton Art group), chaired between 1985 and 1986, was secretary, and served as a committee member for many years.

By 1986, MA activities had been extended to include sketching days in the summer, and lectures and meetings (extra to the AGM) in the winter. Members who have taken part in them have found them rewarding. Non-members are able to participate in them at a small charge.

Jack Tomlinson had moved to Marlborough from Farnham, where he had been a keen member of the Farnham Art group. He seemed to be an ideal choice to be the next chairperson, and came to the job in 1986 with plenty of ideas to broaden the scope of the society. By this time, we had moved the venue for the exhibitions to St.Peter’s Church, and this is where we remain.

Susan Kirkman took over from Jack, and was ably supported by Vice-Chair Jo Moffat, Treasurer John Cooper, and a hard-working committee, all of whom had served under Jack.

Did Guy and Jean foresee that 45 years on, Marlborough Artists would still exist and be as popular as ever, with an ever-increasing list of applicants for membership?

(Written by Pat Goldsmith, with grateful thanks to Mrs Jean Latham and Miss Rosalind Ord for their help. February 1994)

Update 2007

Susan Jackson became Honorary Treasurer in 1994, and Agnes Stein took over the chairmanship in 1997 from Susan Kirkman. Sadly after an illness, Agnes stood down and Susan Jackson took her place, with Derek Bramwell as Treasurer in 2000. Over a period of time the programme of events such as lectures, demonstrations and sketching days were attended by a decreasing number of stalwarts, and it was decided to revert to an annual exhibition, and AGM and a social event to allow for members’ more diverse lifestyles, but to give and opportunity for artists to meet each other and display ther work annually. In 2004 it was agreed that a limited ¬†committee, with co-operation from members, would arrange the annual exhibition, presently held at the Town Hall, the AGM, and an informal social evening. At present Derek Bramwell remains as Treasurer, Jo Moffatt acts as Co-Ordinator and Annie Monk as Publicity Officer and Committee member. Catherine Pier has become Membership Secretary in 2007 and together it is hoped the society will continue to re-invent itself and adapt to the changing demands of the membership.

(Written by Jo Moffat.  January 2007)

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