Portraits of a lady

This week I was planning to write about some of the pictures of Martha Norton that I’ve recently discovered in the museum collection. However, I see now that she has been a popular subject for my colleagues in previous years – you can read what they said about her on this blog here and on our Enlightenment blog here.

As an attendant, or well woman, at St Ann’s Well, Martha must have been a familiar sight for residents of and visitors to Buxton during the fifty or so years that she worked there. She must have become something of a local celebrity as otherwise it would be unusual for her to have had her portrait made.

Like spas, sea bathing also became fashionable in the late 1700s/early 1800s and another favourite Martha of mine is Martha Gunn. This much loved ‘dipper’ from Brighton was apparently friendly with the Prince Regent (later George IV) and her portrait can still be seen in the Royal Pavilion.

Both the Martha’s worked with water for much of their long lives, leading observers to suggest that this was further proof of its health-giving properties. Now this is an exhibition I’d like to organise! What do you think?


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