Category Archives: Exhibitions

Moving a Hill into a Gallery

Hill is the story of one Derbyshire hill told in photography, film, sculpture, poetry and song. The hill featured in the exhibition rises north from Wirksworth. It is home to families, wildlife, farming, quarries, mine shafts and wind turbines.

Phil Spencer

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has worked with award-winning photographer Kate Bellis who has spent the last 20 years documenting the relationships between rural communities and the land around them. Kate’s images feature the working life of the hill; farming and quarrying, as well as images of the community that lives in the shelter of the hill.

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Alongside Kate’s photographs the exhibition features a full-sized dairy cow made from the materials of the hill itself, partly using Longcliffe Limestone, by acclaimed sculptor Sally Matthews. Kate and Sally’s work is complemented by a film from Wirksworth-based film-maker Gavin Repton, poetry by Lucy Peacock and a song by Carol Fieldhouse.

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Hill has already attracted a lot of attention from visitors, with one person commenting “I didn’t realise farmers worked so hard”. You can see this remarkable and diverse display for yourself until Wednesday 6 June and you can meet the artists on Saturday 24 March, Saturday 14 April and Saturday 12 May, 2-4pm. A book with accompanying DVD is on sale in the museum gift shop at £20.00.

You can plan your visit here.

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The Serpentine Walk in Buxton

The Serpentine Walk in Buxton is a secluded extension of the Pavilion Gardens. Crossing Burlington Road, the path follows the same River Wye and snakes back round again to rejoin the larger expanse of public park. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has some old views of The Serpentine Walk that show how the trail has changed dramatically over the years.

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The children posing in the foreground of this black and white postcard are dressed in Victorian fashion, giving us a clue to its age. The background reveals a Serpentine that looks so wild and untamed, it is almost unrecognisable. Only the characteristic bending of the river betrays its location. Over a hundred years ago, this part of Buxton would have been on the fringe of town, decades before the encroachment of an urban sprawl. It must have been wonderful to be a child with all that wilderness to explore.

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We fast forward to 1935 for this next image by J.R. Board who ran a photography shop on The Quadrant not too far away. Again, the way the people are dressed confirms its age. We can see clearly that The Serpentine has been trimmed and tidied and supplied with ample seating, probably to suit the more refined expectations of the age. It looks slightly bigger than the park does today, though the house in the background is still there.

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There are several prints in Buxton Museum’s collection depicting this view of The Serpentine. The Rustic Bridge must have been an attractive feature at one time but there is no trace of it now. Only the presence of the spire on St. John’s Church in the background is familiar.

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The far end of the Serpentine was captured in watercolour by J.W. Keightley in 1962. The painting is currently on display on the landing of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, along with an assortment of rarely-seen artworks from Derbyshire’s collection until Easter. You can plan your visit here.

For those interested in the history of the town, adjacent to The Serpentine Walk is the oldest settlement in Buxton; Lismore Fields. My colleague, Joe Perry, has already written about this and it even has its own dedicated website.

Derbyshire County Council retains copyright for all images in the collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery so please drop us a line at buxton.museum@derbyshire.gov.uk if you wish to use them.

Peak District Mystery Solved (almost)

A few weeks ago, we issued an appeal to help identify the location of an entire photography exhibition currently on display. You can read the original blog here.

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Since then, a few visitors to John Vere Brown’s exhibition have suggested that the photographs were taken in Chelmorton; a Derbyshire village near Buxton, albeit in the 1970s. Two intrepid museum staff visited Chelmorton over the festive season to investigate and they were able to validate the suggestions, based chiefly on the sloping church yard, which hasn’t changed much.

Some Chelmorton residents who just happened to call in offered some very precise information; stating that the distinctive copse of trees in two of the images is the view over to the adjacent village of Flagg from the top of Pippenwell.

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A couple who visited us over Christmas said that they knew the photographer, John Vere Brown, and that he snapped their children in the early 1970s and they too suspected that he probably took his walk in and around Chelmorton.

So from no information to lots of information! Thanks to the combined efforts of the staff and the public, the mystery has been solved and the exhibition that’s been in the care of Derbyshire County Council for over four decades now has an exact location. No one has been able to pinpoint the characterful stone in two of the pictures but this may be due to the fact that it’s no longer there. However, it’s not a bad thing to be left with a tiny morsel of enigma.

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Do you recognise this place in the Peak District?

We have a bit of a mystery at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. “Winter” is a photography exhibition by John Vere Brown. The portfolio of 23 silver bromide prints of winter landscapes is his only known Derbyshire work. Why these images were taken and how they came into Derbyshire County Council’s collection is not clear. Equally perplexing is the precise location of the photographs and visitors and museum staff alike are wondering exactly where Mr Vere Brown took his walk.

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John Vere Brown (1925 – 2000) trained as a painter at Kingston Art School and took up photography during his military service in India in the 1940s. He is best known known for his photographs of actors working in British theatre in the 1960s and 1970s. He also photographed public figures and took pictures for magazines including House & Garden and The World of Interiors. John Vere Brown’s work can also be found in the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum archive and the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection at the University of Bristol.

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The prints on display in Buxton are wonderfully representative of a time before digital photography and mild winters. Most of the landscapes show endless white fields and dry stone walls and could be anywhere in Derbyshire. The best chance of pinpointing the trail probably lies with identifying the remote sloping cemetery shown in two of the images, or the stone with the hole. These photographs may have been taken 40-50 years ago so it’s a long shot but if you think you know, please get in touch at buxton.museum@derbyshire.gov.uk

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Winter is on display until 27 January and Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is open over Christmas and the new year (click here for opening times) so you could come in and view the exhibition for yourself. You can also see the brand new Wonders of the Peak gallery, an exhibition by local art students and a gift shop brimming with unusual trinkets. All admission free. We look forward to seeing you.

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The Derbyshire Open Art Exhibition 2017

The 35th Derbyshire Open Art Exhibition is now available to see until 1st September. Each year we invite artists, both professional and amateur, to capture aspects of life and landscape in Derbyshire, illustrating why the county is special to them.

This year the judges looked at 264 entries, and selected 80, including 17 works from young people aged 21 and under.  The selection was made by Louise Potter, Derbyshire representative for the Art Fund; Louise Cross, Director of Buxton Crescent Trust; Simon Watson, sculptor and artist in residence at the museum and Jean Monk, a member of the Friends of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. The judges were pleased that artists entered work to a really high standard, showing Derbyshire in many different ways.

Come and decide for yourself if you agree with the judge’s choices. You will see dramatic landscapes and intimate events. There is great energy in some works and calming reflection in others. There’s a Visitor’s Choice Award too. decided by visitors to the gallery.

You can plan your visit here.