In proud remembrance: Lt Douglas Marshall Rigby in the First World War

A few weeks ago, I promised to write more about Douglas Marshall Rigby, the talented amateur artist brought up in Buxton, whose artwork we have been delighted to display at the museum over recent months. My previous blog explored Douglas’ family life and growing up in Buxton where, at a remarkably young age, he produced many of his surviving sketches and watercolours. Now I want to talk about his life as a soldier, as we move towards remembrance Sunday and the close of our exhibition.

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Douglas in uniform, 1915

The 1911 census records solicitor Marshall Rigby and his wife Grace still living at White Knowle, Buxton with their children. Honor (aged 22) has her occupation listed as gymnastics teacher and Douglas (19) as clerk to a iron merchant. Later that year the family moved from Buxton to the market town of Knutsford in Cheshire. When the First World War broke out in 1914, Douglas soon enlisted in the Cheshire Yeomanry, a cavalry brigade formed of men of every class from the county. Several months later he took a commission in the Cheshire Regiment, which would eventually take him to the front.

Like many young men of his age, Douglas had enlisted quickly and he was apparently frustrated by the subsequent delays that kept him from the front line. Once he had disembarked for France, in the summer of 1915 and a year into the war, his letters and postcards home reveal a cheery disposition and a fascination with the world around him that seems undiminished by the conflict. As a first lieutenant, he was responsible for the welfare, accommodation and entertainment of the men under his command, and his surviving correspondence is rich in observations of the landscape and an obvious concern for the comfort of his men.

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Douglas with his parents Grace and Marshall Rigby, Knutsford, 1918

Douglas was first wounded by debris from a mine explosion at Fricourt in June 1916. This ‘Blighty wound’ led to a short period of recuperation in Lincoln General Hospital, after which Douglas rejoined his regiment at Oswestry in Shropshire. Here Douglas was a Bombing Officer, training others to throw grenades into enemy trenches.  Very early into this role, a man dropped his missile on Douglas’s foot leading to 18 months of painful operations and physiotherapy. After this protracted and frustrating convalescence, Douglas returned to the front in August 1918, rejoining his regiment at Ypres in Belgium. Two weeks later, on 4 September 1918, he was shot dead by a sniper while leading his company in the advance which contributed to ending the war.

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Douglas’s medals, recently on display in Cheshire Military Museum

Douglas’s family received news of his death in a War Office telegram on 10th September, almost a week after the event. In the correspondence they received from those he had known and served with, Douglas was universally acclaimed as a splendid chap and a fine officer. His mother Grace wrote this dedication in her journal: “In glad thanksgiving for his life, in proud remembrance of his death.”

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Rigby family items displayed in Chester Military Museum.

Thanks to the generosity and hard work of Douglas’s surviving family members, we have been privileged to share Douglas’s story and artistic output with our visitors this autumn. You can enjoy the display of Douglas’s artworks and a small selection of personal items during our normal opening hours, until Saturday 10 November 2018. A companion book and DVD produced by Douglas’s great nephew, Richard Elsner, are available for purchase from the museum shop. Additional artworks and other items kindly loaned by Douglas’s family can be seen at Knutsford Heritage Centre until 22 December.

 

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Scenes of summer

While we enjoy the last days – and rays – of summer, it seems like as good a time as any to share some images of the season from the museum collection. There are certainly plenty to choose from, even though you’d be forgiven for thinking that Buxton is better known for its somewhat wintry reputation!

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Postcard sent from Buxton, postmarked July 11th 1908

These pictures, reproduced on postcards, demonstrate the variety of activities available to residents and visitors in Buxton during the warmer months of the year.

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Ashwood Park was built in the early 1920s on the grounds of the Ashwood Park Hotel. 

As well as sporting activities like tennis, bowls, boating and golf, visitors and residents could enjoy strolls in landscaped areas around the town and walks in the countryside.

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The Serpentine Walks extend along the River Wye to the west of Pavilion Gardens

The more adventurous could explore further afield with trips by horse-drawn carriage and charabanc to scenic destinations including Dovedale, Ashford-in-the-Water, the Cat and Fiddle public house and the Goyt Valley.

 

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Passengers leaving Buxton with their driver J Wilkinson and guard A Gallinson, pulled by the horses Black Jack and Little Arthur. Early 20th century.

While adults enjoyed promenading through Pavilion Gardens, there was also plenty of entertainment for children. We love this postcard of a Punch & Judy show by the Crescent:

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Postcard dated 1896

Lest we forget that the sun doesn’t always shine in Buxton in the summer, we have two postcards showing a flood in Pavilion Gardens, which (while it may not have been the result of heavy rain?) certainly must have put a dampener on the usual summer pursuits.

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Enjoy the rest of the summer – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! Remember Buxton Museum and Art Gallery closes for redevelopment on 5 September so you only have until the weekend to pay us a visit.

 

May these waters never cease to flow

This week Buxton celebrates the well dressing festival, which began in 1840 to thank the Duke of Devonshire for piping a supply of fresh water to a well on the Market Place. Apart from a break between 1912 and 1925, the event has been held annually.

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Celebrations on the Crescent in 1864, the first year that St Ann’s Well was decorated.

Since Thursday volunteers have been busy creating the dressings inside St John’s Church and this morning the results will have been installed at the three wells around the town ready to be blessed this afternoon.

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The blessing of Higher Buxton Well in 1910.

 

The blessing of the wells starts with a service at St Anne’s Church on Bath Road followed by a procession that marches to each of the three wells in turn for a short blessing at each one. Afterwards the new well dressing Queen is crowned in a ceremony at St John’s Church. Next Saturday she will lead the annual carnival procession through the town.

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Festival Queen Florence Morten leading the carnival procession in 1925.

 

The three wells are  St Ann’s Well on the Crescent, the Children’s Well (or Taylor Well) on Spring Gardens and Higher Buxton Well on the Market Place. The displays remain up until the following Monday (11th July this year) for visitors and residents to enjoy.

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Palace Hotel Laundry parade float, June 1932

 

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has a large collection of photographs and postcards that record the history of well dressing in the town, including wonderful well dressings, former festival queens, prize-winning parade floats and spectacular street scenes. Thanks to the people who collected them and the generosity of our donors and supporters, we’ll be able to keep and look after these snapshots of Buxton tradition for future generations to enjoy.

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May pole dancing on the Crescent in front of St Ann’s Well, 1912.

More information about Buxton well dressing and associated events can be found on the official festival website here.

Images of a winter wonderland

With the shortest day of the year upon us, this seems like a timely moment to share some wonderful winter images from the photographic archive at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

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Newspaper delivery man on Fairfield Common, Buxton 1947 (J D Meddins)

These photographs are from the Board Collection. James Robert Board was born in Lancashire and later lived in Sheffield, where he may have first trained as a photographer. He was in Derby by 1922 and operating a photographic studio at 9 Cavendish Circus in Buxton from 1926 until the 1970s. His step-son John Meddins was also a photographer, whose work is well represented in the collection.

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Snow ploughing on High Street, Buxton 1928 (J R Board)

Picture the Past has examples of Board and Meddins work from all over Derbyshire, which are available for purchase in a variety of formats.

Wherever you are in the world, we send you warm wishes for a joyful festive season and a happy new year!

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Children sledging in Buxton, 1947 (J D Meddins)

Carnival memories

We recently accepted a donation of photographs that belonged to a lady called Miss Dorothy Thomas, who used to lived on Leek Road in Burbage, Buxton. The photographs were given to the museum by her niece, Myfanwy, who thought they might be useful for us as they show floats entered by Burbage Youth Social Club in Buxton well dressing festival and Chapel-en-le-Frith carnival in the 1940s and 1950s.

We would love to know more about this photograph. Can you tell us anything?
We would love to know more about this photograph. Can you tell us anything?

There are also several photographs of the Burbage Youth Social Club building decorated for the wells dressing, and of a Mr Franguplo, who lived on Bishops Lane in Burbage.  We are told that he made his money in the Manchester textile trade and funded the youth social club building, as well as other philanthropic causes in his adopted town.

Willow Pattern Bridge over Buxton Youth Social Club driveway, June 1957.
Willow Pattern Bridge over Buxton Youth Social Club driveway, June 1957.

Looking at these photographs, you can see how much hard work and effort went into creating the spectacular floats and costumes, mostly with fresh flower petals. Work didn’t stop there as houses and streets in various neighbourhoods were also festooned with garlands and banners.

This image is from 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

The unseasonal Buxton weather is also evident in the umbrellas and raincoats seen in some of the images. A note on the back of a photograph from June 1957 reads: ‘it was raining hard and we had to take most of the children off.’ Clearly the Buxton weather wasn’t enough to dampen everyone’s spirits as the ‘Cinderella’ float went on to win first prize that year. Myfanwy – who kindly donated her aunt’s photographs to the museum – can be seen as Cinderella sitting in the coach in the photograph below.

The Cinderella float also featured a castle and four horses!

We look forward to capturing and sharing more carnival memories in years to come.