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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Lt. Douglas Marshall Rigby – a celebration

On Saturday we were delighted to open a display of sketches and watercolours by amateur artist Douglas Marshall Rigby (1891-1918). This is one of three exhibitions taking place locally to mark the centenary of Douglas’s death, organised by his family to celebrate the life of this remarkable but little-known man.

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Cottage with haystack and hills, watercolour by Douglas Marshall Rigby

Douglas was born on the 27 July 1891 in Timperley, near Altrincham in Cheshire, the second child of Marshall and Grace Rigby.  Marshall worked as a solicitor. His father, John Rigby, was a partner in Armitage & Rigby, one of the north-west’s most successful manufacturing and merchant businesses, operating mills and warehouses in and around Manchester. John’s business partner and brother-in-law, William Armitage, was also the father-in-law of William Oswald Carver, from another wealthy cotton manufacturing family. The extended family were known as ‘the clan’ because of the large New Year gatherings they held annually in Altrincham. Many of the men in this extended family would later serve in the Great War.

Douglas as a baby with Grace & Honor
Douglas as a baby with his sister Honor and their mother Grace

Douglas grew up with his older sister Honor (born 25 June 1888), first in Altrincham and then in Buxton, where the family moved in March 1898 for the children’s health. The family lived at White Knowle House in Burbage, enjoying a comfortable middle class existence with live-in servants, regular visits to family around the country and holidays on the Welsh coast. Grace records in her journal that Douglas had drawn from infancy but began to draw and paint in earnest aged about 7 years old. In May 1899 his father took him to Manchester Art Gallery, and Grace noted several months later that her son would still occasionally tell her something new about a painting he had seen there. In November 1899 she writes: “He is of a restless nature, unable to keep still for a minute together – except when drawing or painting” and “at any spare minute he is always drawing.”

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Douglas drawing circa 1897 with Grace and their pets

After the move to Buxton, Honor and Douglas were first schooled by a governess and then by their mother. By the end of 1899 Grace was reporting that they also had private lessons in gymnastics and dancing, and that Honor went fencing once a week! In 1900, Douglas had his first art lessons, but these were sporadic. He was later enrolled at Holmleigh Preparatory School on Devonshire Road in Buxton (demolished 1961), and by 1905 he was studying at Marlborough College, a boys boarding school in Wiltshire. Here he took painting and drawing lessons alongside his other subjects. In his own time he drew caricatures of fellow pupils and school staff and was encouraged to paint by his housemaster. In autumn 1907 he won the school watercolour prize.

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Postcard sent to Grace Rigby from Douglas while at Marlborough College, 1908

Douglas begged to leave school when he was 17 and go to a studio so that he could become an artist. He went to a studio in Kensington, London and boarded with a family nearby. Apparently he enjoyed his time there, both working in the studio and visiting places of interest, but soon realised that he was not good enough to make a living as an artist and worried about how much money was being spent on his training. After about a year he decided that he had better follow his father into business. He returned to live with the rest of the family at White Knowle in Buxton and joined the office of one of his uncles, an iron and steel merchant in Manchester.

 

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Untitled and undated pencil sketch by Douglas Marshall Rigby

I can’t imagine that working in an office in the city held much joy for a young man of artistic inclination who loved the outdoors, but this is Douglas’s last known occupation. A few years later, war would break out and his life would change forever. I’ll write more about that in a few weeks time.

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Douglas photographed while painting, December 1903

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 surviving family members can be seen in exhibitions in Chester and Knutsford*.

*Related exhibitions are running at Cheshire Military Museum until 31 October and Knutsford Heritage Centre until 22 December.

When did They Start Bottling Water in Buxton? Part Two

Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood has been provided with more fascinating information about a well-known product to add to her original blog.

Last time I asked if anyone could help the museum with more information about the Buxton Mineral Water Company, and over the weekend a local researcher has done just that. Huge thanks to her for her help. Here is what she has found:

The first reference to Buxton Water being bottled and sold is in a copy of the Morning Advertiser, a London newspaper for Tuesday 17th April 1855. Someone in the town had paid for four front page adverts. In those days the classified adverts were on the front page of the paper, printed in dense columns – and one of them reads:

Buxton Mineral Waters. – Bottled by authority at St. Ann’s Springs. – Sold in Pint Bottles, with direction for Use, by Francis E. Nielson, Pharmaceutical Chemist, the Quadrant, Buxton; and by Hawkins and Co. Importers of Mineral Waters, Duke-Street, St. James’s, London.

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The Palace from the Broad Walk, Buxton by Eugene Lami 19th century

I like the idea of London city dwellers being able to have restorative drafts of Buxton Mineral Water more than 150 years ago as they went about their business, or served to them in their fine Victorian homes! Shame we’re not told how much this pint of water cost.

The other adverts were for St Ann’s Hotel in the Crescent, the Buxton Bath Charity and for the book: A hand-book to the Peak of Derbyshire and to the use of the Baths and Mineral waters of Buxton, by William Henry Robertson MD. It was advertised as available at all booksellers and at the railway stations. We gave you a flavour of this book previously.

I assume the water was being bottled in the torpedo shaped Hamiltons, which have the advantage of lying neatly top to bottom alongside each other probably cushioned by densely packed straw in cases or wicket baskets. I assume the bottles would have been transported on carts of packhorses to the canal basin at Buxworth and then the precious water would have been taken by barge through the canal system to London, since the trains had not yet got as far as Buxton at this date.

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The next snippet we have is to announce that the Buxton Mineral and Aerated Water Company, Buxton, Derbyshire was dissolved on or before 12 October 1872. But a new company almost immediately springs from the ashes, when the Buxton Herald and Gazette of Fashion (yes, I typed that correctly!) minutes the first ordinary meeting of shareholders for the Buxton Mineral Water Company, under the chairmanship of W.S. Gandy, on 4 September 1873.

The minutes refer to the directors re-organising and systemising the business. Reading between the lines, this looks like a refinancing of the business. The chairman spoke eloquently of the quality and demand for Buxton Water, but if we come back to my interest, the bottling of it, he goes into detail:

Gentlemen, in addition to the ordinary Soda Bottles, we have now in use Barrett’s Patent or Corkless Bottles, and have this last month taken up a licence for Codd’s Patent Bottles: this is a bottle which, whilst offering the advantages of Barrett’s Corkless, also possesses special advantages itself as regards cleanliness and appearance, so that in this department we shall be able to please any choice of customers…

Hiram Codd had perfected the design of these bottles in this year, 1873, with a marble in the neck and a rubber seal, so Buxton Mineral Water Company was one of the very first licence holders.

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The Terrace and Hall Bank, Buxton 1860

Finally we come to Tebb, whose bottles of Buxton Water with his name on them are also on show in the new exhibition in the Wonders of the Peak gallery at the Museum.

He is Samuel Henry Oliff Tebb, who was born in about 1864 in Spalding in Lincolnshire. In 1881, when he was about 17, the family had moved to Newark-upon –Trent, and he was working as a ‘bottler’. Clearly there was opportunity at Buxton and by 1890 he was in Buxton, mourning the death of his first wife, Fanny Redfern, whom he had married five years earlier. But not for long, because in June 1891 he married Annie Turner – is this of the marble working family? – and in the 1901 and 1911 censuses he is listed as residing at 10 Rock Terrace, Buxton and working as a ‘Mineral Water Manufacturer’. Can you ‘manufacture’ mineral water?

The source for much of this research was the British Newspaper Archive and the website www.findmypast.co.uk. If you are interested in these finer details of history and research, this is definitely a website you’ll want to visit: it will keep you amused through some of the nastiest of the coming winter days. Don’t forget, that there are public access computers at the museum and in the libraries and staff can show you how to use these tools if you are unsure how to get the best from them.

My thanks again to the researcher who helped on this enquiry. We do appreciate the additional information the followers of the blog can give us.

 

A Monkey’s Puzzle

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On first moving to Buxton I would walk out to explore the footpaths behind Fairfield or take off along the lanes and bridleways by bike. After one such excursion I was describing to a colleague a particular short but severe, lung busting hill on the road from Peak Dale. ‘You mean Monkey Brew!’ was the response. I was intrigued.
P1010331I asked around but the most I got by way of explanation was that the name derived from the little monkey carved into a cornerstone high up on the end of Forest View Cottages part way up the bank on Batham Gate Road. I suspected there was more to the story.
Old Ordnance Survey maps suggest the row of cottages was built around the 1890’s, but why the monkey carving? Was it added for hill’s namesake or did the hill gain its name after the monkey was added? And what about the word ‘brew’? I had wondered if ‘brew’ had derived from ‘brow’ or even a mispronounced ‘Brough’, as much of Batham Gate Road follows the Roman route to Templeborough via Brough. A little enquiry revealed ‘brew’ or ‘bru’ to be a northern dialect term for hill. This explanation seemed to fit the bill but the monkey continued to niggle. Every time I dropped my bike into its lowest gear to trawl myself up that hill I would look up at that mischievous, curly tailed beast and curse … and wonder.
After a few years of not knowing I threw the question out there on social media and later the same day I got a response. Curiously, a fellow cyclist said that as a boy he used to live in ‘the house with the monkey’.
So thank you Jamie Stafford for your story, I do hope it is true because I love it. And here it is;
“Growing up in that house, we used to tire of the ramblers and passers-by that would knock at the door asking about the monkey. For years we had little idea why it was there. One day an elderly walker called by who used to live in the area and proceeded to recount a tale. He said that the chap who built the cottages was a raving alcoholic and ran out of money to finish the job to the tune of five hundred pound (a monkey). Back then it was shameful to borrow money so to ward off potential investors and employers the stone mason carved the monkey on the house to state that the owner couldn’t be trusted. ‘Brew’ could simply relate to ale: ‘Monkey Brew’ a bad debtor due to alcohol.”
Maybe someone out there lives in a house with a carving of another monkey, maybe a pony, a bag of sand or even a Lady Godiver! Do shout up if you do.

Time for a bit of Spring Cleaning

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With the reopening of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery close on the horizon, the time has come to dust the cobwebs off the collection so that it can match the rest of the new shiny gallery.

 
I have been working closely with the museum’s bone material. In the picture above you can see that some of the pieces – like this hyena jaw bone discovered in Elderbush cave – were in definite need of a little TLC after being displayed for so many years in the old gallery. So, adorned with a set of brushes and little pieces of rubber sponge I began the task of patiently dabbing, wiping and brushing away the years to breathe new life into each of the bone objects.

 
Below you can see the after shot of my work, and evidently
a little bit of spring cleaning really does make all the difference!

 
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Jasmine Barnfather MSci MA, Museum Attendant / Museum Assistant,
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery