Furniture Review

Manchester Art Gallery is currently undertaking a review of the gallery’s furniture collection to understand its history, significance and future use. This is part of a wider review of our collections, their purpose and how they can best be used for the benefit of the people of Manchester and beyond.

The review is running alongside an ambitious capital-funded programme of storage improvements to secure the long- term preservation of the collection and improve access to collections in storage. Some of the furniture was acquired to dress historic houses for which the gallery was responsible in the past. We no longer run those buildings, so we are in the process of identifying which items still have relevance to the gallery’s collection and will be retained. Those items which fall outside the Collection Development policy would be transferred to another organisation where there is greater public benefit.

The review has drawn on the advice of historic furniture and textile specialists, combined with condition assessments by the Conservation Team and appraisals about significance and use by the Curators. We are closely following Museum Association guidelines for collection review and disposal which includes consultation with stakeholders as part of the review process. It prioritises transfer to other museums and galleries in the first instance, followed by other organisations who provide public access and can offer appropriate levels of care.

Bodley Panelling

Part of the collection review includes identifying works that require conservation treatment. This includes a set of oak panels which originated from Edward Stanley Heywood’s home, Light Oaks, in Pendleton, Salford. Apart from a settle displayed at Wightwick Manor, West Midlands, the panelling is all that remains of the house designed by John Edgar Gregan in 1855 and remodelled by the architect George Frederick Bodley and Charles Eamer Kempe in 1868. It is a rare example of a domestic collaboration between Bodley and Kempe who predominantly worked on ecclesiastical commissions.

In 1981, Manchester Art Gallery purchased the panelling using money from the Stuart Platt Memorial Fund, established to commemorate the former Assistant Keeper at Heaton Hall. When it was acquired, the panelling was considered for display at Fletcher Moss Museum, Didsbury. This was never realised however and the panelling has remained in store. Conservation work to stabilise the fragile painted panels on the overmantel (originally positioned over the mantelpiece) is due to take place in June.

This work has been generously funded by the Kempe Trust and you can follow the story of the conservation of the panels here.