Goodbye to an old friend


I moved to Birmingham. I lived in the city centre, almost next door to Central Library. For a year it was my local lending library. I used it occasionally for borrowing books for several more years. In time I become aware of its huge reference collection.


The reference library served me well whilst I researched and wrote my Master’s Dissertation. A helpful librarian showed me how to use the index card system and how to get more books from the stacks. Over many months she became (in my head…) *my librarian*. Almost every reference source I needed was there.


I started work at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The Library was a neighbour once again. We worked with Library colleagues on collections digitisation projects. Some still exist. I learnt about the Library’s amazing photography and local archive collections.

14 December 2015

Demolition of the Library began.


Every day people gather outside the Museum and take photos of the work as it progresses. My days at work are accompanied by the sounds of demolition. My office overlooks the Library. I have a privileged view.


The escalators rarely worked. The lifts often broke down too.

The cafe was…  erm… extremely municipal.

The ceilings were low and loomed menacingly.

The staff office spaces were pretty grim.

The striking Brutalist architecture had been disfigured with a tacked on shopping centre (though the Gregg’s was handy…).

The surrounding spaces such as Paradise Place were…well…post-apocalyptic. Though I kinda liked that.

The demolition is incredible to watch.

I loved this building.
Goodbye old friend.


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Fabulous free images from British Library

British Library offers over 1 million free vintage images for download.

News story here.

Have a play with the British Library Flickr site here.

My name in fabulous typography.

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Ken Hughes. A growing legacy.

A while ago I wrote a blog about artist Ken Hughes because I owned a sculpture by him. I commented at the time that he seemed to have had a successful artistic life but that there was little about him out there.

I had assumed that Ken Hughes was no longer alive. Then a researcher contacted me via my blog. Then his daughter contacted me. And Ken is still alive.

I also discovered I have another piece of ceramics by Ken. A plaster tile, also purchased by my grandma.


Ken Hughes, tile, 1996


Tile, reverse, signed 'Ken Hughes'


Provenance, my grandma's note

This morning I got into work to find a lovely two page hand written letter from Ken. He said that maybe he hadn’t undertaken as much self-publicity as he should have. I wrote back (not hand-written I am afraid) reflecting that maybe those of us that come after should all help towards creating a legacy.

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Museums. An elaborate tapestry.


“Here was an elaborate tapestry of institutions of national and local importance woven over two hundred years.”

Robert Hewison, Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain, 2014.

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Happy 2nd Birthday to @MuseumofCarpet!

Happy 2nd Birthday to Museum!.

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Hartlebury Castle’s future secured with help of Heritage Lottery Fund

Hartlebury Castle’s future secured with help of Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Hellens Manor. A proper heritage eccentric.

A visit to Hellens, a Jacobean manor house in Herefordshire, was such a delight and produced so many pictures, I felt a blog was the thing.

To start. Some serious door knockers.


The toilets were a mini-museum in their own right.


Impressive architecture. Also a big ginger cat.


Textiles feature large. In paintings, on the floor, on the beds, and framed as art.



Hellens has a varied collection, paintings by famous painters (many given as gifts to family members), personal objects (old and not-so-old), unusual and miscellaneous items collected from antique shops in this country and others. A taster follows.

Proper feather shuttlecocks of blue and white.


A quite disturbing reliquary.


A selection of things that caught my eye as “very museum”. A cabinet of curiosity, containing personal objects of family significance. A little collection of shells on a bedroom dressing table. A botany book with the fabulous handwritten label, “Forgive us, please, for asking you not to touch this book as it is very worn – so sorry”. Lovely.


This somewhat surprising ceiling was the result of, “the boys messing around in the 60s”. Yeah. Messing…


Fabulous tooled and painted leatherwork wall coverings. Somewhat the worse for wear, but gaining aesthetic interest with that.


We were allowed to sit on most of the seats. Unless (as per tradition)… teasels.


I enjoyed this unapologetic cellar door repair.


In addition to the cat, there were a number of unexpected creatures. I especially liked the topiary dogs (?) and the giraffe tapestry (made by a French prisoner we were told).


More about Hellens. I recommend a visit.


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