Exhibition preview: Hidden Heritage: Mrs Stirling, Old Battersea House and the De Morgan Collection, The De Morgan Centre, until June 29 2013
Mrs Stirling was a remarkable Battersea resident. An author and indomitbale collector of Victorian art, when Old Battersea House in Vicarage Crescent faced demolition, she persuaded Battersea Council to grant her lifetime tenancy of the building.
Opening the doors to the community, she used the house to display her extensive art collection, which consisted predominantly of works by her sister, the late Victorian artist Evelyn De Morgan, and ceramic pieces by Evelyn’s husband, William De Morgan, a contemporary and close friend of William Morris.
Stirling and her butler, Mr Peters, offered comprehensive tours to the visiting public, imparting knowledge on the De Morgan's works and other assorted treasures.
Evelyn De Morgan’s The Sea Maidens and William’s Leopard and Stag dish, a wedding gift to Stirling, stand out, as does one of the rare artworks on which the pair collaborated, a bust of the Greek god Pan.
As well as valued items by the De Morgans, the show features photographs depicting Old Battersea House and its interior, and includes parts of Stirling’s own novels.
Her handwritten catalogues contain notes on the history of Old Battersea House, and lists of art donors and distinguished visitors illustrate the scope and popularity of her collection.
Other unlikely items from the archive include telegrams from the Queen and Queen Mother, mistakenly sent to Mrs Stirling a year early on her 99th birthday, which she personally altered.
This unusual retrospective imbues The De Morgan Centre with the spirit of a well-loved and fascinating woman, while providing the opportunity to explore the heritage of one of Wandsworth’s most noteworthy cultural sites.
- Open 1pm-5pm (11am-5pm Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday). Admission £3-£4. Visit the centre on Twitter @DeMorganCentre.
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