Special Edition 9 July 2020 Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage
Staffordshire Record Office

Welcome to the Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service Newsletter. You may have seen our 'Stop Press' edition this week, announcing the phased reopening of the Record Office. If you missed it you can catch up below. The newsletter will now be sent out twice a month. We hope you have enjoyed our extra Lockdown editions.  


From the Collections: Mabel Layng

The Omnibus by Mabel Layng, 1920s

The Omnibus by Mabel Layng, 1920s

One of the gems in the County Museum Service’s art collection is a group of oil paintings and watercolours by Mabel Layng (1881-1937).  She was a London-based landscape and figure painter in watercolours and oils. Her paintings have a distinctive and attractive style.  They show scenes of everyday life - shopping, holidays, travel – and evoke the fashions and styles of the 1920s in a lively and intimate manner.  She is, however, relatively obscure, even though her work can be found in many art galleries and museums across the country.

Mabel Frances Layng was born on 9 November 1881 at the Grammar School House, Cumberland Street, Macclesfield, Cheshire.  She was the eldest of two daughters of schoolteacher Alfred Edward Freestone Layng and Ada Mary (nee Coates). The Layng family moved to Stafford soon after his wife’s death when Alfred was appointed Headmaster at King Edward VI School in March 1884.  They lived at the Headmaster’s House at the Grammar School on Newport Road until he left under something of a cloud in July 1901.  Mabel was a pupil at the Collegiate School for Girls at the Moat House, run by Mrs S. Twigg near Newport Road in Stafford, where both she and her sister Ada showed ability in their art studies. She went on to study at St John’s Wood School of Art and then, under Frank Brangwyn, at the London School of Art in Kensington in about 1906-8.

By 1914, Mabel, her sister, father and aunt were living at 21 Gordon Road, Ealing, where they all lived for the rest of their lives, until Ada, the last surviving member of the family, died in 1977.   By 1914 Mabel appears to have been successful as a professional artist and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1916.  Her work was regularly exhibited at provincial art galleries and museums.

After 1928, Mabel seems to have ceased to be publicly active as an artist and seems to have given up her studio around 1930.  She died at the age of 56 in December 1937.  At the time her death she was staying at Camberwell House Asylum on Peckham Road, London, hinting that she suffered from mental illness in the last years of her life.  The following April her sister, Ada, organised a Memorial Exhibition which was held at the Arlington Gallery, Old Bond Street, London, featuring 39 of her oil paintings and watercolours.  Ada had probably been left with the task of emptying Mabel’s studio, and so organised the dispersal of Mabel’s paintings after her death, including the donation of a number of works to Stafford Museum & Art Gallery which now forms the bulk of our collection.   

We still know very little about Mabel and her life.  From surviving correspondence, we know she was a keen amateur gardener, as were her aunt and sister, and we have a likeness of her from an 1893 photograph, when she was aged 11 or 12.  She served in the Red Cross in London during World War I.  She never married (and neither did her sister or aunt) and so there have not been any family members to champion her cause.  We think she deserves to be better known!

You can view Mabel's work on the Staffordshire Pasttrack website  More of her works appear on the Art UK website

Keele Online Summer School

Keele Summer School

The 43rd Keele Latin and Palaeography Online Summer School
3–7 August 2020 Monday to Friday
Expert online tuition in small virtual groups for those who need to read medieval and early modern documents for local and national history. Courses range from introductions to medieval Latin and palaeography to more advanced ones on specialist topics. Frequently attended by local historians, postgraduate students, and archivists from UK and abroad. Hosted on Keele University’s Microsoft Teams platform. For further information please visit the website 
DIRECTOR: Dr Andrew Sargent a.sargent1@keele.ac.uk

Staffordshire Archive & Heritage Services to begin phased reopening

Staffordshire Record Office Reading Room

The Staffordshire Record Office is preparing to reopen to the public from Tuesday 14 July.

The office, on Eastgate Street in Stafford will be open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for two weeks and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for a further two weeks, before resuming normal opening times from 11 August. Saturday opening will commence from 22 August reverting back to one per month. Reduced numbers of visitors, social distancing arrangements, sneeze screens and hand sanitisers will all be in place to ensure visitors and staff are kept safe. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will also be distributed to staff where appropriate.

Visitors to the records office will be limited to four at a time and people interested in viewing original documents will need to request them before hand.  Meeting rooms will remain closed and there will be no access to PCs, printers, photocopiers and micro fiche/films. Toilets will be open and cleaned twice a day for visitors to the Record Office.  Although there will be no physical events or activities in the office, all the usual digital archive and heritage services and collections will be available online.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Archives and Heritage, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to our Record Offices and resuming our Museum Service. Our public spaces will look a bit different as we have introduced some physical changes and new processes to ensure our staff and visitors are safe and we ask people to work with us so that we can provide access to our historic collections. Hand sanitising, hygiene and social distancing arrangements will all be in place and if Personal Protective Equipment is necessary it will be distributed to staff where appropriate.”

People will also be able to request and view documents from the William Salt Library by ordering them in advance, however, the Grade 2 listed building will remain closed as social distancing is not possible. Mithra Tonking, Chair of the William Salt Library Trust said: “Working with the Archive Service we are offering access to the Library’s collections through Staffordshire Record Office. Advance ordering of items will be required but we hope visitors will understand that these changes are necessary for now.”

Lichfield History Access Point will reopen in the Autumn after Lichfield Library reopens for browsing in September. You can find details on the new arrangements for our services on our website.  

Our aim is to keep you updated with the latest developments and events. If you do not wish to receive this newsletter please use the 'unsubscribe' button at the bottom of this page. 

Staffordshire Archives News


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