Life and times of Miss Mary Holmes of the Lancaster School of Art

A reader is trying to find out more about the life and times of a student teacher at the Lancaster School of Art in 1901 (now known as The Storey Institute).

A portrait of Miss Holmes painted by student Lawrence Greenwood, probably in 1934, when the artist would then be aged 19. Reproduced by permission of Mrs Lillian Greenwood, the widow of Lawrence.
A portrait of Miss Holmes painted by student Lawrence Greenwood, probably in 1934, when the artist would then be aged 19. Reproduced by permission of Mrs Lillian Greenwood, the widow of Lawrence.

On September 22, 1944 the Lancaster Guardian published a report of the death of Miss Holmes, as follows:

The death has occurred of Miss Mary A. Holmes, who for 22 years was head of the Fielden School of Art. Todmorden, retiring in December, 1939. She first studied at the Lancaster School of Art, where she became a student teacher. From there, she went as a student to the Liverpool School of Art, and was appointed mistress of a branch Art class, also at the Liverpool Institute High School for girls, positions she held for 11 years. During her vacations, Miss Holmes made pen and ink sketches of poultry for British. American and Russian trade journals. As the winner of a travelling scholarship awarded by the Liverpool City Council, she spent several months in Italy, studying the works of the great Italian painters and, with the permission of the authorities, made copies of several notable works.

After a short period of study in London, she was appointed mistress of the Fielden School Art, and inspector of drawing in Todmorden Elementary Schools in 1918.

Storey's Institute pupils (unknown date).

Douglas Simpson is interested in Miss Holmes because he is researching the history of the Fielden School of Art, where she played an influential role, benefitting many students over a long period, including his mother Minnie Simpson née Edwards.

Douglas has discovered some information about Miss Holmes’ life, as detailed below, but would like to find out more.

In particular he hopes descendants of her wider family might respond and he would be particularly pleased if anyone has any of her own artworks, which could be photographed for him to use in a presentation and possibly a booklet about the Fielden.

Mary Ann Holmes was baptised on December 1, 1878 at Leck, parents Thomas and Jane Holmes.

The Storey Institute today.

The 1891 Census shows Dorothy and Mary A Holmes, scholars aged 14 and 12 respectively, living at Low Lane House, Leck, with six siblings, their parents, maternal grandfather and a farm worker.

Their father Thomas Holmes is a farmer.

The 1901 Census shows Mary A Holmes, living at 60 Regent Street, Lancaster. She is 22 years old and with occupation ‘Art Student’ and lives with her elder sister Dorothy, aged 24.

The 1911 Census shows Mary Holmes as a boarder at the YWCA Mildmay, Blackburne Place, Liverpool, aged 32 and with occupation ‘Student and Teacher’.

Miss Holmes is recorded as dying in Lunesdale aged 65 in the July/August/September quarter of 1944.

(Probably September, as the obituary appeared on September 22)

The Todmorden News of September 1, 1933, with reference to her time at Liverpool School of Art, said: At the latter her career was highly successful, culminating in the award of a Senior City Art Travelling Scholarship. Her academic qualifications include the full Art Masters Certificate of the. Board of Education as well as the Art Class Teachers Certificate and the Teacher Artist’s Certificate of the R.D.S.

While serving as Art Mistress at the Liverpool Institute High School and at the Walton and Kirkdale Technical Institute, Miss Holmes was a frequent exhibitor at the Liverpool City Art Gallery.

If anyone can get in touch with Douglas with information he would be most grateful.

Anyone wishing to make contact with Douglas can email [email protected] and we will pass your details on.

The Storey Institute was constructed between 1887 and 1891 and was designed by leading architectural Paley, Autin and Paley at a cost of around £12,000.

It was funded by local industrialist Thomas Storey to replace the outdated Lancaster Mechanics’ Institute.

The aim of the institute was to promote science, art, literature and technical skills, as well as to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. The building housed a library, reading room, laboratory, lecture room and music room, as well as a school of art, picture gallery and accommodation for the resident caretaker.

In 1891 the building was officially named The Storey Institute to honour Thomas Storey and in 1889 held its first art exhibition, which included paintings by greats Constable and Gainsborough.

The building also houses a curved stained glass window designed by local company Shrigley and Hunt.

The building was extended between 1906 and 1908 and designed by Austin and Paley. Herbert Lushington Storey, the son of Thomas Storey, gave £10,000 towards the new extension, which was to commemorate the accession of Edward During the 20th century, the building was used for many different purposes, including as a public library, city arts gallery and girls grammar school, and was the home of the Lancaster College of Art until 1982.

In 1968, the art collection was moved to the Lancaster city museum, and by the 1980s the gallery was rarely used.

The walled garden behind the building, now known as the Tasting Garden, was created in 1998, and today the building is home to many small businesses, exhibition areas, workshops and a cafe.