Object of the Month
Take a look at our latest 'Object of the Month', chosen by a member of the museum team!
This month's object has been chosen by our Assistant Curator.
Mary Kemp's Day Bed
Within the collections at Mill Green Museum we are fortunate to have a beautiful oak day bed, which belonged to the artist and weaver Mary Kemp. Kemp was one of the first residents of Welwyn Garden City, and lived in a cottage on Bridge Road which was designed by the architect C. H. James to her own specifications.
Mary Kemp favoured the use of vegetable-dyed silks in weaving and examples of her work are held at the V&A. Her weavings were described as not only exquisitely designed but 'the authentic handwriting of a very beautiful spirit'.
The day bed, a cross between an arm-chair and a chaise-longue, was donated to us in 1990 by Mary Kemp's niece who told the museum that it was made with wood from the first tree felled in Sherrards Wood for the development of Welwyn Garden City.
Mary Kemp died in 1934 and a Mrs Eulalie Heron wrote this about her as an obituary in a local newspaper which conveys a sense of what her life and home in early Welwyn Garden City was like:
Mary Kemp was a weaver and an artist. To know what kind of artist you had only to look round her room and you would understand. The room itself with its rounded windows was built to her design, and for spaciousness and fine proportion was unique in our town. There was not one thing in it that was not beautiful in design, colour and material and excellently wrought, whether it was curtains, lamp, furniture or the very poker or milk jug. This collection of lovely things in no way resembled a museum; they just made a perfect room to live one's daily life in.
The Museum had the bed conserved thanks to a grant from Hertfordshire Association of Museums in order to exhibit it in our galleries. The bed was sympathetically conserved, rather than restored, and shows evidence of a life of being well-used: the cushions are faded, a result of light falling on them for many years, and also discoloured, perhaps from cigarette smoke.
You can see the bed and curtains woven by Mary Kemp on display in our exhibition 'Welwyn Garden City: By Wisdom and Design', which explores the ideas and ideals of the foundation of the town in 1920. For more information about the exhibition and booking please see Welwyn Garden City: By Wisdom and Design.
This exhibition will run until Sunday November 28th.