Friday, 10 February 2012

The Tate,, The Lowry, The Walker and now The Atkinson?

What to call the complex which includes the Town Library, Art Gallery and the old Arts Centre (formerly the Cambridge Halls).There are several ideas doing the rounds. 

First amongst these is William Atkinson. He was a great Victorian benefactor in the town who made his money in cotton and hailed from Knaresborough. By all accounts he had a sickly wife who liked to holiday in the town.  Atkinson kicked start the project with a donation of £6,000 and his name is already widely used in relation to the Library and Art Gallery and his name is inscribed in the stonework above the Art Gallery door.. He also gave money for the addition of the Clock Tower to the Cambridge Halls which with this current restoration will finally get a proper face on all four sides. Atkinson gave money to other causes in the town including the Provident Society for Fisherman which held its meetings in the Temperance Hall in Shellfield Rd Marshside (where local Liberals used to also hold social events) Both in Southport and in Ashton Hayes -where he lived immediately prior to settling in the town -he donated generous sums to church buildings. Atkinson was a Liberal supporter and funder.

The second contender is to maintain the link with the Duchess of Cambridge after whom the theatre complex was originally named.Southport is awash with references to the last Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, The Duke, Prince George-had an appetite for irregular relations with women which was impressive even by royal standards. We have Cambridge Rd, Cambridge Gardens, Cambridge Walks all of which were named after the promiscuous prince.

Apart from is entangle private life  Prince George is best remembered for being the last Royal Commander in Chief. He was seen as a major obstacle to reform of the army and it fell to Campbell Bannerman to remove him. He did not want to go. Queen Victoria was keen that the Duke of Connought should take over and he was bitterly disappointed when CB scuppered that plan. Nevertheless it is a mighty testimony to CB's diplomatic skills that he got his Army Reforms through complete with the removal of Prince George and that he managed to fall out with none of the key players. 

Fortunately for those 'back to basic campaigners' in the town the Halls were named after the Duchess of Cambridge and it will have escaped nobody's notice that we have a new Duchess of Cambridge. The Halls were originally opened by her namesake .........

There are two other possible candidates. Firstly Miss Ball who established the permanent art collection with a donation of watercolours and oil paintings .

The final choice is Samuel Lawson Booth  of who the reference books report:

Samuel Lawson Booth

Samuel Lawson Booth was an accomplished English painter whose works were exhibited many times in the Royal Cambrian Academy. He was born in Leeds and was an art teacher at the Leeds School of Art, then Art Master at the Technical College in Bradford and the Art School in Wigan. He lived most of his working life in Southport, where he was Mayor, an Alderman and a Justice of the Peace. He socialised in elevated circles. In 1902 he visited Egypt and the Holy Land and on his return exhibited the paintings made during his tour by royal command of King Edward VII. He subsequently received His Majesty’s thanks and compliments and was presented to the King. This picture of the Valley of Josaphat in Palestine is typical of those completed during the tour and is likely to date from this time.

Booth was a major benefactor of the Art Gallery and I'm sure I've seen a large oil painting of the Langdale Pikes somewhere around the Town Hall or Art Gallery attributed to him. He too was a Liberal and represented Talbot Ward-part of the present Norwood Ward which today still returns Liberals. Of course ther maybe some folk who -for purely partisan reason would not like the name Bootheto be considered!

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