The Lytham St Annes Art Collection
The Lytham St Annes Art Collection is among the finest town hall collections in the country. In the early 19th century, along with many seaside towns, Lytham gained a reputation as a health resort. In the 1840s the railways arrived, thus expanding the area’s connections to the industrial cities in the North West. Lytham, and later the new town of St Annes, became prosperous areas of the Fylde with a high percentage of residents being businessmen and merchants from Manchester and Liverpool.
There were a number of local parish and district councils in the area but on 1 May 1922 the two Urban District Councils of Lytham and St Annes amalgamated into Lytham St Annes Borough Council. In 1925 the Council purchased the Southdown Hydro Hotel as its new Town Hall. At that time there was a desire to promote the cultural importance of the town and the idea of an art collection, donated by local individuals for the public benefit, was developed.
The most important artist connected with the area was the Victorian artist, Richard Ansdell RA (1815-1885). Ansdell, an area between Lytham and St Annes is named after him as he built his home, 'Starr Hills', there on the sandhills.
Appropriately, the first painting to be presented, on 29 June 1925, was The Herd Lassie, 1876, by Ansdell. This was donated by John Booth (1856-1941), son of Edwin Henry Booth (1829-1899), who founded the famous grocery business, which still operates across the north-west. In 1926 the grandchildren of Richard Ansdell donated Lytham Sandhills, 1866 and later, in 1959, Retriever with Black Capercaillie, 1868. Altogether there are 25 major works by Ansdell in the Collection.
The Collection concentrates on Victorian Art of a very high quality; major historical scenes include The Deathbed of Robert, King of Naples, 1848, by Alfred Elmore (1815-1881) and A Classical Lake Scene, Carthage, 1866, by George Sheffield Junior (1839-1892). The Collection’s core is genre scenes including In Disgrace, 1886, by Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894) and Boys Playing by John Morgan (1823-1886).
In 1930 the Collection received its most iconic painting, The Vision of Catherine of Aragon, 1781, by the Neoclassical Swiss artist, Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), which was originally lent by Mrs Tiller but in 1950 was officially added to the Collection. In 1941 Mrs Percy Bibby donated The Italian Flower Girl, 1887, by Eugene de Blass (1843-1931).
In 1974 Lytham St Annes Borough Council amalgamated with outlying areas to form the enlarged Fylde Borough. It is administered from the same Town Hall where some of the paintings remain on display.
In 2008 the original donor family, Booths, opened Fylde Gallery within their food, wine and grocery store in Lytham. This gallery was used to display a selection of the paintings in a series of themed exhibitions. However, in 2020 Fylde Council took the decision to cease management of the gallery whilst seeking a permanent home for the Collection.
What is striking is that this high-quality Collection has been amassed purely through public donations.
Heather C Davis
Conservation & Collections Manager
Lancashire County Council Museum Service
View the Collection by clicking on the following links:
ENGRAVINGS & ETCHINGS
TEXTILES, DRAWINGS & PRINTS
STATUES & FIGURINES
The Heritage Lottery funded Tagging the Treasures project engaged over eighty volunteers to research each item in the Collection and tag it with the relevant information. Each tagged treasure has been added to this website for all to enjoy and the entire tagged Collection published as a library resource.
The research on these artworks is ongoing and the Tagging the Treasures Project would love to hear from you if you have any information about the artworks, artists or donors concerned with the Lytham St Annes Art Collection. Please contact us with your query or information and we will get back to you as soon as possible.