"I have a vision of a place of meeting where neighbours will come for many reasons to seek stimulating thought by meeting other active minds, to find refreshment and inspiration and a joy in beauty".
Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, 1912
Rachel Kay Shuttleworth was the founder of the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection. She was an extraordinary woman with a strong sense of community and a passion for arts education.
Rachel was born in 1886 into the family that had owned Gawthorpe Hall since the 14th century. Her grandfather, James Kay-Shuttleworth, has been described as ‘the father of popular education in England’. Her father Ughtred, a predominant Liberal politician, was made Baron Shuttleworth in 1902. Rachel’s mother, Blanche, was an able needlewoman and was committed to social welfare and Rachel accompanied her to help disadvantaged people.
At the age of nine, Rachel began putting together what is today the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection from objects acquired by her family over the years. By age 26, she had more than 1000 items in the collection and started to record them in a catalogue with the date of acquisition, country of origin, date, donor’s name and a brief description of the item. In 1915, she played an important part in the foundation of guilding in Lancashire and was County Commissioner for North East Lancashire for 31 years.
Rachel was friends with Lady Baden-Powell, who donated a number of items to the collection. Rachel also worked with the Girl Guides to revive the use of standard badges and she took charge of the scheme which spread across the Commonwealth.
As a keen needlecraft practitioner herself, Rachel was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement which encouraged the revival of craft skills in contrast to mass production at the turn of the 20th century. During the First World War, as secretary to the Civic Arts Society, Rachel met like-minded, influential people who were also interested in the Arts and Crafts and Modernism movements and the pursuit of art education. These included architect and historian William Lethaby, art writer Thomas Okey and Lewis F Day, designer and art critic.
Rachel managed the Shuttleworth Estates during the World War II and worked for the Women’s Voluntary Service. She moved out of Gawthorpe Hall in 1945 to support her nephew who was severely injured during the War. In 1952 she returned to her ‘beloved Gawthorpe’ where she had more space for her growing collection and was able to open the Hall to visitors and students and to exhibit items from her collection.
Rachel’s aim was to pass on her knowledge and wisdom to as many people as she could through teaching and lecturing on the value of crafts. The pieces she collected are the unique foundation of what is a truly remarkable learning resource. Her enthusiasm and organisational skill can be seen from over 60 years of cataloguing the items she discovered and collected. This included items she made herself, donations from friends and contemporary practitioners.