Hidden Heritage: Mrs Stirling and Old Battersea House

Hidden Heritage: Mrs Stirling, Old Battersea House and the De Morgan Collection

1st May - 29th June 2013

This exhibition at the De Morgan Centre reveals a fascinating insight into the hidden heritage of Wandsworth and the unique personality of Mrs Stirling, a Battersea resident who displayed her substantial collection of Victorian art in one of the borough's finest buildings.

Old Battersea House in Vicarage Crescent was under threat of demolition until Chelsea resident and author Mrs Stirling persuaded Battersea Council to grant her lifetime tenancy, offering to use the house to display her extensive art collection for the benefit of Battersea residents. Mrs Stirling’s collection consisted in the main, of works by her sister, late Victorian artist Evelyn De Morgan, and the Arts and Crafts ceramics of her brother-in-law William De Morgan, a contemporary and close friend of William Morris. These were displayed in her home, where visitors could enjoy lengthy tours personally led by Mrs Stirling and her butler, Mr Peters.

This exhibition will explore in detail the eccentric personality of Mrs Stirling, the creative endeavours she took to expand her collection, and her exhaustive efforts to secure her significant De Morgan collection for the future. On display will be examples of Mrs Stirling’s writing and novels, photographs of Old Battersea House and it’s interior along with examples of some of the furniture and art work which she amassed, including much loved examples of the De Morgans’ art work

Key exhibits will include:

  • Mrs Stirling’s hand-written catalogues, which reveal the extent of her collection and contain notes on the history of Old Battersea House, 'Donors of Art Treasures to Old Battersea House', and a list of distinguished visitors.
  • Telegrams from the Queen and the Queen Mother, mistakenly sent to Mrs Stirling a year early on her 99th birthday and subsequently altered by Mrs Stirling
  • A number of works by William and Evelyn De Morgan that were displayed in Old Battersea House, including Evelyn’s The Sea Maidens and William’s Leopard and Stag dish, which was given by William to Mrs Stirling as a wedding gift.
  • A bust of Greek god Pan, purportedly one of the few artworks on which William and Evelyn collaborated.
  • A black oak cabinet, decorated with an oil painted panel by William De Morgan depicting St George and the dragon (pictured below)

                                                                    

This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to learn about an eccentric and much-loved Battersea resident, and to experience one of Wandsworth’s most significant cultural attractions in its previous incarnation, alongside the current De Morgan collection at West Hill. The House later became the London residence for Malcolm Forbes and is now the home of Alexandra Tolstoy and her partner Sergei Pugachev.

This exhibition opens on 1st May 2013 and will run until 29th June 2013. There will be a free screening of the Old Battersea House documentary at 7:30pm on Thursday 6th June. For more information, please see our 'What's On' section.