Historic plate returns to Bury

Betty Walsh presents the commemorative plate to front of house supervisor Stephen Walton at Bury Art Gallery

A close-up of the inscription on the plate

Betty as a baby with Rebecca Ann Thompson, Edith Price (nee Thompson) and Herbert Thompson

First published in News This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

AN ex-pat whose grandfather’s firm built Bury Art Gallery has returned to the town to hand over a commemorative plate — more than 100 years since it was opened.

The plate, which marks the opening of the building, has been passed down to Edith Elizabeth Walsh, known as Betty, from her grandfather Herbert Thompson, whose firm won the contract to build the gallery for the sum of £21,259.

The gallery was opened in 1901 to house the collection of art given to Bury by the family of Thomas Wrigley, an important local paper manufacturer.

Mrs Walsh, who moved to North Brittany after retiring as a teacher in 1991, says she wanted the 10-inch plate to return to its true home.

The 76-year-old said: “I have had it since my mother died and it has just been sitting in a box. I just wanted to get it back to the gallery.”

Mrs Walsh lived in Walmersley and attended Bury Grammar School as a girl from 1947 to 1956, and then came back to teach in Bury at the Convent Grammar School, and later at Holy Cross College from 1972 to 1986.

She worked for the Bury Education Authority in post-16 education until her retirement.

Her father John Lord was a Bury councillor and Mayor of Bury in 1968-69.

She recalled that her grandfather was relatively young when he was put in charge of building the art gallery, and that his older brother John worked in administration in the office.

Mrs Walsh said that their father and her great-grandfather, James Thompson, would not buy a steam crane to haul up the stones to build the gallery, so they were laboriously raised by hand crane.

She added: “Herbert is reputed to have fallen through the circular gallery from the first floor to the ground floor during the construction, and suffered with back trouble for a long time after.

“He was very proud of this building, and thought of it as his masterpiece, though they did construct other public buildings in and around Bury, including Walmersley and Hawkshaw churches.”

The firm subsequently closed in the 1950s, because neither of the brothers had a son to inherit the business.

The plate was passed on to Mrs Walsh by her mother, Jessie Lord, who died in 1981, and Mrs Walsh said she was happy to give it back to its spiritual home. She added: “As no family members live in Bury now, we are happy that making this donation is the right thing for me to do at this time.”

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