London life and widening horizons

Mary’s middle class background and her financial independence ensured her successful transition to London in 1887. After a number of moves, she settled into 57 (later changed to 77) Bedford Gardens, Campden Hill, Kensingston, her home until 1924.

‘Guildhall Courtyard, Leicester’. Etching, from around 1902. Leicester Arts & Museums Service collection.

‘Guildhall Courtyard, Leicester’. Etching, from around 1902. Leicester Arts & Museums Service collection.

She then moved to 8 Hammersmith Terrace, Hammersmith, but maintained her previous home as a studio. Mary made regular return visits to Enderby and Leicester however, producing beautifully observed etchings and watercolours of the town’s historic buildings and exhibiting with the Leicester Society of Artists.

After a chance meeting in 1898 with the influential etcher Constance Pott, Mary was inspired to join Sir Frank Short’s etching class at the Royal College of Art, based at the National Art Training School in South Kensington, where Constance was his assistant.

Untitled, (Houses of Parliament from the River). Watercolour, undated, from around 1890s. private collection.

Untitled, (Houses of Parliament from the River). Watercolour, undated, from around 1890s. private collection.

An early photograph c.1898, shows Mary on the far right, in what is believed to be Frank Short’s etching class.

An early photograph c.1898, shows Mary on the far right, in what is believed to be Frank Short’s etching class.

‘May Morris in the Tapestry Room, Kelmscott Manor’. Watercolour, 1912. William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest.

‘May Morris in the Tapestry Room, Kelmscott Manor’. Watercolour, 1912. William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Mary’s involvement with groups such as the Women’s Guild of Arts, founded in 1907 widened her artistic and social circles, bringing her into contact with women artists, intellectuals and political campaigners. Around 1909 (the exact date is unknown) Mary is believed to have met May Morris, a founder-member of the WGA and daughter of Arts & Crafts pioneer William Morris. Their meeting resulted in a lifelong friendship between the two women and numerous visits to Kelmscott Manor, the home of May’s mother Jane and her sister Jenny.

Portrait, believed to be Mary Royce. Undated, around 1890s. private collection. Dr Mary Royce (1845-1892) became Leicester’s first female doctor at the age of 45, after several years’ study. She founded the Royce Institute, a religious and educational institution, which still exists today on Crane Street, Leicester.

Portrait, believed to be Mary Royce. Undated, around 1890s. private collection. Dr Mary Royce (1845-1892) became Leicester’s first female doctor at the age of 45, after several years’ study. She founded the Royce Institute, a religious and educational institution, which still exists today on Crane Street, Leicester.

In the years leading up to 1912 and the Kelmscott Manor watercolours, Mary’s networks also enabled her to produce portrait drawings of a number of influential women campaigners and reformers, with whose views she was undoubtedly sympathetic. These included studies of Gertrude von Petzold (1876-1952), England’s first woman minister of religion, who preached eloquently from the Free Christian (Unitarian) church in Leicester; also Mary Royce, Leicester’s first woman doctor, who fought hard to establish her first practice.

Portrait of Rev. Gertrude von Petzold. Pencil, around 1904. Private collection

Portrait of Rev. Gertrude von Petzold. Pencil, around 1904. Private collection