WEEK 16. MRS BLACKBORNE'S ALBUM. Littlehampton Museum. West Sussex.
Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display
The small museum of Littlehampton has a collection that reflects the lives of people who have lived in the area, from pre-historic times to the present day. An item that is extremely popular with staff and visitors is an album of cartoons and caricatures painted by a Mrs Blackborne, about 100 years ago.
The album is now a rather tattered, well-used book, which is bound in leather that would probably have been rather expensive when it was new. Inside have been pasted 147 cartoons and caricatures. Painted in watercolour between the mid-1890s and 1905, they depict mainly local people and the way they lived.
Some of these pictures were inspired by stories told to Mrs Blackborne, and a couple of them ask for stories to be donated. There is, for example, a portrait of Joseph Robinson, a prominent shipowner, and Mr Poland, an architect, as well as scenes of everyday life in the town. Some include people bathing or seaside entertainments, which show that Littlehampton had a thriving holiday trade in the late 19th century.
Mrs Blackborne was a regular visitor to the town from her home in Eastbourne. Although we know very little about her, she seems to have started coming to Littlehampton in the 1890s and continued until the end of the First World War. From the pictures it is clear that she was a talented, if non-professional, cartoonist. She read Punch, and her work suggests she was an intelligent, educated, middle-class Victorian married woman.
In Littlehampton she used to stay in a boarding house in Bayford Road. It was run by a Miss Hayward, with whom she became great friends. Mrs Blackborne eventually gave her landlady her precious album, and it was one of Miss Hayward's descendants who later donated it to the museum.
Rebecca Fardell is assistant museum and community arts officer at Littlehampton Museum, Manor House, Church Street, Littlhampton, West Sussex BN17 7PT. Tel: 01903 738100. The museum is closed until next year for refurbishment, but the education department will still be providing outreach services