Marianne Brocklehurst - Macclefield’s Egyptian artefact collector

Artefacts on display at West Park Museum - image Sara Porter

Artefacts on display at West Park Museum - image Sara Porter - Credit: Archant

From the Nile to the Bollin

It’s something you would expect to see at the British Museum in London, but tucked away inside a building in West Park is an extraordinary Egyptian exhibition. However, there’s a reason this display hasn’t been relocated as it has such a close connection to Macclesfield.

‘The collection belongs to Marianne Brocklehurst, daughter of Macclesfield’s first MP and silk manufacturer, John Brocklehurst,’ explained Sue Hughes, director of Macclesfield Museums. ‘She was from a class who were use to going abroad, but as she got older she became more adventurous.’

In November 1873, 40-year-old Marianne made her first trip to Egypt, accompanied by her companion Mary Booth, her nephew Alfred and her liveried footman, George. They travelled down the Nile on their ship called the Bagstones, named after her home in Wincle.

‘There was a lot of crew as well as animals onboard the ship. She wrote about the journey quite humorously in her diary,’ said Sue. ‘Her trip coincided with when tombs were being opened so Marianne purchased and got access to many things including a mummy.’

However, the Egyptian government were not too keen on people taking the artefacts, so Marianne cheekily cut the coffin open to see what grave goods were inside. To her disappointment, there weren’t any – so she buried the mummy and took the coffin anyway.

Later in 1898 West Park Museum, inspired by Marianne and funded by her brother, Peter Pownall Brocklehurst, was opened to house her collection, which had expanded after becoming a founder member of the Egyptian Exploration Fund.

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‘She wanted a museum and had it designed by the people who made the Whitworth in Manchester. However, the council wanted something different so she threw a strop and walked away,’ said Sue, who has worked at the museums for just under a year. ‘Eventually they gave in and it was completed in time for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.’

Unfortunately, Marianne suffered a fall just before the museum opened and died a few weeks later. Today, the exhibition is still housed in West Park alongside a local history display, including a selection of works by local artist Charles Tunnicliffe.

‘It’s great that we still have this collection here, but next January it will move down to Two Temple Place in London for a temporary exhibition alongside other items from around the country,’ said Sue. ‘Two Temple Place host one exhibition per year and this is about Egyptology and body image. They will also look at the people who collected these artefacts like Marianne.’

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