Macdonald Sisters exhibtion

The Macdonald Sisters

[instrumental music]

[text on screen] Four Outstanding marriages

The Macdonald family has become of national and international notoriety because of the outstanding marriages made by four of the five sisters.

Alice, born in Sheffield in 1837, would marry John Lockwood Kipling , and their son, Rudyard, would become one of the greatest English writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most famed perhaps for the Jungle Book and Just So stories.

Georgiana (Georgie), born in Birmingham in 1840, would marry Edward Jones when she was just 19. He would become known to the world as Edward Burne-Jones, amongst the greatest artists of the Victorian period, and a leading member of the Pre-Raphaelite school of artists of the 1840’s- 80’s.

Agnes, born in Leeds in 1843, would marry Sir Edward Poynter, also one of the greatest Victorian painters who in his lifetime would become President of the Royal Academy and Director of the National Gallery

Louisa, born in Wakefield in 1845, would marry Alfred Baldwin of Bewdley in 1866, a wealthy ironmaker and owner of the Wilden foundry. Their son, Stanley, would become Prime Minister three times during the 1920’s and 30’s, and would lead the country during the General Strike of 1926 and the Abdication crisis of 1936.

[text on screen] The Macdonald family

The Reverend George Macdonald born in 1805 in Stockport, and followed his father James into the Methodist ministry.

He married Hannah, his second wife, in 1833. They would have eleven children, of whom seven survived into adulthood.

Following John Wesley’s belief in taking the Faith to the people, nineteenth century Methodist ministers were moved every three years around a ‘circuit’ encompassing the whole country.

The Macdonald family would live in Manchester, Leeds, Wakefield, Sheffield, London, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and this made it hard for the children to establish friendships outside the family. However, they were well educated by their mother, Hannah, and grew up with sharp, interested minds and a highly developed sense of fun.

[text on screen] India

Within weeks of their marriage, John and Alice Kipling sailed for India where John had secured a position at the School of Art and Industry in Bombay.
They would remain in India for the next 28 years, rising through the ranks of British Indian society thanks to Alice’s drive and John’s ability.

After 10 years in Bombay, John Kipling was offered the Principal’s job at a new Art School at Lahore in the Punjab, and also curator of the Lahore Museum.

When a Durbar was held in Delhi in 1876 to mark Queen Victoria as Empress of India, Kipling was appointed to design the banners and hangings used in the great ceremony to which all the princes of India were invited.

On the strength of this, Queen Victoria invited Kipling to design an Indian styled bedroom and salon for her at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Soon the Kiplings were spending the hot season in Simla, the leading Hill Station, on close terms with the Viceroys and leading lights in Anglo-Indian High Society.

All the Kiplings wrote well, but by the 1880’s, Rudyard’s journalism and short stories were becoming known in England as well as in India. When the Jungle Book was published in 1894, John created the famous illustrations for the first edition.

[text on screen] Georgina and Edward Burne Jones.

By 1850 the Macdonalds had moved to Birmingham, and the sister’s eldest brother, Henry, was sent to King Edward VI Grammar School in New Street.

Here he became a firm school friend of another boy, Edward Jones. In his after-school visits to the Macdonald home, the rather shy Edward became attached to all the sisters, particularly Georgie. During these visits the highly gifted Edward would sketch the sisters and encourage their own artistic interests.

After school, Henry and Edward went up to Oxford, where they met the young William Morris. Jones and Morris soon decided that their future lay in Art, rather than the theology they had originally been destined for.

When he was 22, Edward became engaged to the 15 year old Georgie, whom he would marry four years later in 1860.

[text on screen] Soulmates and companions of the Pre-Raphaelites.

After Oxford, Jones and Morris moved to London where their outstanding ability brought them to the attention of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and other leading members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Appalled by the squalor, poverty, pollution and degradation they saw around them, these young artists sought inspiration in the Arthurian World made famous in the works of Thomas Malory. They sought to create art dealing with the eternal values of love, faithfulness and devotion set within imagined medieval, or even midsummer night’s dream, styled settings. The young Jones and Morris soon joined what was an artistic commune with these young geniuses in Holborn.

Happily, the Reverend George was now relocated to London, and the girls were able to re-establish their lives with Georgie and Edward and themselves become friends with these young artists. Both Georgie and Louisa attended Art School where they were taught by Ford Madox Brown.

The sisters would often serve as models, most famously in Burne-Jones (as he was now calling himself) outstanding 1864 work, ‘The Green Summer’, which was painted in the garden of William Morris’s home, Red House. Georgie, Louisa and Agnes all appear in this painting as does Morris’s wife Janey.
That his daughters were moving in Bohemian circles does not seem to have concerned the Reverend Macdonald, who trusted the morality as well as the judgment of his daughters.

[text on screen] William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement

Mirroring the Pre-Raphaelite rejection of Mid-Victorian social life and industrialisation , William Morris increasingly rejected the shoddy, mass produced items produced in the steam powered factories of 1850s Britain. In 1860 founded the Morris, Marshall and Faulkner company to make fabrics, wallpapers, tiles and other goods using traditional hand-made methods. This would become known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. Georgiana was involved in tile and fabric making for the company in its early years working with and alongside Janey Morris. Burne-Jones became one of the chief designers for Morris’s company, producing in particular the vivid designs for stained glass windows to be used in great numbers of churches, educational and private buildings during the last thirty years of the 19th century.

[text on screen] Agnes and Edward Poynter

Agnes met Poynter through the Burne-Jones’s, and they were married in a double wedding with her sister Louisa and her husband Alfred Baldwin at the parish church of Wolverhampton in 1866.

Agnes was a talented artist and a fine musician, and judged to have been the most beautiful of the sisters.
However, although she came to inhabit the highest social circles in England, including the famous soirees of the Prince of Wales and Lillie Langtry and often entertaining on the piano at these events, she seems in some way the least fulfilled of the sisters.

Her husband’s grand paintings on enormous canvases won him accolade as one of the country’s finest artists, but he seems a rather cold and driven personality.

[text on screen] Louisa and Alfred Baldwin

Louisa became acquainted with the Baldwins, also Methodists, during her father’s period of ministry in London. She married Alfred in 1866, and came to live in High Street, Bewdley.

She never recovered her health after the birth of Stanley in 1867, and the remaining 57 years of her life were marred by long phases of invalidity.

In 1870, when Alfred took over the whole of the Baldwin company, the family moved to Wilden, next to the Ironworks. Up to this point, Alfred had walked the three miles from Bewdley to the works and back every day.

Despite her ill health, Louisa remained a bright and warm character. She was a determined and lively poet and author and she had a number of stories and collections published, often with a supernatural theme, the most successful of which was ‘The Shadow on the Blind and other stories’ which is still in print.
Louisa was a favourite with all the children in the family, and very much beloved by the villagers of Wilden. She would live to see her son become Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister.

[text on screen] The Macdonald family links with Bewdley

Outside the Museum is the statue of Stanley Baldwin erected by Bewdley Civic Society in 2018.

The Baldwin’s home in High Street, where Louisa and Alfred spent their early married years, and Stanley was born in 1867 is clearly marked with a Blue Plaque.
This house served as a meeting place for all of the sisters and their families. In 1868, the two-year old Rudyard caused a stir amongst the inhabitants of High Street, by stamping along exclaiming “Out of the way, an angry Ruddy is coming!”. John Lockwood Kipling once parodied Bewdley as ‘Snoozley’ in a newspaper article in India. However, both the Lower Park and Wilden Houses were frequently and happily visited by everyone in the family.

At the end of High Street, just beyond the Sayer Almshouses, and now numbered 6 & 7, is the house rented by the Reverend George and Hannah Macdonald in their final years, the Reverend Macdonald dying here in 1868, and the girls’ beloved mother Hannah in 1875.

They are buried in nearby Ribbesford church and their grave is located at the top of the cemetery to the right of the path near the field gate.

Inside the church is a memorial window to his mother-in-law created by Edward Burne-Jones and made by the Morris company.

[text on screen] The Macdonald sisters at Bewdley Museum

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