13 Popular Collection Items at the Harris
Welcome to The Harris, where an array of captivating collections ranging from art and history to fashion awaits your exploration. What’s even more exciting? The opportunity to acquire merchandise inspired by these collections is now at your fingertips through The Harris Gift Shop. Or browse in person at The Guild Hall, Preston open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Now let’s delve into some of our most popular collections….
Pauline in the Yellow Dress by Herbert James Gunn
Photo copyright: © estate of the artist
Pauline is a favourite painting of the people of Preston. This oil on canvas painting by Sir James Gunn caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition and Harris Curator Sydney Pavière bought it straight away. It was voted picture of the year and desired as ‘The Mona Lisa of 1944’. Despite worries for its safety during the bombing of London, the painting arrived in Preston just in time for August holiday week and over 5000 visitors came to see it on the first day it was displayed. Today Pauline remains as popular as ever.
Pauline’s Yellow Dress
Did you know we also have the dress in the painting ‘Pauline in the Yellow Dress’ by Sir James Gunn in our collection? People love seeing the painting brought to life and gazing at this beautiful dress. The full-length day dress is made from yellow viscose overprinted with a black repeat pattern, trimmed with black velvet, buttoned to the waist and zipped.
Photo copyright: © the artist’s estate / Bridgeman Images
People are drawn to the oil on canvas painting Why War? By Charles Spencelayh dated 1938 which shows a First World War Veteran having fought in ‘the war to end all wars’ contemplating the onset of the Second World War. Near this First World War veteran lies a new gas mask from Lewisham Council and a newspaper covering Chamberlain’s abortive mission to make peace with Hitler. Spencelayh’s training as a miniaturist allowed him to build up a story of visual clues in painstaking detail.
Edwin Robert Beattie’s Watercolours
Prestonians are fans of Edwin Robert Beattie’s collection who created artwork of local places in Preston including Fishergate, the marketplace and the site of The Harris. People love looking at artistic interpretations of Preston back in time and comparing them to life in Preston today. As a resident of Preston himself, Beattie’s work is believed to have been created between the years 1891 and 1917.
Horrockses Fashions Dress
The Harris has the most extensive collection of Horrockses Fashions in the UK. This significant collection of dresses dates from the 1940s to the 1970s and is complemented by material from the company’s design archive. This popular brand remains much loved today with many locals admiring the stunning dresses in our collection.
Horace The Elk
Our Elk is another fan favourite! This local discovery found in Poulton is special for more than one reason, not least because his 13,500-year-old skeleton is unusually complete but the Elk also provides the earliest evidence of humans in North West England as his 17 injuries were made by ancient hunters.
With so many stunning and unique scent bottles, it’s easy to see why this collection draws many visitors to The Harris. Our 2,700 bottles were all donated by one keen collector by the name of Mrs French who by the time of her death in 1963, Mrs French had collected almost 3,000 scent bottles and around 1,000 visiting card cases which make up our cherished scent bottle collection today!
The Pedder Dolls House
The Pedder Dolls House is treasured collection item, beloved by both children and adults who wish they could play with the dollhouse for themselves. Margret Pedder was the first lucky child to have played with this doll house in the 1820s. This would have been the centrepiece of a nursery inside her family home. Her grandfather, Edward Pedder was the co-founder of Preston’s first bank in 1776 and her other grandfather Richard Newsham, was a solicitor and an art collector, whose collection became the foundation of the Harris fine art collection. The doll house style reflects a wealthy family house like the one this family would have owned. Interestingly, the doll house was passed down to the female members of Marget’s family with Elizabeth Ann Wilson as the last person to play with the doll house.
In the Bey’s Garden, John Frederick Lewis
Who can blame people for loving the Painting In the Bey’s Garden? The figure cutting flowers is meant to be the wife of a Bey, or Turkish provincial governor, but it’s actually the artist’s wife, Marian. Lewis painted her many times, often wearing the same green jacket. Lewis travelled widely and lived in Cairo for 10 years from 1841 where he dressed in local costume. Back in Britain, he continued to paint Orientalist themes for the rest of his career.
Her Head, Dhruva Mistry
Photo copyright: © the artist
Her Head by Dhruva Mistryisis has been marvelled at by many visitors at The Harris. The plaster and shell bust’s impressive size immediately catches the eye of visitors, inviting them for a closer look. Upon closer inspection, the intricate details come into view, a striking depiction of a woman with South Asian heritage, crafted in plaster, from head to neck. Dated 1986, this collection item was acquired after being presented by the Contemporary Art Society in 1992.
The marble bust of Clytie has always remained a constant piece of The Harris. Created by George Frederick Watts this marble bust is an interpretation of Clytie – The Sea-nymph from Greek mythology.
Did you know that before the #HarrisYourPlace renovations, Clytie was always positioned by the top-floor staircase? Currently, Clytie is being carefully stored in a specialist storage facility but will return to her usual spot when we reopen.
Preston Dock Remains
This semi-complete skull of a Neolithic adult male was unearthed at the site of Preston Docks during the late 1880s. He was a hunter-gatherer and lived until the age of 40, although it’s unclear how he died. This collection item has proved popular during its years at The Harris as it is in such good condition, despite being buried for over 5000 years!
In the Golden Olden Times Painting
The autumnal scene in the Golden Olden Times Painting is a favourite for many. Created by John Atkinson Grimshaw in 1870, this oil and canvas painting reminds many people of the change of seasons into autumn representing autumn walks.
It’s no surprise that Preston residents wish to delve into the city’s history and The Harris’ photography collection is a great place to start. We have a range of images of places and people in Preston and memorable events such as the Preston Guild. Pictured here is the Stanley Forever Arch at Preston Guild in 1902.
Harris Your Place
Harris Your Place is a £16 million project set to restore and reimagine the Harris for 21st-century audiences as a cultural learning space. The aim of this project is to protect the building and the architecture for future generations whilst enhancing accessibility options and positioning the Harris as a community hub for Preston and Lancashire.
The capital project is more than simply preserving this much-loved building; Harris wants to ensure that it remains a vibrant heart of the community. A place where people want to spend their time.