Muriel’s Wedding?

Following on from one of our literature festival events, the curious case of Muriel’s ‘wedding dress’ came to light.

During a workshop, we gave participants two photographs from the Picture the Past photographic collection, then asked people to come up with imaginative stories which linked these images together.

 The images had been selected purely for their visual intrigue and potential for inspiring creative writing, and we had paired them up entirely out of context. For example an image of a sad looking newspaper seller from the 1970s was paired up with a photograph of a long, winding country lane, leading to a bleak-looking house.

One of the images was particularly interesting as it showed a woman called Beatrice Muriel Bagshaw in a beautiful wedding dress, presumably on her wedding day. We felt rather sorry for this woman, as she did not look particularly happy to be getting married.

Photograph of Muriel from Picutre the Past Website

Muriel’s picture was paired up with this photo of a prison from c 1850s-90s

We hoped that with the context removed, this would inspire all kinds of interesting stories. Heres something that a writer from the workshop came up with:

‘Louise is daughter of a wealthy merchant in the city of London.  She is persuaded by her parents into marriage with one of her father’s business acquaintances to cement their connection.  The wedding is a stylish affair and she wears a beautiful silk dress but she is not a radiant bride as she has great doubts about her new husband.  Within a few years she finds out that her doubts were justified as he is convicted of fraud and jailed leaving her penniless.’

 Strangely enough this was not the end of Muriel’s story. We were in fact sure that we had seen Muriel somewhere before… and noticed when looking at the Bakewell Old House Museum Facebook page that this image had been added to the site…

Muriel Bagshaw in her ‘Court Presentation’ dress, courtesy of Bakewell Old House Museum

…could this be the very same woman?!

We contacted Bakewell Museum, who confirmed that this was indeed Muriel Bagshaw, but it was not the wedding dress that we had thought, but a court presentation dress. What’s more is that they even had the actual dress in their collection of historical costume! They said;

‘The dress was Muriel’s court presentation dress.  She was presented to Queen Victoria…… a kind of coming out.  It is in very poor condition but we do get it out occasionally.  There is a wonderful, incredibly long train to accompany the dress along with shoes, stockings, fan and Prince of Wales feathers which had to be worn in the hair. She looks rather glum on the photo and we always feel rather sorry for her.’

We thought this was a wonderful twist to the tale, and just goes to show that every picture can tell a multitude of stories and that you can’t always judge something on first appearances.

Can you come up with a story for Muriel? We would love to hear your suggestions!

Why not take a look at Bakewell Museum’s facebook page: & find out how to visit the dress

See what inspiration you can find from the wonderful East Midlands Photographic Archive on the Picture the Past website


5 thoughts on “Muriel’s Wedding?

  1. Hi Anne, it’s great to hear more about Muriel so thanks for getting in touch. You have inspired us to find out more. So far we have discovered that she married John Henry Isherwood Bradshaw of Marple Hall, Cheshire in Westminster (district) in 1907. In ironic contrast to our writer’s story above which talks about her marrying a convict, John (known as Henry) was actually a former Derbyshire magistrate and Justice of the Peace (ancient judicial position) for Cheshire; he was also the Lieutenant of the 84th Foot

  2. I think this was the nearest poor Muriel ever got to a wedding dress. As far as I can see neither she nor her sister ever married. Beatrice Muriel Westby Bagshawe was baptised at Norton in Derbyshire in 1876 and her sister Gladys Godwin de l’Hall Bagshawe a year later. Their parents were Francis Westby Bagshawe, who died in 1896, and Caroline Amelia Godwin-Austen. There are memorials to all four in St Margaret’s Wormhill:
    “Two distinctive memorials decorate the chancel arch. In the form of painted arms is that to Gladys Godwin de l’Hall, daughter of Francis W. Bagshawe, and to Beatrice Muriel Westby. The other, a brass cross between two brass shields of arms was installed, together with the choirstalls, in memory of Francis Westby Bagshawe, who died in 1896, and his wife Caroline. Finely carved choirstall poppyheads complement other woodcarving.” (

    • Correction – Muriel is in the 1911 census living in Dorset with her sister Gladys, but her name is given as Muriel Westby Bagshawe-Bradshaw-Sherwood – married for three years.

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