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.
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…
…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!
See what inspiration you can find from the wonderful East Midlands Photographic Archive on the Picture the Past website www.picturethepast.org.uk