Mary Anne Holmes (1878 to 1944)

Art Mistress at the Fielden School of Art – 1918 to 1939

1898 At Low Lane House

Mary Anne Holmes was born on the 28th of September 1878 at Leck, in the Lune Valley near Kirkby Lonsdale. In 1891 she lived at Low Lane House, Leck with six siblings, their parents Thomas and Jane, her maternal grandfather and a farm worker. Thomas Holmes was a farmer.
In 1901, 22 years old, she was living with her elder sister Dorothy, 24, at 60 Regent Street, Lancaster, recorded as ‘Art Student’. At that point, she was studying at the Lancaster School of Art. From 1901 to 1903 she was also an Art Pupil Teacher at the School, where she gained the Class Teacher qualification.
In 1903 she went to Liverpool, enrolled in the School of Art and became a Pupil Teacher, then Art Teacher at the Walton & Kirkdale Institute.

In the 1911 census she is a boarder at the YWCA Mildmay, Blackburne Place, Liverpool, aged 32, shown as a ‘Student and Teacher’. It is likely that she stayed there throughout her time at Liverpool.
By 1905 she was a part-time Art Teacher at the Liverpool Institute Girls High School, continuing to study at the School of Art. An item in the Todmorden Advertiser says that at Liverpool “her career was highly successful, culminating in the award of a Senior City Art Travelling Scholarship [in 1913]. Her academic qualifications include the full Art Masters Certificate of the Board of Education as well as the Art Class Teachers Certificate and the Teacher Artist’s Certificate of the R.D.S.”
The Lancaster Guardian tells us that “Thanks to the Travelling Scholarship she spent several months in Italy, studying the works of the great Italian painters and, with the permission of the authorities, made copies of several notable works.” She also did watercolour paintings and drawings of places visited during this trip, known ones are of Venice and Pisa.
During the holidays Miss Holmes usually returned to Leck, where she found many subjects for her works in the local area, often returning to the same scenes. She also made pen and ink sketches of poultry for British, American, and Russian trade journals.
In summer 1916, Miss Holmes ended her employment at the Girls High School and her studies, and left Liverpool. In late 1917 she was appointed to the position of “Art Master” at the Fielden School of Art and Inspector of Drawing in local schools, in Todmorden, starting on the 1st January 1918.
She studied a variety of topics over the period 1901 to 1916, which must have served her well at Todmorden, as the Fielden was small, so with few staff but a typically broad range of topics. She was clearly an influential and successful leader of the school, as numbers increased, and many students produced high class work, gaining excellent qualifications. The large range of subjects available continued throughout her time, but British and international art changed significantly during this period, and that will have been reflected in the teaching, and in the student’s work.

In October 1939 a decision was made to integrate the School of Art with the Technical School at Waterside, and the building was requisitioned for use as a Casualty Post during the War which had just begun.
Miss Holmes submitted her resignation, which was accepted with regret, taking effect on 31st December. Alderman Greenwood expressed a heartfelt appreciation of her work and her contribution to the wider education of local people, saying “life would be very drab if nothing but the three R’s were taught in schools.”
After retiring from the Fielden School of Art in 1939, Miss Holmes in May 1940 moved back to the family house Holmfield, at Leck in her native Lune Valley, where she died in 1944.


Liverpool ca 1912

The Holmes family outside their newly built house ‘Holmfield’ circa 1905
Mary Anne is in the centre, wearing the light-coloured dress

Art Mistress at the Fielden School of Art – 1918 to 1939



An Appreciation of her time as Art Mistress in charge at the Fielden School of Art, Todmorden



This appreciation is based on a newspaper article at the time of her retirement at the end of 1939, and obituaries on her death in 1944.

In 1939, the Chairman of the Todmorden Borough Education Committee, Alderman W Greenwood was quoted at length in the Todmorden Advertiser, and his remarks are only slightly summarised below.
Miss Holmes had been an Art Teacher for nearly forty years, and had been in the service of the Local Education Authority here for 22 years. Some people had the idea that the teaching of art was not very essential, he said, but they made a great mistake, for whether we knew it or not, art played a very great part in our everyday lives. In fact, it influenced the lives of some people even more than religion. Life would be very drab if nothing more than the three R’s were taught in schools.
It had been Miss Holmes’s lifelong work to train the eye, the mind and the hand so that students might first of all perceive the beauty in nature and then outline it with their hands. Those who had visited the annual exhibitions at the Fielden School of Art would have seen the results of that training.
Many people who had passed through the School were now using the knowledge they had gained there in textile designing, dress designing or architectural work.
As a result of Miss Holmes’s work, a great number people have been able to enjoy life more fully, and also help others to get more pleasure out of life.
In 1944 Obituaries were published in the Todmorden newspapers and the Lancaster Guardian. The paragraphs below are compiled from that material.
The death occurred on Friday the 1st of September, at Holmfield, Leck of Miss Mary A. Holmes, who for 22 years was head of the Fielden School of Art, Todmorden, retiring in December, 1939. She first studied at the Lancaster School of Art, where she became a student teacher. From there, she went as a student to the Liverpool School of Art, and was appointed mistress of a branch Art class, also at the Liverpool Institute High School for girls, a position she held for 11 years. At Liverpool she studied under the tuition of Mr Fred V. Burridge, later the distinguished Head of the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London.
During her vacations, Miss Holmes made pen and ink sketches of poultry for British, American, and Russian trade journals. As the winner of a travelling scholarship awarded by the Liverpool City Council, she spent several months in Italy, studying the works of the great Italian painters and. with the permission of the authorities, made copies of several notable works. After a short period of study in London, she was appointed mistress of the Fielden School of Art, and inspector of drawing in Todmorden Elementary Schools in 1918.
Her work has had a great influence on the artistic tastes of Todmorden people. Hundreds of people have passed through her classes, some have achieved notable success in industrial design and others have seen their work hung at exhibitions in some of the larger provincial galleries.

Mary Anne Holmes – Timeline

1878 Born at Leck, Lancashire on the 23rd September.
1891 Living at Low Lane House, Leck with her family.
1901 Recorded in the Census as an Art Student, living at 60 Regent Street Lancaster with her elder sister Dorothy.
1901-1903 Employed as an Art Pupil Teacher at Lancaster School of Art. Gained her Class Teacher’s Certificate.
1903 In Liverpool, enrolled at the Liverpool School of Art, where she continued to study until 1916.
1903- 1916 Briefly Art Pupil Teacher, then part-time Art Teacher, at the Walton and Kirkdale Institute, an outpost of the Liverpool Institute, of which the School of Art is part.
1905 Began employment as a part time Art Teacher at Liverpool Institute Girls High School
1906 Gained the Art Master’s Certificate of the Board of Education
1911 Recorded in the Census as a ‘Student and Teacher’, and a boarder at the YWCA Mildmay, Blackburne Place, Liverpool.
1913-1914 Awarded a Senior City Travelling Scholarship, which she used to visit Italy from September 1913 to January 1914, for study purposes.
1916 Left her employment at the Kirkdale Institute, and the High School on 30th of June. Also ended her studies at the Liverpool School of Art. From July to October, she worked at the Twynholm Orphanage for Boys in Fulham, in her spare time studying Art in the London Galleries and Museums.

On the 26th December she attended for interview in Todmorden: On that date the Evening Schools and Classes Sub-Committee

“Resolved that Miss M A Holmes be appointed Art Master, Fielden School of Art and Inspector of drawing in the Elementary Schools, at an inclusive salary of £110 per annum, from the 1st of January.”

1918 The Evening Schools and Classes Sub-Committee, on the 28th September, for the first time refers to her as the Art Mistress.
1939 On the 13th of October, the Technical and Evening Schools Sub-Committee received a “Letter from Miss M A Holmes resigning her appointment as Art Mistress”. Her resignation was accepted with regret, to take effect on 31 December 1939.
1944 Having retired to her native Lunesdale, she passed away in September 1944.
In five of the years 1910 to 1915, Miss Holmes had works accepted for the Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, as listed below:
Year Catalogue no. Title Medium
1910 869 Rocks at Ingleton Watercolour
1911 750 The Shed Watercolour
1912 440 Study of an Elder Bush Watercolour
1914 1627 Duomo and Baptistery from the Campanile, Pisa Pencil
1915 710 Lee Lane [probably Low Lane, for which a preliminary sketch exists] Watercolour
1915 1306 Study of Trees Watercolour

All Portraits of Miss Holmes?



Further Finds