Minnie Simpson


Minnie seated with her sister May, in 1919

Born Minnie Edwards in Colne on the 20th of June 1906, she lived with her family from about 1910 at Oak Hill Clough Cottages, Todmorden, at the top of Meadowbottom Road. At that time the building consisted of four cottages, theirs having only two rooms, with a tub toilet in a building across the garden.
Her mother Alice Ann was a weaver. Her father Walter Henry, a journeyman painter and decorator, died aged 60 in February 1920 from chronic lead poisoning.
In that same year Minnie, now aged 14, left school and went ‘into the mill’, becoming a cotton spinner.

1938 at Bridlington

Minnie must have had an aptitude for art, and at some time she was inspired, or encouraged, to study at the Fielden School of Art, starting by at least 1926 and continuing until 1931.
She tried various media and techniques but settled on painting in oils. The Tea Clipper was perhaps a copy painted as an exercise.

In January 1938 Minnie married Joe Simpson, a local haulage contractor. A late honeymoon at Bridlington that summer, sleeping on a mattress under a canvas tilt on the back of his lorry, led to a painting of Bridlington harbour. There were other paintings at this time, then a break during the war, when having two boys probably got in the way of art.

Painting re-started in the later 1940’s, and in 1952 there was a family holiday in Newlyn, Cornwall. Each morning Minnie attended classes run by a resident artist, and the outcome was this oil painting of Mounts Bay from Mousehole harbour.
She continued to paint in oils, with more landscapes then two portraits; of her husband Joe, and of Berta, the young Austrian wife of Jack Redman, a manager at Fielden Brothers.

In the early 1950’s, whilst continuing with oils, Minnie became interested in painting on pottery, attending classes at Todmorden Technical School in what is now known as the Old Fire Station.
Once she had acquired the specific techniques, her artistic ideas led to some interesting works, using the skills and knowledge that she gained in her early days at the School.
Some later works used the sgraffito technique, carefully scraping off a layer of coloured glaze to create the picture or design, before firing.
Those shown here are Coronation Plate, Flight to Egypt, Ginger Jar, and Glad Tidings.
Minnie passed away from leukaemia in March 1956

Minnie’s husband Joe was a keen amateur photographer, a member of Todmorden Photographic Society. He took a number of still life images, using a beautiful mahogany and brass plate camera.

This example, with stylised Palm trees by Minnie, is based on a quotation from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’, the book in the photograph

“A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou beside me….”
An expression of love, here in visual form.
Joe was very supportive of Minnie’s artistic activities.

And Thou

Minnie Simpson – Course Results at the Fielden School of Art

As there are no records from the school, and Minnie’s certificates are lost, these results have been compiled from the annual results lists of the School of Art in the local press, where available.

September 1926
Drawing from Life, Head (4th year) — Pass
Drawing from Nature and Natural Form, Including memory drawing, 3rd year – Pass
Applied Design. 3rd year – Pass
September 1927
Drawing from Nature and Natural Form, including Memory Drawing (4th year) – Pass
Drawing from Life, Head (4th year) – Pass
Applied Design (4th year) – Pass
August 1928
Drawing from Nature and Natural Form, 4th year— Pass
Drawing from Life, Head (4th year) —Distinction
Applied Design, 3rd year— Pass
August 1929
Drawing from Nature and Natural Form, including Memory Drawing (4th year) – Pass
Drawing from Life, (head and details) (4th year) – Pass
Applied Design (4th year) – Pass
September 1930
Drawing from Nature and Natural Form, including Memory Drawing, 2nd year senior – Pass
Painting from Life (head and details), 1st year advanced—Pass
Painting from Still Life, 1st year advanced – Pass
Applied Design, 1st year advanced – Pass
August 1931
Drawing from nature and natural form, including memory drawing, 2nd year senior – 1st class
Drawing from life (head and details), 2nd year senior – 2nd class
Painting from still life. 2nd year advanced. – 1st class
Applied Design (1st year advanced) – Distinction

Minnie’s Oil Paintings

Tea Clipper
A pair, both unsigned, but known to be by Minnie as always in the family’s possession. Possibly done as studies during her time at the School of Art, to develop her skill in oils, based on illustrations of well-known paintings.
Bridlington Harbour
Produced as a result of the trip to Bridlington in 1938.
The Holme, Cliviger
Painted in about 1949, At this time the house was quite original and still occupied by the two elderly Whittaker sisters. Minnie’s eldest son Douglas remembers playing on the lawn with his younger brother Ronald, whilst Minnie worked at the easel.
Mount’s Bay, from Mousehole Harbour
Painted during a family holiday in Newlyn, Cornwall, probably 1952. Each morning Minnie attended classes run by a resident artist, including sessions outdoors at Mousehole.
Joe Simpson
Minnie’s husband, painted at their home in Walsden, possibly in 1953. Probably reading ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’, a great favourite.

The dates are approximate, as they depend on the recollections of Douglas as a boy.
There are other known oil paintings, but no images of them. Sadly, her last major work, the three-quarter length portrait of Berta Redman, no longer exists.