This article came about partly through oral history with a relative of Peggy Turnbull, co-owner of The Little Gallery, who contacted me with items which they inherited and wished to find a home. Amongst the items were eleven small diaries (1930-42) which gave an insight into Peggy’s life. Much has been written about Muriel Rose the dynamic co-owner, who was the artistic inspiration behind the Gallery. It is therefore good to know more about the role of her business partner Peggy Turnbull.
The Little Gallery, Ellis Street, Chelsea
The Little Gallery was in a world of itself...most of the customers became old friends who would sometimes come in for a few minutes for a chat and leave a cake for tea (1)
During the inter-war period, several London craft shops were established, run by women selling the highest quality craftwork, much of it produced by leading women artists. These included: Ethel Mairet's The New Handworkers Gallery (1922-3) in Percy Square off Tottenham Court Road and later Fitzroy Square; the Three Shields Gallery (1922 - ) 8 Holland Street, Kensington; Elspeth Little's Modern Textiles in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge (1926), and when Little died in 1933, the business was re named Footprints by Joyce Clissold and closed in 1982; Cecilia Dunbar-Kilburn's Dunbar-Hay Ltd (1935-40), Albermarle St, W1; and Muriel Rose's Little Gallery (1928-40) Ellis Street, off Sloane Street, Chelsea.
Muriel Rose (1897-1986) and Margaret (Peggy) Turnbull (1892 -1980) were co-owners of the Little Gallery. The Gallery was curated and managed by the forceful Muriel who, had a great aesthetic eye and was determined to display the best quality crafts in the most attractive setting. She clearly had retail experience through her family business. Peggy organised the administration and accounts and offered a supportive role. Muriel and Peggy's intention was to enable craftspeople, particularly women, to display and sell their work as painters and sculptors might display theirs in art galleries. During beautifully curated exhibitions artists talked to prospective clients about their techniques, demonstrated their work and took commissions. The Gallery attracted artistic and Bohemian clients, including architect Walter Gropius, society figure Lady Diana Cooper and the actor Charles Laughton who was a frequent visitor while a visit from Queen Mary is also recorded.
Regular exhibitors were Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher and Enid Marx, who all produced hand block printed dress and furnishing textiles and papers. Ethel Mairet and Marianne Straub displayed their weavings and Rachel Crompton and Elizabeth Peacock embroideries (4). Potters Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie and Norah Braden exhibited, whilst the Winchcombe pottery, started by Michael Cardew, showed slipware. Jewellery, silverware and cutlery were produced by Catherine Cockerell. Her father Douglas, the master bookbinder, hand printed marbled papers made by his company, Douglas Cockerell & Son's in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire. The company also made pleated lampshades for the Gallery. The Curwen Press also printed exquisite designed sheets of marbled and other papers. Tirzah Garwood, later Ravillious, also produced marble papers and Edward Bawden watercolours, drawings and prints. Alan V Smith, known as Sam, the toy maker, supplied the shop with carved and painted figures.
Illustrated: A promotional leaflet showing the range of items for sale. Notice the phone number on the leaflet SLOANE 6663. This was designed by Sam Smith. It is thought the Christmas Shopping Notes card and other gallery ephemera, to be seen later, were designed by him.
All images and text © meg-andrews.com 2021