It’s always exciting to discover a previously unknown piece of work, no matter how minor, by one’s favourite artist. And so it is with a watercolour by Margaret Rope – recently found in a storeroom at the Rope Trust offices.
It is a finished work, unlike the ‘Coton Hill’ watercolour by her (which is more of a sketch). However, the only label on this piece simply says the words ‘Margaret Rope, Great Glemham’, which must refer to the village in Suffolk of the same name. It is not dated.
It is an accomplished and attractive piece, with a hint of a Japanese style, and a clear love of colour. One can also say it feels like a happy work even though it is a wintry scene. At a guess, as it is fully framed, it was probably a gift from Marga for a family member.
Great Glemham is one of group of tiny villages near the Suffolk coast, which have since been united under the ‘Alde River Benefice’. Small they may be, but each has its own established church!
The group includes Blaxhall, where George Rope, Marga’s grandfather and the paterfamilias, had his farm; Marga holidayed here a great deal. Nearby is Leiston which is where her cousin Tor, another stained-glass artist, was born. Even Marga’s brother Harry loved the locality, being a welcome guest at Glemham Hall (at the time when the North family owned it). So, this is indeed Rope Family country.…
We also shouldn’t forget Marga’s uncle, George Thomas Rope, a relatively well-known landscape painter, who may well have influenced his niece. Not only did he work in oils but in watercolours too.
The bend in the river
There has been some speculation on where the scene depicted in the watercolour actually is. The question was raised in ‘Ebb n Flow‘, the magazine of the benefice (see front cover, right), which published an article asking for suggestions. Sure enough, the article brought a response:
“I am pretty sure this is the river Alde down beyond White House Farm going towards Benhall Low Street. A very pretty spot – and not changed much! Best wishes, Geraldine Smith”. And that seems to solve that mystery!
Glass by the Alde
Suffolk is blessed of course with many churches, all within short distances of each other, so it’s a church-spotters’ paradise.
But even within the small district we are referring too there is also some fine early 20th century glass that make the district even more worth a tour.
As well as all the pieces by Tor and Marga, there’s a lovely window (1920) by Marga’s colleague Mary Lowndes at St John the Baptist in Snape, and a very fine window (1949) by Alfred Fisher at Little Glemham (which, very oddly, was at one time attributed to Marga!).
As for the watercolour itself, there are ongoing investigations as to its date and previous ownership. The best hope is that a reference to it may be found in a will (as a bequest) or in a letter.
For now though, it is likely it will take its place on the walls of the Rope Family Archive offices, alongside other works by Marga and Tor, and may possibly even get a day out soon, in a forthcoming exhibition in Suffolk.
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