Wayside (now Cobblestones), 8 Castle St, Aldbourne, Marlborough SN8 2DA, UK
Margaret Longhurst (August 5, 1882 - January 26, 1958) was the first woman Curator of a National Museum (V & A) in 1938. She lived out her retirement at Wayside, a short way up Castle Street in Aldbourne.
Margaret Helen Longhurst was born on 5 August 1882 at Windsor Street, Chertsey, Surrey; she is believed to be the youngest of the five children of Henry Longhurst (1824–1895), draper, and his second wife, Caroline Louisa Taylor. She was educated privately but apparently not formally. After her father's death in 1895, she inherited sufficient money to travel in Europe, presumably in the running up to the First World war, studying art and medieval sculpture. Subsequently she had articles published in the Burlington Magazine, still today the worlds leading fine art publication. After 1918 aged about 36, she volunteered for work at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), later moving to a paid position as a ‘temporary cataloguer’. As a result of her self-taught knowledge of early sculpture, she became a ‘Museum Assistant’ in 1926, no doubt at that time quite a respectable post at the V&A. In that same year she published ‘English Ivories’ followed in 1927 by a ‘Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory’. She must have already been well—respected because in 1929 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquarians and was further promoted to ‘Assistant Keeper (First Class)’ at the V&A in 1930. In 1932 she completed the V&As ‘Catalogue of Italian Sculpture’, previously started by another expert. Finally in 1938, aged 56, she became the first woman in Britain to attain the post of ‘Keeper’ at a UK national museum when she was promoted to ‘Keeper of the Department of Architecture and Sculpture’ at the V&A.
She retired at the age of 60, in 1942. She continued to travel and at some time thereabouts and for reasons unknown, she moved to ‘Wayside’ in Aldbourne. She never married, remaining a very private individual who is remembered by those in the village who were young at the time as a rarer stern but pleasant lady. She died at ‘Wayside’ in January 1958, age 76. No doubt in acknowledgement of eminence in her profession, was credited with an obituary in The Times and an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Her ‘Catalogue of Italian Sculpture,’ printed in 1932, remained the definitive guide and was not superseded until 1964. Her estate was directed by her colleague, Hender Delves Molesworth, who succeeded her in 1945. Her unpublished, which she hoped would be published, were edited in 1963, but never published. They remain at the Victoria and Albert Museum and at the University of London, Warburg Institute. Maclagan and Longhurst's Italian sculpture catalog was superseded in 1964 by that of Sir John Pope-Hennessy.
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