Old master's new portrait

Peter Leyden and Rachel Pollitt with the old and new portraits of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth

Peter Leyden and Rachel Pollitt with the old and new portraits of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth

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An old master has reproduced an old portrait of Gawthorpe Hall’s Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, half a century after her death.

Renowned Burnley artist Peter Leyden, who first painted the well-known aristocrat in 1965 at her family’s ancestral home near Padiham, admitted that it had troubled him ever since that he did not include her coat of arms in the portrait.

Mr Leyden, now in his 80s, said that “Miss Rachel”, as she was affectionately known, had hinted when she was sitting for the oil painting that she would like her family’s coat of arms featured.

Mr Leyden said: “I wasn’t as accommodating back in those days so I didn’t include it, but my conscience has got the better of me over 55 years.

“Rachel was quite an expert in heraldry. I think she would have appreciated my new version. It is a lot brighter and cheerier, and of course now includes the coat of arms.

“I took great attention to detail and made sure I conformed to the rules of heraldry and didn’t paint her coat of arms in the shape of a shield, as she was a spinster.”

Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, who was born during the reign of Queen Victoria, was best known for the huge amount of textiles which she collected from around the world.

The collection now attracts thousands of visitors every year from around the world to Gawthorpe Hall.

Presented at court to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as an 18-year-old debutante, Miss Rachel never married but went on to do a huge amount of philanthropy.

Mr Leyden, who was a student and teacher at the Burnley Art School, added: “Rachel was a very kind lady who said she would always write gushing letters of thanks for every gift she received. She would be sent different textiles from around the world nearly every day.

“My original portrait of her, which she posed for in Gawthorpe Hall, included a gold thimble, which was a gift from her mother. It meant a lot to her and was also symbolic of her love of textiles.

“I’m proud of the new portrait. I hope it can be cherished in the future.”

Rachel Pollitt, museum manager, said: “It would be lovely to have Peter’s new portrait hang here at Gawthorpe sometime soon. I’m sure Miss Rachel would have approved.”