Bowater Collection

Scope and Content

This collection focuses on the history of the Bowater family (most especially in West Bromwich in the late nineteenth century) and the artistic development of their daughter Gertrude Ann from the age of six in 1886 until the early 1940s. It includes family photographs; notes and correspondence about family history; Gertrude's artworks, examination certificates and notebooks on art; postcards from national museums that she copied paintings from; and ephemera including gallery passes and an application form to be used when submitting paintings for exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Administrative / Biographical History

The donor Barbara Murdoch was the daughter of Gertrude Ann Lymn (nee Bowater), who left a substantial bequest to Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. Her link with Birmingham School of Art is unclear as she does not appear in the admissions records for 1901-03, when all but one of her art certificates was awarded. Nor is she recorded in the prize lists for 1895, the date of her earliest certificate. The material in the first series dealing with the Bowater family history was collected by various members of the Bowater family, including Gertrude’s parents, her brother Norman and her daughter Barbara Murdoch. Gertrude's parents were John and Caroline Bowater (nee Hill) and her paternal grandmother was married to Edward Aston. Born in West Bromwich in 1880, Gertrude married Arthur Henry Lymn between 1903 and 1906. The couple moved to London, where she exhibited a portrait miniature of Molly, who was another of their daughters. The material in the second series (with the exception of a handwritten list of paintings clearlymade after her death in 1952) was collected by Gertrude during the course of her lifetime. Itreveals that, although not a professional artist, she remained an enthusiastic amateur with aparticular interest in creating flower paintings and portraits for her own home. Some of the itemshave been annotated by her daughter to provide context.


The collection is divided into two series: one dealing with the Bowater family's history, and the other containing material collected over Gertrude Ann Lymn (nee Bowater)'s lifetime. The first series is divided into two files: one containing a family tree and notes on family history; the other a set of family photographs. The majority of the items in the second series relate to her development as an artist. The series is divided into four files arranged in alphabetical order: Artworks; Certificates; Notebooks and correspondence on art: and Miscellaneous.

Conditions Governing Access

Advance booking is required to see this collection. To make an appointment, please email us at or phone 0121-331-6981.