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 ephmera 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 were awarded. Nor is she recorded in the prize lists for 1895, the date of her earliest certificate. 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 clearly made after her death in 1952) was collected by Gertrude during the course of her lifetime. It reveals that, although not a professional artist, she remained an enthusiastic amateur with a particular interest in creating flower paintings and portraits for her own home. Some of the items have been annotated by her daughter to provide context. The creators of the material in the first series are other members of the Bowater family, including her parents and her brother Norman.


Within a single sub-fonds, 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 majority of the items in the latter series relate to her development as an artist. The series are arranged in alphabetical order.

Access Information

The Arts, Design and Media Archive at the Parkside Building is currently closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Please email any inquiries to

Acquisition Information

Donated by Barbara Murdoch, February 1994 and post July 2001.

Custodial History

The material in the first series, the National Gallery pass, the Royal Academy application form and the examination certificates were donated by Barbara Murdoch in February 1994. These were listed by Nadia Houareau in July 2001. The rest of the items in the second series were collected from Barbara Murdoch at a later date by the former Dean. They were in a separate folder, and were catalogued by Fiona Waterhouse in September 2012.