The papers of Rita and Percy Beales

Scope and Content

Records of all aspects of the lives and work of Rita and Percy Beales, apart from their childhoods. Includes memorabilia of Rita's musical career, 1903-1921; articles and photographs about Percy's family history (weavers of North Lopham, Norfolk); portrait photographs and snapshots of friends and family and of their homes, 1900s-1960s, and plans of some of their homes; Rita's linen record book, working drawings, records of exhibitions of her work, technical catalogues, etc; Percy's research and writings, on spinning and weaving, 1930s-1960s, on religion, 1918-1968, and on music, 1917-1960(?); correspondence about spinning and weaving, 1930s-1950s, and correspondence with Robin and Heather Tanner, 1970s; images which provided inspiration; a little childhood memorabilia and miscellaneous personalia; and biographical material [1970s-1980s].

Administrative / Biographical History

Rita Alice Rhoda Rabone was born in Marlborough in New Zealand on 1st January 1889, and at the age of 20 was awarded a Music exhibition by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She studied opera at the Royal College of Music in London, and intended to pursue a career as a singer, and to marry Percy Beales, who was also a musician, when she left college in 1913, but the First World War restricted their opportunities.

After their marriage in 1917 they attended evening classes to train in craft work, and were inspired to take up weaving by the Dryad Handicrafts exhibition at Cheltenham in the mid 1920s. They moved to North Lopham in Norfolk, where Percy Beales's ancestors had been linen weavers for generations, and taught themselves to spin and weave, at first with wool, but later (possibly after forming a connection with Charles Castell, head master of the North Lopham School) with flax too.

They worked very much together at first, as 'P.S. & R. Beales', but Percy suffered ill-health, and it was Rita who established herself as weaver, while Percy ran the business. They showed work in numerous exhibitions, including the first exhibition of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, 1935, the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, and the exhibition of Modern British Crafts organised by the British Council, which toured North America during the Second World War.

They moved in 1935 to Compton Chamberlayne near Salisbury, and then in 1938 to Gloucestershire, at first to Cerney Wick near Cirencester. In 1948 they joined the Society of Friends.

They lived from 1960 at Daneway near Sapperton. Percy Beales died on 23rd June 1963, and in 1966 Rita moved to a small cottage in Painswick, where she continued to work. Failing eyesight restricted her ability to weave, but she continued to spin until the end of her life. Rita Beales died on 17th December 1987.

Arrangement

  • RPB/1 Rita's Music Album and Memorabilia, 1903-1921
  • RPB/2 Percy's family history, [1850s-1900s]
  • RPB/3 Personal Photographs, 1900s-1960s
  • RPB/4 Houses, 1926-1987
  • RPB/5 Rita's Work, 1920s-1980s
  • RPB/6 Correspondence, 1940s-1950s
  • RPB/7 Research and writings of Percy Beales, 1930s-1960s
  • RPB/8 Inspiration, 1918-1962
  • RPB/9 Religion, 1917-1968
  • RPB/10 Memorabilia of childhood and other personalia, 1897-1980
  • RPB/11 Biographical material, 1970s-1980s(?)

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.

Note

This entry was compiled by Greta Bertram, Crafts Study Centre Curator, June 2020.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue on Crafts Study Centre database. A pdf copy is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.

Accruals

None expected.

Bibliography

Patricia Baines, A linen legacy: Rita Beales 1889-1987 , Crafts Study Centre, 1989.