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New exhibition tells stories of Ludlow's remarkable women

By Keri Trigg | Ludlow | South Shropshire entertainment | Published:

You could be forgiven for thinking the first wife of Henry VIII, the first female 'computer' and a well-known 'lady of the night' would not have much in common.

Museum assistant Petra Bindloss with one of the exhibits

But while they led lives worlds apart, the three women shared one thing – they all lived in Ludlow.

They have now been remembered in a new exhibition in the town ahead of International Women's Day.

'Strong Women of Ludlow: From Castle to Street' includes documents and personal artefacts telling the story of some of the town's most notable female residents from over the centuries.

The exhibition features Ludlow's most famous historical female figure, Catherine of Aragon – the first wife of King Henry VIII and Queen of England from 1509-1533.

Her connection to Ludlow is prior to this, when she was Princess of Wales and wife of Henry's elder brother, Prince Arthur. She honeymooned and stayed at Castle Lodge, near Ludlow Castle. There is a garment of her clothing on display.

Mary Edwards (1750-1815) is another notable woman of Ludlow. She was the first female 'computer' and her work as a computer of astronomical tables for the British Nautical Almanac kept sailors safe at sea.

Mary held an academic position at a time when it was virtually unheard of for women. The job had been given to her husband, but after he died she carried on the work, and it came to light that Mary 'had done the greater part of the calculation'.

Such was her success that in 1810 Mary bought her own property – a rare and notable achievement for a woman in Georgian England.

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A Ludlow Civic Society blue plaque commemorates her connection with 4 Brand Lane, Ludlow. Original documents charting the ownership of the house are on display.

Another exhibit tells the story of artisan glove maker Mary Bottomley, who is featured in the book 'Hand in Glove' by Sandra Morris

Businesswoman, draper and milliner Jane Poyner is also featured. Having worked as an apprentice, Jane Goodall married her fiance Ernest Poyner when he returned from the war, and the couple bought their own shop in 1918.

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Poyners Drapers has been in business ever since, and is still owned by Ernest and Jane Poyner's grandson, Michael Poyner. A cloche hat, from circa 1920, made by Jane Poyner, is featured in the exhibition.

There are also newspaper cuttings from the Shrewsbury Chronicle, giving a snapshot of the life of Elizabeth Charmer, a lady of the night, who found herself up before the courts for assault and theft.

Deputy town clerk Kate Adams said: "We are delighted to have a temporary exhibition about historical women of Ludlow.

"Come along to learn more about the past women who lived in our beautiful town from local characters to royalty – we guarantee you’ll learn something new.

"We’d also like to encourage anyone with a local ‘herstory’ to pop in and tell us all about it."

The exhibition is part of the celebrations for International Women's Day on March 8 and will be on display at Ludlow Museum at the Buttercross until the end of March.

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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