World War 1 first for museum and art gallery

Paintings by a soldier who died in World War 1 are to be exhibited for the first time at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

Lieutenant Douglas Marshall Rigby, who grew up in Buxton, was killed in the Great War, 100 years ago.  

Lt Rigby’s artworks will be on display at the museum and art gallery in Terrace Road from 15 September until 10 November.

These include watercolours of northern landscapes, humorous caricatures and pencil drawings.  

As well as Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, his artwork will also be exhibited in Chester, where he enlisted into the Cheshire Regiment and at Knutsford, where he and his family moved shortly before the war began. 

In addition to Lt Rigby’s watercolours and etchings, visitors will see his letters from the war, family diaries and other artefacts displayed, with each location revealing a different facet of his story.

Lt Rigby’s family have now achieved their long-held ambition to exhibit his body of work. His great-nephew, Richard Elsner, said:

“I am convinced that these exhibitions of his work would have made his family very, very proud of him. Every visit is a tribute to the man’s talent as an artist, and to his generous and vivacious character.”

Councillor Barry Lewis, Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism, said:

“This exhibition provides a touching snapshot of a life and a talent tragically cut short by war. It’s going to be a fascinating display, giving us a glimpse of life a hundred years ago, and I urge people to pay it a visit.”

Lt Rigby joined the Cheshire Yeomanry in 1914 and was commissioned in the Cheshire Regiment in 1915. He was severely wounded in June 1916 at the Somme in France and again in a bombing accident in 1917. After a long convalescence he returned to the front in August 1918, rejoining his regiment at Ypres in Belgium. Two weeks later, on 4 September 1918, he was shot dead by a sniper as he was leading his company in the advance which contributed to ending the war.

Douglas Marshall Rigby was born into one of north-west England’s foremost commercial families. His grandfather John Rigby became the business partner and brother-in-law of William Armitage. Together they founded Armitage & Rigby Ltd, which became one of ‘cottonopolis’s’ most successful manufacturing and merchant businesses, with large mills and warehouses in Manchester, Stockport, and Warrington. Through the marriage of William Armitage’s daughter Kate to William Oswald Carver, strong family bonds were established with the Carver family, also eminent wealthy cotton manufacturers.

A book called “She makes no fuss when I go” is being published to coincide with the exhibitions. It contains many of Lt Rigby’s paintings and drawings, a selection of his letters to his family from the war, his mother Grace’s comments on his life, and tributes to him from fellow officers. A DVD, featuring an actor reading a selection of Lt Rigby’s letters, is also being produced. Both will be on sale at the three exhibition sites.

The exhibition is at the Cheshire Military Museum, Chester Castle, Chester from 8 September, and in Knutsford, at the Knutsford Heritage Centre, King Street, from 11 September.

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