‘Bolton’ returns home!

Artwork created in 1937 as part of the Mass Observation project has been acquired for the Worktown Collection at Bolton Library and Museum Services.

We have acquired a  key piece of artwork from the ground-breaking 1930s social experiment, Mass Observation.

Bolton by Julian Trevelyan, 1937

Entitled simply ‘Bolton’, the artwork was created by Julian Trevelyan in 1937 and depicts a traditional industrial mill scene from the town.

Trevelyan was part of a larger team of observers, who descended on Bolton to document the everyday lives of people at work, play and on holiday.

Their observations were depicted in photographs, sketches, paintings and collages, and Bolton became known as Worktown.

The opportunity to purchase Trevelyan’s piece ‘Bolton’ arose when it went to auction at Sotheby’s in November.

Lines of washing
Lines of washing from the Worktown Collection


The Worktown collection is owned by Bolton Library and Museum Services and includes more than 1,000 photographs and pieces of art by observers Humphrey Jennings, Humphrey Spender and Julian Trevelyan.

It was acquired for £20,000 thanks to funding from the Arts Council/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and The Friends of Bolton Museum.

Industrial Bolton
A view of the industrial landscape from the Worktown Collection


The collage shows the mills and chimneys of Bolton rising up into a bright blue sky. The fields and hills of the West Pennine Moors can be glimpsed in the background.

If examined more closely, the artwork reveals a hidden political message in the newspaper and magazine cuttings, reflective of the Spanish civil war of the time and the rise of fascism across Europe.

Trevelyan had an unusual approach to his art. Carrying a suitcase of scraps and magazines, scissors, glue, watercolours and Indian ink he would make his way to his chosen spot.

Once there, he would battle the elements to create his latest collage – usually gathering quite a crowd as he captured the mood of industrial Bolton.

 ‘Bolton’ will go on display in the museum’s Making Landscape exhibition, which is situated in the lower ground floor of the Le Mans Crescent building.

What do you think about the new acquisition? Let us know in the comments below.


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