Artist explores the life of mystery Crawshawbooth woman from past

John with his painting of Betty Treacle and the original portrait on the wall in the background

John with his painting of Betty Treacle and the original portrait on the wall in the background

First published in News

AN EXHIBITION of paintings of a mysterious Crawshawbooth ‘wise woman’ who lived in the late 19th Century is to be unveiled at The Whitaker, Rossendale Museum.

After a decade spent researching who Betty Treacle could have been, Prof John Hyatt, a senior director at Manchester Metropolitan University, found himself with three possibilities and decided to paint her.

Prof Hyatt said: “There is a painting of an unknown woman by an unknown artist in the museum, and on the label it says she is Betty Treacle.

“It has a poignant aspect to it. It describes her as a half-wit who always carried an iron key around.

“Her name is a nickname or ‘by-name’ as they were called around Rossendale.

“‘Treacle’ comes from the Greek ‘Tri-ackle’ which means medicine, so she could possibly have been a wise woman who knew about plants and their properties and made cures.

“Alternatively, she could have been the holder of the key to Goodshaw Chapel.”

There will be around 20 oil paintings.

Prof Hyatt said: “This exhibition is a series of paintings of the area which Betty wandered in.

“There is a dialogue between Betty and the artist who painted her, discovered in the museum collection. recorded on hardened treacle cylinders.

“I want to play these at the exhibition so people can hear them as they walk around. The pair are discussing what they see when they look at different local landscapes.

“That’s what the exhibition’s about, do we all see the same things the same way? And of course we don’t.”

Prof Hyatt is the director of the research and postgraduate centre, MIRIAD (the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design), and lives in Rawtenstall. Between 2010 and 2014, he has exhibited paintings in Australia, China, Japan, India, Portugal and Brazil and was also the lead singer of 1980s post punk band The Three Johns.

The exhibition will open at The Whitaker in Rawtenstall on February 1. There will be an opening event at the museum at 6.30pm on Friday, January 31.

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