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Draw on Norton

During the summer of 2021 Hazlehurst Studios, was in residence within the Gardener's Cottage and Wall Garden at Norton Priory. Six of the studio’s artists have taken inspiration from Norton Priory, creating a visual landscape including the sights, sounds and smells found within the garden walls.


Hazlehurst's Artists

Cathy Rounthwaite, Claire Pitt, Cliff Richards, Maria Tarn, Mima Cornish and Rachael Prime,

have also been joined by Wendy Smith, a local electroacoustic composer, who has created a soundscape triggered by the visitors to the garden cottage, bringing the outside sounds of the garden, inside.


Elements of the exhibition were based within the Gardener's Cottage, Band Stand and Pergola. Within the Pergola there was also a mark making station setup, encouraging member's of the public to create inspired responses.

Video created by Craving Media


Medlars and more: Cathy Rounthwaite

Pottery has an important place in the history of Norton Priory, with clay pits and an old tile kiln discovered during excavations. This was the starting point for the ceramic work.


The Medlar trees found here in the garden first caught my attention with the form of the fruit and the texture of the bark. Medlars are curious fruits, referenced in literature by Chaucer, Shakespeare and others, their appearance giving them a number of vulgar nicknames. They are left on the tree and not eaten until bletted or rotted, so an acquired taste.

Form, texture and colour are always an important part my work. These clay vessels were handbuilt, echoing the texture of the bark and the smooth yet spiky fruit, smoke fired in sawdust with metals and organic material to create the colour and pattern, then finished with local beeswax. The three collagraph prints explore the shapes, colours and textures in a different form.


Other pieces record the transience of plant material: the pattern of yew and asparagus fern in clay; the eco prints tracing the colours, shape and pattern of flowers which fill the garden, but are now fading.


Cathy Rounthwaite is one of the original members of Hazlehurst Studios and Hazlehurst Print and is also a member of Markmakers, the Halton based art collective. Although she initially studied embroidery and textiles, she has been a printmaker for several years and more recently works with clay. She runs workshops, has exhibited nationally and has work in private collections.

A Walk around the Walls - Cliff Richards:

The main focus of my practice is Drawing. I am interested in drawing as a human behaviour and how drawing facilitates our experience of the world. I am at present developing my drawing practice as a means of researching the processes involved in drawing which allow us to connect to our environment. Drawing involves a series of cognitive processes. It is well recognised that our cognition is not solely located within our brains but extends into our situation, that is, there is a relationship between ourselves and the spaces we inhabit that allow us to build perceptions and knowledge of the world.


As part Of the Hazlehurst Studios artist residency I was extremely interested to explore the space of the wall garden. I have visited sporadically but not for some years and this gave us the opportunity to spend time in the garden.


Experience in the garden involves walking around the garden and stopping to view. My drawing “A walk around the walls” is an attempt to represent both the movement of walking and also the experience of looking from a single viewpoint. The drawing is an amalgamation of 40 smaller drawings made whilst walking the internal circumference of the garden, with both the making and the viewing of the drawing requiring walking and stopping to view.


I am also interested in the garden being the home of the National Tree Quince collection and am attempting to draw a portrait of each of the 23 quince varieties.


Clifford Richards is a visual artist who works in a range of media initially in watercolours and most recently with charcoal drawing and printmaking. After developing his practice for some years he returned to academia and gained an MA in fine art and is at present studying for a PhD in fine art at at Chester University. He has exhibited regularly, often in group shows including exhibitions at Castlepark Gallery, Theatre Clywd, Arley Hall, The Brindley, Stockport Art Gallery, Liverpool Albert Dock, Warrington Museum and Ordsall Hall. He has also had work accepted by Manchester Academy of Art, the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and Welsh National Artist of the Year

Kicking up a Stink and Kenneth - Claire Pitt:

You will notice the glass bottles filled with dried flowers, these flowers have all been collected from Norton Priory, Hazlehurst Studios or the Old Town Bloom Garden. Some of the bottles are adorned with words, which are in fact newspaper headlines.


'Kicking up a stink' refers to a headline about the thousands of sheep carcasses sent to Widnes to be destroyed, during the tragic Foot and Mouth breakout in 2001, and a putrid stench hovered over Widnes, not for the first time.


Jump forward 20 years to exploring the walled garden with Mima Cornish, as we collected herbs for drying, with Mima's well thumbed Culpeper's herbs in tow. Nostrils flared, whilst crushing leaves and flowers between our greedy fingers, the air quickly became heady with the scents. Once strung with twine and hung upon the drying racks, they fade in beauty and become fragile in texture, but the scent and the memories remain.


Twenty years ago I felt embarrassment, even shame about coming from Widnes, now I feel unbridled pride, as I explore the green spaces and hidden gems that were previously beyond the veil of my perception.


Kenneth is a beautifully preserved bird skeleton found in an abandoned building, now resting upon a nest of flowers, he is currently asking questions about his death and would it have happened if that building wasn't left to ruin?


Claire Pitt is a director and resident artist at Hazlehurst Studios, the creator of the Old Town Bloom Garden project and wears a few other hats.

Flowerbed and Borders - Maria Tarn:

Since retiring I have concentrated on developing my art work with textiles. I chose this medium because I enjoy choosing and organising the relevant fabrics to create my designs.


I love to draw. I took photographs to inspire my experimental design sheets, using line and colour as a means of expressing my observations. This garden for me is a happy, stimulating place. I felt the same in my childhood, as Grandad Peter shared his enthusiasm and patience with me in his garden. The profusion of colour and shapes is a joyful experience in summer . A reminder of happy days.


I was greatly impressed by the sheer size of the walled garden flowers, so I decided to challenge myself to create large pieces which would reflect this. I painted backgrounds, applying fabrics, then used machine embroidery to emphasise the colourful patterns and shapes within the blooms. The constantly changing environment in a garden encourages investigation for the curious soul, and refreshes the spirit.


Gaining my City and Guilds in Design and Embroidery set me on a new path in terms of creating pictures.The focus of my work is the environment we live in, mainly colourful crowded cities and how individuals make their own mark on it . I have worked with the TX textile group where we exhibited at Castle Park Frodsham .


Becoming a member of the Runcorn based Markmakers group enabled me to work and exhibit with a range of artists locally. I am very proud of being one of the main directors in establishing Hazlehurst Studios in 2012 . It is important to me that we share our work and support each other artistically.

Perennials? - Mima Cornish:

My pieces are the painting of Angelica, and the dried herbs from the Walled Garden, collected with Claire.

I wanted to use gold in my painting to represent the value of nature, so often overlooked. Gold itself being part of nature’s creation and given so much more value than a humble herb. Angelica itself is also valuable and gives us perfume, food, and medicine. I was immediately attracted to the form of the angelica head so naturally reflecting the sacred geometry found in nature, and often used in my usual work, mandalas.


The herb garden at Norton Priory is full of treasure. Claire and I wanted to highlight the value in these plants and also reflect the history of the Priory. Whether used by the canons to care for the poor, or in the kitchen garden of the Brooke family, herbs would have played a vital part in the life of this place. The labels tell us of their uses, and therefore their value.

I chose the name Perennials? to represent the eternal life of these plants, making seeds to regenerate, and give to us, year after year. The question mark represents the human choice to recognise, or not, our symbiotic part of the web of life. We can interrupt this cycle, but in the end it could be us who lose the most.


Mima Cornish is an artist, counsellor and holistic therapist based nearby in Cheshire and at Hazlehurst Studios in Runcorn.

Upon The Moss Laden Branch - Rachael Prime:

Always looking towards the ground and closely within the trees, Moss and Lichen are Rachael’s key source of inspiration within the Walled Garden at Norton. During the covid lockdown Rachael took a step away from her usual detailed smaller embroideries and started to use the textures she found during the walks around her home for inspiration. Moss and Lichen featured heavily within this work and inspired her to create larger scale embroideries to show off this hidden world of textures and colours.


To create this work Rachael explored the garden on numerous occasions discovering the many different homes Moss had taken up residence alongside the more recognised plants and flowers. Drawing them directly as well as taking close up photographs, Rachael explored the miniature worlds hidden in plain sight.


Upon The Moss Laden Branch has directly been inspired by a piece of Lichen and Moss, no more than 2cm long. It’s found upon a small branch on the fourth apple tree into the Apple Tunnel from the Tayberry end. Can you find it?


Rachael Prime is an embroidery artist who uses a combination of hand and machine embroidery techniques to create her work, usually focusing on the natural world around her, and the traditional and everyday narratives within her own life. She has worked a lot within Halton's community, exhibiting at Halton’s Libraries and Culture HQ within Runcorn Shopping City. She has also run numerous artistic projects, encouraging Halton’s community to explore their own creative styles and skills.

The Birds and The Bees - Wendy Smith:

The Birds and The Bees is an interactive sound installation that trigger sounds as a response to participants movements. It was created during the Hazlehurst Studios summer residency at Norton Priory. This residency provided me with the opportunity to explore and immerse myself into the soundscape of Norton Priory’s Walled Garden. The recorded sound material used in this installation was inspired by the Walled Garden’s thriving summer wildlife. Sound recordings captured the sounds of bees buzzing through the flowerbeds and the birdsongs that filled the sky above. I was drawn to the different buzzing tones the bees produced, which gave the bees their own character. The recorded singing phrases of birds and the buzzing sounds of bees have been broken down into singular fragmented microsounds. It is these microsound fragments that participants trigger and rearrange to create musical gestural material through their interaction. It is participants who are the composers of this work, as they sculpt and shape the soundworld of the work through their movements and engagement. Each participant's interaction will create a unique and personal soundworld to them, as it maps individuals’ movements.


Wendy Smith is an electroacoustic composer who specialises in acousmatic works and sound installations. Her compositional work incorporates interaction, soundscape, improvisation, multichannel surround, sound design, and live performance elements. Wendy’s work has been performed at the Capstone Theatre, Congleton Town Hall and across Halton Libraries venues (Ditton, Widnes, Runcorn, and Halton Lea Library). Her compositions have been featured on the radio, most recently on BBC’s Merseyside’s Folkscene programme.

Peter Smith

Local builder and carpenter Peter Smith has designed and built a miniature replica of Norton Priory’s beehive, located in the Walled Garden orchard. The hive is a WBC hive, named after William Broughton Carr, who was a founding member of the BBKA (British Beekeepers Association) and is known amongst beekeepers as the creator of the 'WBC' hive.

The replica beehive was commissioned by daughter and sound composer Wendy Smith to enhance her sound installation ‘The Birds and The Bees’ for the Culture HQ exhibit. Peter designed this hive to encourage participants to engage with the sound installation, as hidden inside the hive is a web camera that maps participants movements to trigger sound material of birds and bees.

This is not the first time this father and daughter duo have collaborated. Peter also designed and built an adjustable web camera stand to display this sound installation in Norton Priory’s Pergola. This stand was concealed in a fig bush during Norton Priory’s Blue Room artists visit, encouraging the artists to engage with the sound installation in an outside location, immersing themselves with the sounds of birds and bees.


Since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Peter’s carpentry has focused on building and designing garden décor, including plant pots, bird, bat and insect houses for family and friends to support local wildlife in their gardens.

Blue Room:

During Autumn 2021 Blue Room artists created artwork inspired by the Draw on Norton exhibition during a series of workshops led by Hazlehurst artists Rachael Prime and Maria Tarn. This work then formed part of collaborative exhibition at Culture HQ, Runcorn Shopping City as part of Halton's Borough of Culture in December 2021.

Blue Room at Norton Priory is an inclusive arts project for learning disabled and neurodivergent adults. The project was developed by the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s

contemporary arts centre in partnership with Norton Priory Museum and Gardens.

Blue Room artists meet each week at the museum, exploring, creating and sharing work inspired by contemporary arts, heritage and the natural surroundings of the site.


Blue Room Artists:

Liam Bailey, Charles Link, Catherine Haines, Samantha Hupton, Alyssa McCarrick, Scott

McGhee, Thomas McDougall, Patrick Murley, Beth Ryan and Ben Gilligan


For more information about Bluecoat and Blue Room, visit their website

This work is an inspired response to Maria Tarn's work

1. ‘Noodle Moss’ by Alyssa McCarrick 2. ‘Michen’ by Thomas McDougall 3. ‘Blue Room Moss’ by Ben Gilligan


Thanks to Lauren Quayle for photographing our work, we have subsequently worked with Lauren on Female Voices and Old Town Bloom.


Thanks also Craving Media for capturing the essence of our exhibition and why we love working with Norton Priory on projects.

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