Freydis 1954 courtesy of Women's Junior Air Corps & Girls Venture Corps Collection,

New exhibition explores the high-flying women of Gawthorpe Hall

A new exhibition highlighting the stories of six remarkable Lancashire women has opened this week at Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham.

Gawthorpe Hall, which is owned by the National Trust but funded and run by Lancashire County Council, is a Grade 1 listed Jacobean historic house formerly owned by the Kay-Shuttleworth family.

Its latest exhibition, Gawthorpe's Remarkable Women, explores the important part women have played in the history of Gawthorpe Hall and beyond.

Inspired by new research and information from living family members, it reveals how their work helped Lancashire communities, but also had a national impact. The exhibition has been supported by a grant from the Friends of Gawthorpe Hall.

The six women to feature in the exhibition are: Lady Kay-Shuttleworth, the only woman to inherit the Gawthorpe estate; the renowned artist Marianne North; health and welfare campaigners Lady Blanche Shuttleworth and Angela James; textile collector and girl guiding commissioner Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth and aviator and commercial pilot Freydis Sharland.

Gawthorpe Hall Padiham

(Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham)

Gawthorpe's Remarkable Women, which has been developed by Lancashire County Museum Service's exhibition team, takes visitors on a journey through the hall and its rich history. It is part of a wider on-going project by the museum team to research the history of the Shuttleworth family and people who lived in Gawthorpe Hall, adding more social history to the visitor experience.

Rachel Pollitt de Duran, Gawthorpe Hall Museum Manager, said: "A huge amount of research has gone into our latest exhibition.

"The women featured in the exhibition really are remarkable in every sense of the word, and we have gone to great lengths to bring their stories to life.

"The exhibition is suitable for all ages and provides some fascinating social history to one of the most stunning landmarks in Lancashire."

Virginia Harkin is the daughter of the late Freydis Sharland and is one of the family members who has helped inform Gawthorpe's Remarkable Women.

Freydis learnt to fly aged 17 and was one of the 'forgotten five' women who were the first to gain full Royal Air Force wings.

Virginia and her husband, Michael Harkin, who live together in Australia, visited the former home of Lady Kay-Shuttleworth this week to mark the opening of the new exhibition.

"It was wonderful to visit my grandmother’s family home and see mum as part of the exhibits," Virginia said.

Michael and Virginia Harkin at Gawthorpe

(Virginia and Michael Harkin visited Gawthorpe Hall this week)

County Councillor Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for community and cultural services, has thanked all of the families who contributed to the exhibition.

CC Buckley said: "Many people will not be aware of the remarkable women associated with Gawthorpe Hall, so I am pleased their stories can now be told to a wider audience.

"We are lucky to have historic buildings like Gawthorpe Hall on our doorstep, and we are committed to doing everything we can to preserve and celebrate our heritage.

"I would also like to thank the Friends of Gawthorpe Hall and the Shuttleworth family for supporting this exhibition."


Notes to editors

*The header image in this news release of Freydis Sharland sitting in an aeroplane, dated 1954, is courtesy of the Women’s Junior Air Corps & Girls’ Venture Corps Collection, of which Freydis was a member.

Gawthorpe Hall is a superb historic house in Padiham in East Lancashire. Formerly the home of the Shuttleworth Family it was gifted to the National Trust but leased to Lancashire County Council who operate it as part of their museum service. It contains period rooms with fine art and furniture and is also home to the Gawthorpe Textile Collection which was the private collection of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth  and features a changing display of part of the collection. It is open Wednesday – Sunday 12 until 5pm.

For more details about Gawthorpe Hall visit