If you find yourself anywhere near northwest England between now and next March, there is an exhibition well worth catching. It’s called ‘Adventures in Egypt: Mrs Goodison and Other Travellers’. I haven’t yet seen it but I did attend a talk this week here in London given by Egyptologist Tom Hardwick, who curated the show and who explained what it was all about.
Born in 1845, at the age of 22 Anne Padley married George Goodison of Waterloo, Liverpool. He was a successful civil engineer, who laid a sewerage system for which he had a road named after him, and when a football stadium was built on that road it too took his name, which it retains until today – Everton FC’s home ground of Goodison Park. We know precious little about Mrs Goodison except that she twice visited Egypt, in 1886–87 and 1890–91 and, while there, became an enthusiast for all things ancient and Egyptian. Back then, it was quite easy for the amateur enthusiast to acquire antiquities and using her husband’s wealth, Mrs Goodison amassed a sizeable trove of over a thousand artifacts. None of the pieces were outstanding in their own right, being mainly small pieces such as shaabti, bits of faience, beads, some textiles and some jewellery, but taken together they made a creditable collection. Her husband, however, was unimpressed and as soon as his wife died, in 1906, he sold the whole lot to the Bootle Museum in Liverpool. That museum closed in the 1970s and the collection eventually made its way to Southport and the Atkinson Museum, where it remains today and where the new exhibition on Mrs Goodison takes place.
It combines objects from her collection with some beautiful loan pieces from London’s British Museum, Petrie Museum and National Portrait Gallery, and New York’s Brooklyn Museum to evoke the Egyptian tourist scene of the 1890s and give context to the world of the Victorian-era collector of Egyptology. In addition to carved stones from Amarna, granite heads from the Temple of Mut at Karnak, watercolours by Howard Carter and cartoons by Egyptian satirist Abou Naddara, I am honoured to say that some of my vintage posters, luggage labels, guidebooks and brochures also feature in the exhibition.
If you have never been to Southport, a sedate seaside resort just north of Liverpool favoured by pensioners on mobility scooters and footballers out on the lash, it is a place for which local historians make some imaginative claims. When exiled Prince Louis Napoleon – the future Emperor Napoleon III – lived in Southport for a short time in 1838, it’s claimed he so admired its long, wide, straight, tree-lined main parade that he ordered his engineer Baron Hausmann to remodel Paris along similar lines. Hausmann’s Paris was, of course, the model for Ismail’s modern Cairo of the 1860s. So instead of ‘Paris on the Nile’, Downtown Cairo is really ‘Southport on the Nile’.