The March 1906 Studio mistakenly attributed the Briar Rose pendant and chain to William Morris (of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. fame) and made by Margaret Awdry after his death. However, it is now known that this design attribution is incorrect, and confusion has arisen because the William Morris involved with the necklace was a young Birmingham Art School student who happened to have the same name as the famous designer. The error has been further compounded by the diminishing of the role of the actual designer and principal maker, Margaret Awdry. How had this all come about?
In 1906, the Briar Rose necklace was exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society exhibition with the following catalogue entry:
387 p. By MARGARET AWDRY AND WM. MORRIS. Pendants and Chain: “Briar Rose.” £26 5s. 
The March 1906 Studio, which reviewed the exhibition, favourably mentioned the necklace: “The design of William Morris, completed by Miss Margaret Awdry, for a pendant, called The Briar Rose, is one of the most purely beautiful things amongst the jewellery; the workmanship is exquisite and sensitive, and the arrangement of colour obtained by the stones is one of variety and distinction, harmoniously blending the elusive colours of the stones” (135).
However, it turns out the author of the review had made a mistake and in June 1906 a correction was published: “In the second notice of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition, published in our March number, we mentioned a pendant and chain called The Briar Rose has having been “designed by William Morris and completed by Miss M. Awdry.” Miss Awdry informs us that the design was entirely her own, and that its execution was merely completed, in one or two particulars of secondary importance, by Mr. Morris, a young Birmingham student” (90).
It was necessary for Margaret Awdry to be extra vigilant and insistent in claiming the rightful credit and acclaim for her design and art making. It is not clear why the author of the article gave credit for the design to Morris as this was not suggested by the catalogue entry. A possible reason might be gender prejudices leading to the assumption that the lead role was the male artist. Unfortunately, Awdry’s efforts were not entirely successful because the designation error has been repeated over the years by Alan Crawford (114) and Toni Lesser Wolf (40). The attribution story of the Briar Rose necklace, now pieced together, provides an opportunity to look at the life and art career of an overlooked artist from the past.
Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue of the Eighth Exhibition. Birmingham, 1906.
Crawford, Alan. By Hammer and Hand. The Arts and Crafts Movement in Birmingham. 1984.
Gere, Charlotte. Victorian Jewellery Design. London: William Kimber, 1972. [complete text]
Wolf, Toni Lesser. ‘Women Jewelers of the British Arts and Crafts Movement.’ The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, vol. 14 (Autumn 1989): 40.
Created 3 March 2015
Last modified 19 November 2020