Margaret Jane Awdry (1854-1936) trained at the Birmingham Municipal School of Art and was later a teacher at the Birmingham School of Jewellers and Silversmiths. As is the case with many artists from the nineteenth century, very little information about Awdry’s life and work survives but careful searching reveals traces and threads that can be woven together.

Margaret Awdry was the eldest child of Walter and Mary and had at least seven siblings. The family lived on the Isle of Man for a short while before settling in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham around 1880. She attended the Birmingham School of Art and the first mention of her there is in 1887, she won first prize for two painted designs for pilasters or panels and an honourable mention for studies of historical ornaments. She first exhibited at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) in 1887, whilst she was still an art student. In 1892 she was awarded a one-year scholarship to the Birmingham School of Art and won a National Book Prize in the South Kensington National Competition of Schools of Art. She won another National Book prize in 1897. During her studies, she regularly exhibited art works at the annual school exhibitions and in 1898 her drawings attracted a mention in The Artist magazine.

From 1899 her confidence in her art training and skills were such that she was listed in The Year’s Art Directory of Artists and Art Workers, showing her development from student to working artist. She continued to be mentioned in art publications in connection with the Birmingham School of Art until 1901. She was a prolific exhibitor at the RBSA, participating in thirty exhibitions, showing 118 art objects. From 1906 onwards, she exhibited her jewellery at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society exhibitions in London, the Baillie Gallery, London, the Grafton Galleries, London, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and Cambridge Arts and Crafts Society. In 1913 she exhibited at the Ghent International Exhibition and in 1914 she exhibited at the Louvre, Paris at the Decorative Arts of Great Britain and Ireland Exhibition organised by the British Government. Awdry’s art career involved frequent collaboration with other Birmingham artists, particularly those also connected to the Birmingham School of Art. Her art career involved exhibiting her art works locally, nationally and internationally. Awdry died at the age of 84 in Clevedon, Somerset and left her effects to her sister Lydia.

Readers might recognise her surname from children’s literature, for Margaret Awdry was first cousin to Rev. Vera Awdry, father of Rev. Wilbert Vera Awdry, the author of the Thomas the Tank Engine books. —Katy Owen


Last modified 19 November 2020