To cut a long story short, we found the Catholic Apostolic Church. It is now a wedding venue called the Mansfield Traquair Centre and I do urge anyone who can to make every effort to see it in real life.
When we visited, the place was quite empty. Only the building itself was there to wonder at. The walls were covered with most beautiful murals, illustrating for the most part, the story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. I fell in love with Traquair's images at that point and determined to find out what I could about the woman who painted them.
Flash forward many years. Much happened. We moved to Cambridge. My husband died. I decided to write a different sort of novel under a pseudonym: Hope Adams. My first novel under this name, Dangerous Women, comes out from Michael Joseph (and Berkeley in the USA) in February next year, and that's about the Rajah Quilt. I have written about it on this blog.
What I do in the Hope Adams books is: I superimpose a fictional story, invented entirely by me, on to what's known about a real artist. In the case of Dangerous Women, it was Kezia Hayter, and when I began thinking about what I could do next, my thoughts immediately turned to Phoebe Anna Traquair.
I bought a book by Elizabeth Cumming, called Phoebe Anna Traquair, 1852-1936, published by the National Galleries of Scotland and in 2019, I made a trip with Helen Craig to Edinburgh and met Elizabeth, who showed us round the Mansfield Traquair Centre and told us much both about the artist and the way she went about the work. She has been enormously helpful to me throughout the process so far and I'm very grateful to her. Traquair was a small woman and used a scaffold to reach the enormously high spaces. The thought of her, in her overall, and with her red hair bound up in a cap, covering that vast space with beautiful images was fascinating and moving.
In the 1880s and 1890s, mural decoration was an art form much admired by the Art and Crafts movement. Traquair was part of a thriving artistic community in Edinburgh and beyond.
Between 1885 and 1901 she worked on the decoration of three Edinburgh Buildings: the Mortuary Chapel of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, (later moved to a new hospital and repainted), the Song School at St Mary's Cathedral and lastly, the Catholic Apostolic Church in Mansfield Place.
This is an image from the Song School and when I saw it, I recognised the scarlet-winged angels from that long ago Christmas card.