4th March 2021, 3:00pm


Margaret Pilkington - Talented Artist and Generous Philanthropist

Born in Pendleton in 1891, Margaret Pilkington attended at Manchester College of Art between 1911 to 1913, before going to London to study painting. In 1914, Pilkington enrolled at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where she studied under Noel Rooke and Lucien Pissarro.

Returning to the North West in 1925, Pilkington began her life-long affiliation with the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

During her patronage of the Whitworth, Pilkington donated water-colours, drawings, and textiles. Due to her efforts, the gallery managed to survive the perilous interwar period. In 1958, when the University of Manchester co-opted the gallery, Pilkington became Honorary Director of the governing committee, a position she held until her death in 1974.

Pilkington became the first female president of the Manchester Lit & Phil, and founder of the Society’s Arts Section in 1968, the final year of her presidency. Pilkington’s obituary by the Manchester Lit & Phil notes ‘The Members of the Society have every reason to be grateful for her great love and understanding of art.’


Margaret Pilkington was a creative, innovative and generous woman. A talented artist and noted philanthropist, she believed that art should be accessible to all, which, combined with her strong social conscience and work with Manchester’s less fortunate communities, has made her a pioneer in more than one sphere of Manchester’s history.

As the first woman president of the Manchester Lit and Phil, we are delighted that she is included in their anniversary celebrations.

Angela Petyt-Whittaker, Lorraine Coughlan & Jessica Smith, University of Manchester Library.


Margaret's generosity can also be enjoyed to this day outside of the city of Manchester: She and her sister, Dorothy, provided 75% of the money to purchase Alderley Woods, donating over 200 acres to the National Trust in memory of their parents, and thus conserving the woods from being used for development. The woods are still maintained by a group of volunteers to this day.


Discover more

  • The Margaret Pilkington Papers comprise correspondence, lecture notes, detailed diaries, journals, personal sketch-books, woodblocks and material relating to the Red Rose Guild of Craftsmen. They offer a valuable source for information on the arts and crafts in the first half of the 20th century.

  • Additional records relating to Pilkington can be found in the Whitworth Gallery Archive.

  • From our archive: 'The Whitworth Art Gallery Past Present and Future' - Presidential address to the Manchester Lit & Phil by Margaret Pilkington, published 1966