Cornelius Morrell Foden (1844-1918)

Cornelius M. Foden

C M Foden was appointed honorary secretary of the Art Gallery and Museum Sub-committee in 1903. He had recently retired from the post of District Goods Superintendent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, so he was ideally placed to deal with the transport and insurance of the large numbers of oil paintings coming to Towneley for the loan exhibitions.

Foden had also been honorary secretary of Burnley Mechanics Institute for over 30 years and this was of even greater importance in helping to establish the museum. The Institute provided evening classes for working students, mainly weavers. Between 1884 and 1902, sixteen National science scholarships at the Royal College of Science in South Kensington were awarded to these Burnley students. Many went on to establish successful careers abroad and were glad to sent curiosities and natural history specimens back to Foden at Towneley.

In 1902, the first donation to Towneley came from a former student of the Mechanics, Herbert Wright . Between 1904 and 1914 other former Institute scholars sent objects to Towneley from as far away as Bengal, Nigeria and the West Indies. Most of these museum exhibits were displayed in rooms off the Long Gallery on the first floor of the South wing. In 1907, William T. Taylor “seeing exhibits from Burnley gentlemen in different parts of the world”, decided to send back exhibits from his own foreign travels. In 1913 the sub-committee opened the "Taylor Room" in the North wing to display all his gifts.

In 1913, Foden donated an oil painting, Morning by Bernard de Hoog ( paoil31 ). Foden continued as Hon. Sec. until his death in 1918. There was a detailed obituary in the Burnley Express on December 14th, 1918, page 4 column 4-6.

A notebook that he used from 1903 to 1910, labelled "exhibition and museum", survives in the museum archive as md1 and includes the earliest partial inventory of the museum collections. It was mainly used to list loan paintings insurance values.

Author: tk - August 2016