Edward Stocks Massey (1850-1909) was born in Hawks House, Brierfield. He made a fortune from brewing and bequeathed the money for the benefit of the inhabitants of Burnley. The money became available after the death of his wife in 1921. Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum became one of the principal beneficiaries.
The first purchases for Towneley Art Gallery under the Massey Bequest in 1921 were four oil paintings and two watercolours. The first major acquisition was the Whalley Abbey vestments bought at auction in London on June 23rd 1922. The next major outlay was on the building of the Edward Stocks Massey Gallery, opened on April 26th 1923. It was needed to display the items now flooding into the collection, (10 additional paintings in that year alone).
From 1924 purchases of furniture began to fill the Long Gallery. The ‘Booth’ collection of birds was bought and the Housekeeper’s Room became the Bird Room. Most of the Towneley portion of the bequest went to improve the Fine Art Collection but occasionally decorative items, such as 64 pieces of Chinese pottery, purchased in 1936, were added to the collections. Most of the objects purchased for the museum in the 20th Century were paid for with money from the Massey bequest.
Today Towneley Hall still receives money each year from the bequest although in relative terms this cannot buy as much as in earlier days due to the great increase in the price of museum quality objects at auction. Now in the 21st century, the main concern is the conservation of those objects purchased in the 20th century.