Bury Art Museum’s collection was established in 1897 with the gift of the Wrigley Collection, which included over 200 oil paintings, watercolours, prints and ceramics collected by local paper manufacturer Thomas Wrigley. This generous gift had the condition that a suitable building should be provided to house it. The present building, opened in 1901, is the result.
In the nineteenth century, Bury was an industrial town of modest size in the shadow of a large city, Manchester, through which it sent its goods to market. The town received its charter of incorporation in 1876, which brought with it the office of Mayor, a coat of arms and a great sense of civic pride. There was a growing feeling in the 1890s that Bury should have an art gallery as a consequence of its growing prosperity. The gift of the Wrigley Collection, which commemorated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, provided this. Following the opening of the Art Gallery in 1901, the proposal to open a museum was favourably received by Bury Corporation in July 1906. The new museum opened in the basement of the Art Gallery in October 1907.
The 52 oil paintings in the Wrigley Gift represent the most successful and prominent artists of Wrigley’s day and include Edwin Henry Landseer's 'A Random Shot', John Constable's 'Hampstead Heath' and George Clausen's 'Spring Morning: Haverstock Hill'. However 'Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Collecting Bait' by J. M. W. Turner is undoubtedly a highlight of the collection. Successive curators have added to Wrigley's legacy. There are twentieth-century paintings by artists such as Victore Pasmore and Edward Burra (watercolours), while the establishment of a picture purchase fund has allowed the collection to continue to develop into the twenty-first century. The current focus is on acquiring high-quality recent art, often commissioning work directly from the artist, rather than attempting to fill any perceived gaps in the existing collection.