Marianne was the daughter of silk manufacturer John Brocklehurst, Macclesfield’s first MP. Her family’s wealth and social standing provided the resources for Marianne to travel extensively in Europe and the Middle East. In 1873-74 Marianne, along with her companion Mary Booth (‘the MBs’), her nephew Alfred and servant George, made an epic voyage up the Nile. Throughout this trip Marianne kept a personal diary illustrated with lively watercolours that captures life on the Nile through the eyes of this remarkable Victorian woman. Marianne and Mary (and many other Victorian women travellers, eg Amelia Edwards) were interested in Egyptian women because at this time women in England had fewer rights than women in Ancient Egypt. Many of the objects they brought back show an interest in women, and women’s history — eg a statuette of Queen Tiye – one of the most important Egyptian queens, and the mummy case of a significant female temple worker called Shebmut.
The MBs were early contributors to Amelia Edward’s Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF) and Mary Booth went on to become one of its local honorary secretaries in 1886, tasked with the job of helping to raise subscriptions. When Flinders Petrie set up his Egyptian Research Account in 1893, Marianne was one of the early subscribers.
Marianne wanted a museum that would house her private collection and objects from the EEF, and offered funding to the local council. After some disputes, in 1898 West Park Museum opened, under the curatorship of Samuel H. Moss, an artist who had previously studied at the School of Art, and with the aid of donations by Ellen Philips, the wife of a local manufacturer. For unknown reasons Marianne didn’t attend the opening of West Park Museum. In her townhouse in London, she suffered a fall which left her with a broken collar bone. She died a few weeks later, evidently having committed suicide.
Mary inherited ‘Bagstones’, their shared home in Wincle outside Macclesfield. She continued as secretary of the Macclesfield branch of the EEF until her death in 1912, when she was buried in the same grave as Marianne.