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Taming the Tentacles art exhibition at Shalford Mill celebrates the Ferguson's Gang

PUBLISHED: 10:28 11 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013

Taming the Tentacles art exhibition at Shalford Mill celebrates the Ferguson's Gang

Taming the Tentacles art exhibition at Shalford Mill celebrates the Ferguson's Gang

Contemporary artists working in film, sound, installation and performance art respond to the lives of the National Trust's most unconventional donor groups, the Ferguson's Gang this September.

Contemporary artists working in film, sound, installation and performance art respond to the lives of the National Trusts most unconventional donor groups, the Fergusons Gang this September.


The Ferguson's Gang were a secret group of well educated society women who retained their anonymity by going under pseudonyms such as Bill Stickers, Red Biddy, Bludy Lord Beershop, Erb the Smasher and many others.


Wearing masks, the Gang collected money to preserve buildings at risk of demolition. Their random acts of beneficence were accompanied by theatricality and humour, with a good dose of eccentricity and a touch of the occult thrown in.


The Gang members were influenced by Clough Williams-Ellis's book England and the Octopus, which likened the spread of towns and cities to the destructive tentacles of the octopus.


By the time the Gangs activities wound down in 1946 they had preserved Shalford Mill, Newtown Old Town Hall on the Isle of Wight, Priory Cottages in Oxfordshire and donated some of the most beautiful stretches of the Cornish coastline to the National Trust.


The exhibition, Taming the Tentacles, will be created within Shalford Mill from Wednesday September 19 to Sunday September 30 and has been conceived and curated by Polly Bagnall, granddaughter of one of the original members of the Gang.


It is set to include a recreation of the 1930s style Gangs Room; Sound Art from Collective#seven that will mirror the natural and urban environments within the hidden parts of the Mill; and two short films and live performances inspired by the genius of the Fergusons Gang.



  • Taming the Tentacles, a contemporary art exhibition, takes place from Wednesday September 19 to Sunday September 30 at Shalford Mill, Shalford, near Guildford, Surrey GU4 8BS: 01483 561389.

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