The Ackland and Edwards archive contains the personal diaries of both Mary Stella Edwards and Judith Ackland. Unlike Judith, who used her diaries very sparingly, Mary Stella was a very proficient diarist. This area of the archival holdings spans multiple decades, from Mary’s early years at Regent Street Polytechnic, in the early 1920s, until her death in 1989.
Written in her characteristic stylised hand, Mary’s early diary entries are less frequent, with numerous passages inscribed after the event. But, as Mary Stella and Judith’s professional lives as artists grew, especially at the high point of their early careers, between 1924 and the start of the Second World War, the diaries become more detailed, chronicling Mary Stella’s exhaustive efforts to secure work for herself and Judith via numerous trips to publishers and gallery owners in London; as well as summaries of meeting and correspondence detailing work to be done, their successes and job rejections.
Most apparent, in each diary, is the often lack of detail relating to the periods when Mary Stella visited the Cabin at Bucks with Judith. These periods of time are almost always either absent, or written hastily post-visit, or as a summary. If they are included, they generally detail a summary of their day-to-day activities and concentrate on where sketching, colour fields and au Plein air painting was carried out by the pair. Her diaries have been self-edited, containing pencil notes, numerous bookmarks and some of the pages are missing.