Katharine Maltwood: Seeking the Tree of Life

Katharine Maltwood reading a book.

Katharine Maltwood reading a book.

Sign at UVic's own Holy Thorn Tree.

Sign at UVic's own Holy Thorn Tree.

Items from the Katharine Maltwood fonds.

Items from the Katharine Maltwood fonds.

Branches from the Holy Thorn Tree located near the UVic Centre.

Branches from the Holy Thorn Tree located near the UVic Centre.

Katharine Emma Maltwood (nee Sapsworth) was an artist and author who held a life-long fascination with ancient history, folklore, mythology, spirituality, and the occult. Born in London in April 1878, Maltwood was influenced by the arts and crafts movement and studied visual arts as a young woman. Exhibiting her art regularly at London Galleries including the Royal Academy and the London Salon, Maltwood’s work was acclaimed by critics. In 1901, she married John Maltwood, a prosperous advertising manager who also shared her love of the arts. Throughout their marriage the Maltwood’s travelled extensively, collecting artworks and engaging in creative activities.

In 1938 the Maltwoods moved from England to Victoria, British Columbia, and in 1940 was honoured as a member of the Royal Society for both her artist work and historical research. Katharine Maltwood died in Victoria BC, in 1961 with her collection of art and archival materials being donated to the University of Victoria in 1964. A variety of Maltwood’s artistic works, as well as an expansive and eclectic assortment of objet d’art amassed by herself and her husband, are housed at the University of Victoria Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery, now part of UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries.

The Katharine Emma Maltwood fonds at the University of Victoria Special Collections represent Maltwood’s extensive body of written material and associated research – the majority of which is related to the “Glastonbury Zodiac”. Maltwood devoted the later part of her life to research concerning the Glastonbury Zodiac (also known as the “Somerset Zodiac”) a ten-mile wide circular earthwork which she claimed to discover in 1925 after a period of intense study of medieval Arthurian Romances. Maltwood was especially interested in legends and folklore pertaining to Joseph of Arimathea’s visit to Glastonbury and his introduction of the Holy Grail and Holy Thorn Tree (also known as the "Tree of Life") to the area.

The Katharine Maltwood: Seeking the Tree of Life exhibit presents a selection of artefacts from the Katharine Emma Maltwood fonds related to Maltwood’s interest in Glastonbury, the Holy Thorn Tree, and the enduring impact of her work. Click the linked images presented throughout this exhibit to be taken to high resolution surrogates and corresponding information about each item and feel free to further explore additional resources from the fonds through the UVic Libraries' Katharine Maltwood Digital Collection.