I love to receive a card in the post. I think that a beautiful card sent through the post still represents great value and I have a couple of drawers full of my favourites that I’ve kept over the years.
With this in mind, I decided to make a set of high resolution cards of six of my Newcastle-under-Lyme drawings. You can see them all below.
There is just the one set available in my Etsy shop. Please do have a look!
They are a standard 5 x 7 inch size and would look great popped into a frame!
Broom grows outside my kitchen window here in Scotland – I love the intense yellow after the greys of winter. Broom links me to my next drawing in my red ochre series: the Brampton Museum in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The name Brampton means ‘place where broom grew’ – I wonder if any still grows in the park?
The Museum is located just outside Newcastle-under-Lyme’s town centre in Brampton Park, surrounded by mature trees and shrubs.
Long before this became a park, this was common land grazed and cultivated by the town burgesses. Eventually, the field was sold and Victorian villas were built – including ‘The Firs’ in 1855 and ‘Pitfield House’. The gardens of these Villas now make up the present park. You can read more about the history of the park here.
Twenty one years after ‘The Firs’ was built, Newcastle’s first museum was born just off the Ironmarket in Lad Lane. This consisted of a public library, a reading room and museum.
It was during the early years of WW2 that the Borough Museum was founded in the Lancaster Buildings. Eventually it moved to its current location in Brampton Park. You can read more about the history here – written by Neville Malkin, 9th June 1976.
Here’s the drawing in full. You can see the rest of my red ochre series of Newcastle-under-Lyme on my website Drawing the Street or browse my Etsy shop where the originals are for sale (available to buy at the time of writing).
The second drawing of the Brampton shows the side towards Pitfield House, with some of the garden and more of the wonderful roofscape.
I’ll sign off with a picture from the 2019 exhibition at the Brampton ‘Capturing the Past’. I was delighted that my collection of street drawings were included in the exhibition – they’ve been part of the Museum archive since 2018.
Newcastle town centre is alive with markets! Back in the 13th century, there was only the one market day but now markets are held 6 days a week with an additional one held monthly on a Sunday.
This is the second of six new red ochre sketches of Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre – the full set can be seen on my website Drawing the Street.
The history of the markets is ancient. There’s an in-depth write up on the town’s history on the British History website: there is evidence that a market was held in Newcastle-under-Lyme as far back as 1203 when the market day was changed from Sunday to Saturday, for which the burgesses had to pay a fine to the king. I bet the good folk of ‘Castle didn’t go much on that.
It’s possible that the market day remained unchanged until 1590 when under Elizabeth I’s charter, market day was declared to be Monday and it remained so until the beginning of the 19th century when an additional Saturday was added to meet a larger population.
Here’s the drawing in full.
Let’s take a few steps to the left and look at the market cross from a different angle. The market cross was located further up the street in medieval times, opposite the Ironmarket.
It required some restoration work in the mid-1500s when it’s thought that the five steps were built. Later, in the early 1800s it was moved to the present location when the lamps were added.
The finished original drawings are set in standard 10 x 12 inch mounts ready to frame and now listed with full description in my Etsy shop.
If you’re looking for a print instead – please get in touch.
Waiting for the X164 bus from Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre back to Whitmore was a sketch moment. My car must have been getting fixed at Ryan’s garage – sketched here the year before.
I keep places/buildings that I find interesting in mind to draw later – in this case several years later! Recently I’ve concentrated on some new sketches in and around the town centre and I thought I would start sharing the first of them ‘The Barracks’, here.
Barracks Road was once named Friar’s Road; the name changed in recognition of the Barracks. It was built in 1855, in red brick ‘Italian style’. This was the headquarters of the 3rd King’s Own Staffordshire Rifle Regiment, which assembled annually at Newcastle for training, until 1880.
You can discover more about the history of this building here on the Potteries website. I’m delighted to hear that it received a grant a few years ago towards window repairs.
The Barracks workshops is now home to a number of small businesses and has been popping up on various social media posts.
There is also a heritage project running which is looking for people who have memories of the history and uses of this building – more about that on the Sentinel’s website here.
Drawing the Street turned six this summer. My thanks to all who have accompanied me from the beginning and to those who have followed along the way as something has caught their interest.
With my Newcastle work currently on display in the Brampton Museum and Gallery, I’ve been posting some of these drawings on social media to share it further afield. Having also just completed my 50th street drawn on over 60 metres of archival cotton paper, it seems timely to reflect on how this all began as a post-card sketch.
There’s a beautiful poem called ‘Fluent’ by the late John O’Donohue from his book Conamara Blues. I’ve never forgotten his words:
‘I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.’
When I sketched the former Ironmarket post office on to a post card, I had no idea what would unfold. It turns out that I was sowing the seed for an archive of streets, all meaningful to me in some way. This is part one of three posts about this story.
Ironically, it was the limitations of a post card that prompted me to think about a full-length drawing of the Ironmarket. This all took place whilst attending drawing classes run by Staffordshire artist David Brammeld. When considering how long to make the drawing, David’s advice was: “Don’t limit yourself!” Shortly after, our son asked me what I would like for Christmas. I suggested a large sheet of paper and received a 10 x 1.2 metre roll! There was no going back.
I gave no thought as to where this would lead but concentrated on representing the Ironmarket in a way that could be read in future. During my time as a conservation architect, I had always been grateful for old drawings of buildings that showed details which would inform my work. I knew that by drawing a street as a whole, individual buildings could be read in context, such as the shops standing on narrow burgess plots.
The Ironmarket retains a lot of its fine structure and is rich in stories if we pause a moment to look. Drawing is that pause. I choose which parts of my view I want to record – in a way that I hope is also good to look at.
Each drawing starts with a preparatory sketch where I map out the entire street as accurately as I can whilst still keeping it a freehand drawing. I’m always looking at ways to improve my work, whether learning about colour harmonies, shading, light, tone etc but always retaining that close reference to drawing what is there.
This first drawing ignited a great discussion on how the street had changed during living memory and prompted me to draw further streets around the town centre. I held my first exhibition in the library and Drawing the Street was born.
Drawing the Street is a growing entity; it has become more than just sketches of streets. It now contains many memories, some poignant, some funny. As the streets grow, so does my drawing style, evolving to include the things that I see as important – the people that belong to the street, the shops and businesses there at the time, the little details of life such as spotting my old work mates from the roofing contractor Miller Heritage working on the renovation of Mellard’s Warehouse – drawn below.
Although most of my streets are in conservation areas, I like to include the modern infrastructure. These too are part of our surroundings and tell their own story.
As the streets progressed, I stepped up my work on to archival quality cotton paper and redrew the Ironmarket at a slightly smaller scale than the first 2.7m drawing and entered it into the local open art exhibition. It was voted favourite by the Friends of the Borough Museum and awarded third prize – an honour and a great boost to continue. A few years later, the Friends bought my entire collection!
Thanks again for joining me and for reading this far. The streets belong to us all!
I sometimes get asked to draw buildings back into the street that have been demolished using old photos for reference. For instance, the much missed old ‘Muni’ on the Ironmarket, Newcastle-under-Lyme, which was taken down in the late 1960’s to make way for the library.
My intention for Drawing the Street is to draw what is there at the present. Drawing buildings back in that have gone somehow feels inauthentic. That said, who knows how many buildings might disappear from the streets that I’m drawing now!
Besides, I want to capture the life that is quietly ongoing such as here in Church Street, where the chap (Nathan) above Mr Dicks was giving me the thumbs up as I was photographing the building. The business closed not long after but it makes my day that the spirit of Nathan firmly remains on the drawing.
My drawings are records of our streets as they stand now for the future. Thing is, as soon as the drawing has gone to print, there are already micro-changes and within no time shops have changed hands and it’s out of date! So by default I’m also capturing the past, which is the great name for the exhibition currently on display at the Brampton Museum and Art Gallery.
I made a flying visit to to the Preview – a 12 hour round trip from Scotland for an hour at the museum. It was worth it to see fourteen original Newcastle streets framed and on display ! Plus a number of other Newcastle sketches, all capturing details that have caught my attention.
When I set out my first exhibition at Newcastle library, I had no idea where the idea for Drawing the Street would take me but I knew it was a baby worth nurturing and helping to its feet. I can’t tell you how heartening it is for me to reflect back on the last six years and see the meandering route that my streets have led me.
If you have read this far, thank you! I can share with you that I have just finished my 50th street! I’m going to be sharing a lot of images of my Newcastle work over on Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks so hope to be in touch with you over there.
I have a big trip quietly planned for Friday 13th September. A lot of time in the car, train and taxi to spend a couple of hours at the Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme, but I’m thrilled that my work is to be included in an exhibition ‘Capturing the Past‘ held by the Museum from 14th Sept to 3rd Nov 2019.
The exhibition invites us to: ‘take a trip down memory lane and see our town through the eyes of local artists and photographers. Nothing ever stays the same – our world is constantly changing’. The selection has been taken from the museum’s vast archive of local history and it is a great honour that my work has been included to display.
The Friends of the Brampton bought the entire collection of my original Newcastle-under-Lyme street drawings before I left for Scotland and they are hosting a preview at the Museum on Friday from 2pm.
I was really pleased that the collection stayed together in their birthplace. Six years on, the drawings will reveal how things have changed in the interim.
My drawings focus on streets as a whole rather than just an assortment of buildings enabling the viewer to see them from a wider perspective; how one building relates to another and how the loss of one building affects its neighbours. I created them as a social and historical archive so I am very happy they were retained as a collection for public record in Newcastle. They can be read and interpreted in years to come.
Time now for some new work hot off the press! To celebrate this great moment for me – just over six years since Drawing the Street set out, I have sketched three more buildings of the town, including the much loved Brampton Museum itself at the top of this post.
The street layout at the heart of Newcastle is medieval and I’ve always loved the view from the end of the High Street looking down towards the pinnacles, gables and tower of St Giles’ church.
Looking down at street level, we see a few signs directing us down through the arch, along the very narrow Pepper Street.
I had to include a reference to Cassie and Francesco at Amore Italian restaurant, Pepper Street, where my work was on display for several years.
The third sketch is another feature of the High Street – the Guildhall.
These sketches will all be available to buy at the Brampton as greetings cards and also as signed prints set in A4 mounts at £20 each. There aren’t many as I am only taking as many as I can carry…
To see the full collection of my Newcastle drawings please visit my website Drawing the Street.
Last summer, I sketched a Victorian building in Newcastle-under-Lyme. This was a fine example with plenty of details , especially the terracotta tiles. Terracotta means ‘fired earth’ -and describes a form of moulded clay masonry of a finer quality than standard bricks.
Terracotta tile, King St, Newcastle under Lyme
Terracotta tile, King St, Newcastle under Lyme
Sketching the building as a whole meant losing some of the finer details so I took a bit more time to draw these ornamental terracotta tiles.
A month or so later, I was sketching in London and spotted these tiles on Cross St., Islington.
The following month I noticed more tiles on The Swimmer, the pub around the corner from where our son lives off the Holloway Road.
It was then that I decided to keep a drawn record of all the architectural terracotta tiles that I come across whilst sketching and drawing the street as they form a quiet signature of a time and place. Looking into these tiles a little further, I read that ‘by the 1860s a number of eminent English architects had recognised terracotta’s value for mass-producing ornament and fine masonry by casting from an original, combining new technology with traditional craftsmanship’. Read more about this here
I thought I would make a start by sharing these sketched examples. The sketch below was a postcard original of the Swimmer tiles for a recent fund raiser for Shape Arts
Finally, I will sign off with this one sketched today – a collage of tiles from a local school – Hassell Primary, Newcastle-under-Lyme.
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I’ve been working on this drawing in my local class taught by David Brammeld. It was only when I began this drawing that I discovered that one of my classmates was a regular Maxims disco diva at this legendary night spot! It used to be known as the ‘Place Mate’ when it was owned by the same proprietors as ‘The Place‘ in nearby Hanley where disco was born and David Bowie and Led Zeppelin once played as pop youngsters.
However, when the dual carriageway was constructed around Newcastle-under-Lyme, Maxims was severed from the life blood of the town centre and now all that is left are these empty shells.
I wouldn’t have given these buildings much thought if it hadn’t been for the comments given by Moya when I displayed some of my drawings in Newcastle Library a few years ago:
‘Stand with your back to St Giles. Look across the dual carriageway to what used to be Maxim’s Night Club. This used to be the old Catholic Club and overspill rooms for St Marys School. Also, it was the Old Pomona pub. When they took Evans sweet factory down behind it, they discovered that there was a courtyard and it had been a coaching Inn….Sammy Bell’s pottery was excavated in the car park/ courtyard area. The base of the Kiln is in the grounds of Newcastle Museum...’
The gloomy front masks a surprising gable window behind with a mosaic of pottery fragments.
From local records, it was bought by Samuel Bell in 1724 for £156 who set up a potworks there and then in 1729, took out a patent for ‘Agate Ware’.
Not knowing these buildings, I walked around the back and peered through the hoardings which now surround the site. I was so surprised by what I saw that I thought they were definitely worth recording as part of my street records. However, a flat elevation wasn’t going to give any idea of the complexity of the roofs and layout so I opted for a sketch perspective instead.
I used Dr Martin’s Payne’s Grey ink on a sheet of Khadi cotton rag paper, a heavy, textured and grainy paper – lovely to draw on.
There are plans underway for a new use for these buildings but it’s unlikely that they will remain in this organic sprawl for much longer. I would be interested to hear of any other insights into the history of these buildings.
Thanks for the comments Moya and thank you for reading.
A short post here as the art speaks so well for itself! Been getting stuck into The Big Draw with a few other members of Gallery at 12, home of Staffordshire Artists Co-operative.
It’s been a delight to meet these lively, creative youngsters – they need no encouragement, only coloured chalks and papers and they are off. Newcastle Borough Museum and Gallery have done a great job hosting this drawing event throughout half-term.
Saturday’s star was Ashton, our first artist of the week who really set the standard high.
Monday’s star was Charlotte – or rather ‘Team Charlotte’ with their much admired triptych:
Today, Thursday, was full of activity but the work of these three young artists made a great splash of colour on the walls.
As any grad student of #SketchBookSkool knows, a morning spent drawing is best followed by a pick-me-up coffee and yes, another sketch. Cheers Embassy Grind – great new destination for us here in Newcastle-under-Lyme.