Arts festival competition winners announced at packed launch

Robert Watson – Bamburgh

The winners of this year’s Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival (WCAF) Open competitions have been announced at a packed event to mark the launch.

Experienced multi-disciplinary artist Tracy Hill won the Art Open competition with commendations for two pieces of work – a charcoal on Kozo paper called Cognitive Surveillance II and Matrix of Movement II which featured hand-drawn lithographs also on Kozo paper.

Tracy, who lives in Warrington, described her pieces as considering the historical legacy of post-industrial landscapes along the River Mersey and the Hunter River in Australia.

She said: “They explore perceptions of mapping, digital navigation and how we encounter our rural spaces connected with a modern obsession for locating, ordering and fragmenting our experiences.”

Having also been the winner of the first ever WCAF Art Open competition back in 2011, Tracy added: “I have always supported the festival. Since its inception, WCAF has provided an important platform for regional artists of all disciplines and stages of their careers.

“WCAF is a unique opportunity which is key for inspiring the next generation of artists; it is the point in the year when the artistic community come together and show the diversity and strength of creativity in the region.”

Second place went to Francesca Neal, who has just completed her Masters in Fine Art at Manchester School of Art, for her oil on canvas piece entitled Perfformiad.

She said: “It’s great to know there are opportunities available to artists in Warrington and the surrounding area to engage with events like Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, which always has an exciting programme.

“I’m thrilled to be a runner-up in this year’s Art Open.”

The judges commended the standard of entries in both competitions, choosing Robert Watson as the winner of the Photography Open for his picture entitled Bamburgh, a striking black and white image which captures mist rolling across a rocky outcrop.

“I was absolutely bowled over to win,” he said. “I’ve taken pictures all my life as my dad was a keen photographer but this is the first competition I’ve entered.

“I’m both excited and nervous at having won a solo show but I feel like I’m on the first rung of the ladder now.”

Second place went to Harry Horton from Great Sankey for his Girls on Bicycle, Vietnam.

He said he was grateful to WCAF, which is organised by arts charity Culture Warrington, for giving him the opportunity to exhibit his work.

“It was a really nice surprise to finish in second place and I’ll definitely be entering the competition again next year,” he added.

The two winners will each enjoy a solo exhibition next year and a cash prize of £250 to help facilitate their work, while the runners-up won £100.

Entries for the Art and Photography Opens are on display now at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery and The Gallery at Bank Quay House respectively, until Saturday 28 October.

Visitors to the exhibitions can help choose the winner of the Python Oakley People’s Choice prize by nominating their favourite entries; voting slips are available at both venues and the winner will be announced at the close of the exhibition.

Maureen Banner, Culture Warrington board chair, said: “The launch was a wonderful evening to celebrate Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, one of the main highlights in the Culture Warrington calendar.

“It was brilliant to see so many people at the event keen to celebrate the wealth of talent here in the Warrington area and it was an honour to award the winners with their well-deserved prizes.

“The standard of work entered in the art and photography competitions was very impressive and it must have been a difficult job for the judges who had to choose between them, so a big thankyou to them.”

The winners were announced at a packed launch night in Warrington Museum & Art Gallery on Friday following a ‘cultural crawl’ from Bank Quay House via Pyramid Arts Centre.

Also on display as part of the festival is Echo, a new installation at Pyramid by Holly Rowan Hesson which explores uncertainty and transience, and Worn: footwear, attachment and affective experience by Ellen Sampson, an artist who explores the relationships between bodily experience, memory and artefacts, at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.

More information on the full programme can be found at

NB Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival is part of a wider calendar of events held across Cheshire in association with Slant, the county’s cultural destination programme.

Elias Ashmole – the Warrington Freemason

Elias Ashmole is probably best-known today as the founder of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the oldest university museum in the world. As well as being a collector he was a politician, an astrologer, an alchemist, an officer of arms … and a Warrington freemason! In fact Elias Ashmole’s account of his initiation into freemasonry in Warrington in October 1646 is the first recorded account of an English speculative Freemason.

Elias was born in Lichfield on 23rd May 1617 into a family whose fortunes were in decline. His father Simon was an ex-soldier and saddle maker while his mother, Anne, was the daughter of a wealthy Coventry draper. They were, however, able to afford to send the young Elias to Grammar School in Lichfield.

In 1633 Elias moved to London where he qualified as a solicitor and soon established a successful legal practice. In 1638 he married Eleanor Mainwaring, a member of an aristocratic family from Cheshire, who unfortunately died in 1641.

Elias sided with the supporters of King Charles I during the English Civil War and left London for the house of his father-in-law, Peter Mainwaring of Smallwood in Cheshire. In 1644 he was appointed King’s Commissioner of Excise for Staffordshire and Lichfield and soon afterwards he was made ordnance officer for the king’s forces at Oxford.  Joining Brasenose College he studied mathematics, physics, English history, law, numismatics, chorography, alchemy, astrology, astronomy and botany. Leaving Oxford in late 1645, he accepted a position as Commissioner of Excise at Worcester and as a Captain in Lord Astley’s Regiment of Foot. The regiment was part of the Royalist Infantry but his Elias’ mathematical skills meant he was seconded to artillery positions and he never seems to have seen active service.

His diary for the 24th June 1646 reads:

“Worcester surrendedred, and thence I rode out of the town according to the Articles and went to my Father Mainwaring in Cheshire.”

It was during this stay in Cheshire that Elias became a Freemason for his diary for the 16th October 1646 reads as follows:

“1646 October 16, 4.30 PM – I was made a Freemason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Colonel Henry Mainwaring of Karincham in Cheshire. The names of those that were then of the Lodge (were) Mr Rich Penket, Warden; Mr James Collier, Mr Rich Sankey, Henry Littler, John Ellam, Rich Ellam and Hugh Brewer.”

It is thought that many of those attending the Lodge that day were relations of Ashmole and appear to have been local figures as their surnames are still found in the Warrington area.

There is also another mention of Masonic activity in his diary:

“March 10-1682 – about 5 PM I received a summons to appear at a lodge to be held the next day at Mason’s Hall London. Accordingly I went and about noon were admitted into the fellowship of the Freemasons: Sir William Wilson Knight, Captain Rich Borthwick, Mr Will Woodman, Mr William Grey, Mr Samuel Taylor and Mr William Wise. I was the senior fellow among them (it being 35 years since I was admitted). There were present beside myself the fellows after named: Mr Thomas Wise, Master of the Masons Company this year; Mr Thomas Shorthouse, Mr Thomas Shadbolt Wainsford Esquire, Mr Nicholas Young, Mr John Short Shorthouse, Mr William Hamon, Mr John Thompson and Mr William Stanton. We all dined at the Half Moon Tavern in Cheapside, at a noble dinner prepared at the charge of the new-accepted Masons”.

The almost 35 year gap between diary entries on freemasonry have led some historians to believe that he was not an active freemason but the fact that he was summoned to attend a meeting in the prestigious Mason’s Hall would suggest that he was well-regarded by his fellow masons.

Ashmole married again in 1649 but the marriage was not a happy one and his second wife Mary soon filed suit for separation and alimony. The marriage did provide Ashmole with extensive estates in Berkshire which left him wealthy enough to pursue his many interests.

Upon the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Ashmole’s loyalty to the crown was richly rewarded with political offices. He became Commissioner and then Comptroller for the Excise in London and later the Accountant-General of the Excise. This position made him responsible for a large portion of the King’s revenue, gave him a considerable income and allowed him an important power of patronage.

Throughout his life Elias was an avid collector of curiosities, many of which he acquired from the traveller, botanist and collector John Tradescant the Younger. His library reflected his intellectual outlook and his interests, particularly the antiquarian, mystical and scientific studies of the time. He was one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society, a key institution in the development of experimental science.

Elias Ashmole  died at his house in Lambeth on 18th May 1692 aged 76 years and was buried in St Mary’s Church yard in Lambeth on 26th May. He bequeathed most of his collections to the University of Oxford to create the Ashmolean Museum while the bulk of his antiquarian library now resides in the nearby Bodleian Library.

You can learn more about Freemasonry at our Masonic Tercentenary Display at the museum until Saturday 6th January 2018. Alternatively why not visit the nearby Warrington Museum of Freemasonry – see details.


Special exhibition launched to celebrate art gallery’s 140th anniversary

A special exhibition to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Warrington’s art gallery has launched, bringing together some of the best items in its collection.

Warrington Art Treasures is the first in a series of displays celebrating important events in the history of Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, including the opening of the Large Art Gallery in October 1877.

When the museum – the oldest public museum in the North West – opened in Bold Street in 1857 it was also home to the Warrington School of Art; the gallery was added to showcase the work of the school’s former pupils who had gained national and even international reputations and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy.

The exhibition, which runs until 21 April, coincides with celebrations for the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary which takes place next year, highlighting Warrington’s link with the Academy.

Janice Hayes, heritage manager for Culture Warrington, the charity which runs Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, explained the importance of marking such an occasion.

She said: “The 4th of October is a special date in our town’s history as it marks the official opening of the Large Art Gallery which houses fine art and contemporary collections.

“The museum and art gallery are an integral part of our town’s culture and heritage, and this anniversary is a great excuse to shout about our local history and the amazing items we have in our collection.

“In the mid-nineteenth century the new borough of Warrington was emerging as a leading economic and cultural centre in the North West.

“Warrington Museum played a key role in ensuring that the town’s artists were also part of the national arts scene; these Victorian aspirations are mirrored by the ambition of contemporary Warrington to become a UK City of Culture.”

Before the opening of the art gallery, the Bold Street Grade II listed building was also home to Warrington School of Art from 1857.

The Warrington Art Treasures exhibition features work by the school’s most famous pupil, Sir Luke Fildes, who progressed from illustrating for Charles Dickens and the 19th century newspaper The Graphic, to become a leading social-realist artist, confidant of painter/illustrator John Everett Millais and painter/sculptor Lord Leighton, before becoming a society portrait painter and respected Royal Academician.

Luke Fildes’ ‘Fair, Quiet and Sweet Rest’

Venetian genre paintings by his brother-in-law Henry Woods were a regular highlight of Royal Academy exhibitions and went on to feature in many public collections, and are now included in our very own Warrington Art Treasures exhibition.

Local sculptor John Warrington Wood was a prominent member of the Roman arts scene and was honoured with a specially commissioned work, a statue of Saint Michael overcoming Satan, which took centre stage when the new art gallery opened.

Also featured in the exhibition are works by local artists Edward Frederick Brewtnall and other Royal Academy exhibitors including Walter Langley and Frank Brangwyn.

Listings information

Exhibition title: Warrington Art Treasures

Dates: Until Saturday 21 April 2018

Times: All day

Admission: Free

Location: Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Museum Street, Warrington, WA1 1JB

Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival 2017 ready to launch

(C) Ellen Sampson

A still from Ellen Sampson’s ‘Dance’. © Ellen Sampson

This year’s Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival will launch on Friday 29 September with the announcement of the Open competition winners and a ‘cultural crawl’ tour of the venues.

This exciting event will give the public a first glimpse of entries to the Art and Photography Open competitions, which will be displayed at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery and The Gallery at Bank Quay House respectively from the launch night until the end of October.

The first place prizes are £250 and a solo exhibition in 2018 and runners-up are awarded £100.

The winners of the 2016 Open competitions are currently enjoying the solo exhibitions they won last year – a first for both of them.

Artist Bex Ilsley’s Emotional Processing is on display at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery throughout the festival until Saturday 28 October, and fine art photographer Steve Deer’s A New Perspective can be seen in The Gallery at Bank Quay House until Monday 25 September.

Also confirmed for the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival (WCAF) programme will be a new installation called Echo by Holly Rowan Hesson, at Pyramid arts centre.

The installation explores uncertainty, transience and the gap between, and interplay within, purely sensory feeling and experience and more literal, rational thought-based experience and memory.

Holly Rowan Hesson, Assembly, 2016, projection (looped series of 147 stills for each of three projectors), chairs, dimensions variable
Photo credit: Jules Lister

Holly said: “Echo comprises projection and sculptural work to create dialogues with materials, memory and the physical space.

“My work in general is concerned with the fragility and transitory nature of what seems solid, weighty and permanent, both physically and also in the way things are perceived.”

Ellen Sampson, an artist who explores the relationships between bodily experience, memory and artefacts, will be using film, photography and installation at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery in an exhibition called Worn: footwear, attachment and affective experience.

She said: “This exhibition explores our relationship with and attachment to shoes.

“Focusing on the shoe as an everyday object, and on the embodied experience of wearing, I explore how through touch and use we become entangled with the things we wear.

“I look at how material objects can become records of lived experience and how these traces of experience can be read or understood by the viewer.”

Both of these exhibitions will be on display until January.

Maureen Banner, board chair for Culture Warrington, the charity which organises WCAF, said she was excited about the upcoming festival launch and cultural crawl.

“The festival is a major highlight in Culture Warrington’s calendar and a great way for us to come together with our creative community,” she said.

The launch night on Friday 29 September begins at 6pm in The Gallery at Bank Quay House, followed by a trail around the exhibitions and venues, before the Open competition winners are announced at 8pm in Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.

More information on the full programme can be found at

NB Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival runs alongside Warrington Festival, which celebrates the arts, food, sport and heritage in the town, and is part of a wider calendar of events held across Cheshire in association with Slant, the county’s cultural destination programme.

Heritage Open Days 2017

Here’s a list of what’s on in Warrington during this year’s Heritage Open Days Festival (7-10 September 2017)

Please note, these events are not organised by Culture Warrington or Warrington Museum & Art Gallery. Please contact the individual organisations listed below for more details, or look at the Heritage Open Days website. Information correct at the time of going to press.

Friday 8th September
• St Oswald’s Church in Winwick is open 10 am – 3 pm
• St Mary’s Church in Great Sankey is open 10 am – 4 pm
• Hatton: a century of change walking tour – please note that places are limited, you must book by emailing the organiser at The tour meets at the car park of the Hatton Arms at 6 pm

Saturday 9th September

• Cairo Street Chapel is open 10 am – 4 pm
• Church of St John the Evangelist in Walton is open 10 am – 4 pm
• Museum of Freemasonry is open 10 am – 4 pm (with pageants at 11 am and 1 pm)
• Museum of Policing in Cheshire is open 10 am – 4 pm
• St Mary’s Church in Great Sankey is open 10 am – 4 pm
• St Oswald’s Church in Winwick is open 10 am – 3 pm

Sunday 10th September
• Cairo Street Chapel is open 12 noon – 4 pm (with lecture on prominent Unitarians at 3 pm)
• Museum of Freemasonry is open 10 am – 4 pm
• St Mary’s Church in Great Sankey is open 12 noon – 4 pm

Details of this year’s events:

Cairo Street Chapel
4 Cairo Street,
Cheshire WA1 1ED

The earliest dissenting chapel in Warrington part of the 1662 ejection. Monuments to pupils of Warrington Academy and prominent families of the chapel including the Gaskells, Aitkins and Monks. Displays featuring the lives of Joseph Priestley who was ordained in the chapel. Anna Letitia Barbould 18th century poet and novelist, Rev Pearsall Phillip Carpenter agitator for social reform. Lectern in memory of John Howard Prison Reformer who attended Cairo Street on his many visits to Warrington. The burial grounds contains many graves including the grave of William and Elizabeth Gaskell’s son . Visitors can sit in the garden which is a quiet oasis in the town centre. A quiz based on the chapel and burial ground will be available for children and parents to complete. Visitors can take photographs, a booklet of the history of the chapel is available for £1.

Open Saturday 9th September 10 am – 4 pm
Open Sunday 10th September 12 noon – 4 pm (with lecture on prominent Unitarians at 3 pm)

Church of St John the Evangelist, Walton
Old Chester Road,
Higher Walton,
Cheshire WA4 6TF

The church was consecrated in 1885, having been built by Sir Gilbert Greenall, first Baronet, as part of the Walton Estate. It was designed by Paley Austin of Lancaster in a Gothic style and constructed in Cheshire sandstone. A central feature is the ornately carved reredos in the sanctuary. The organ, a 3 manual instrument built by Hill & Sons of London, is one of the finest in the area. There are many other beautiful features to view and to admire in this lovely church. The church is very close to Walton Hall and gardens and to the Bridgewater canal, so a visit will form part of a great day out.

Open Saturday 9th September 10 am – 4 pm

Hatton: A Century of Change
Hatton Arms
Hatton Lane,
Cheshire WA4 4DB

Please note that places on this tour are limited, you must book by emailing the organiser at The tour meets at the car park of the Hatton Arms at 6 pm

An evening stroll through Hatton to celebrate a century of change. One hundred years ago, Hatton had more than a dozen working farms and many residents worked on them and on Gilbert Greenall’s estate. Come and join us on a walk of about 1.5 hours, to find out about life in the village and how it has changed over the decades since.

Please note that places on this tour are limited, you must book by emailing the organiser at The tour meets at the car park of the Hatton Arms at 6 pm


Museum of Freemasonry
15 Winmarleigh Street,
Cheshire WA1 1NB

Featuring the Tercentenary Textiles Exhibition of Masonic banners, regalia and embroidery exhibitions. There will be guided tours (maximum 12 people) of the masonic rooms and museum and on the Saturday there will be two costumed Masonic timeline pageants 1717 – 1813. For families there will be face painting, a teddy bear hunt and activity sheets allowing visitors to design their own apron.

Open Saturday 9th September 10 am – 4 pm (with pageant at 11 am and 1 pm)
Open Sunday 10th September 10 am – 4 pm

Museum of Policing in Cheshire
Warrington Police Station,
Arpley Street,
Cheshire WA1 1LQ

Housed in the Victorian cells in Warrington Police Station the Museum of Policing collects, preserves and exhibits artefacts spanning the history of policing in the county since the force was founded in 1883. Items on display include a replica TARDIS-style police box, a CID custody office, a full size working police car, a Victorian cell with prisoner and custody officer, police uniforms and hats throughout the century and around the world, photographs, hand cuffs, truncheons, saber swords, police records, medals & plaques and much, much more.
On the day visitors can view a crime/forensic scene, see inside police cars & vans, hear the police band drum section, dress up in capes and helmets for photographs, solve the mystery of the missing prisoner, search constabulary family records, view books and souvenirs on sale and lots more!

Open Saturday 9th September 10 am – 4 pm

St Mary’s Church, Great Sankey
Liverpool Road,
Great Sankey,
Cheshire WA5 1RE

A historic grade II listed building there has been a place of worship on the site since 1640 although the current building dates from 1729. There has been a modern re-ordering in 2008, making it a fascinating mix between the old and new.

Open Thursday 7th September 10 am – 4 pm
Open Friday 8th September 10 am – 4 pm
Open Saturday 9th September 10 am – 4 pm
Open Sunday 10th September 12 noon – 4 pm

St Oswalds Church. Winwick
Golborne Road,
Cheshire WA2 8TA

The church building has been closed for some 7 years due to death-watch beetle in the ceilings; the building has been reordered and was reopened on the 2nd July 2017. Visitors will be able to look around the church; be shown around or wander by themselves. There is information to help and refreshments are on sale. Depending upon the weather, the tower will be open to visitors on Saturday 9th September. There is a children’s treasure hunt to solve clues in the church and land outside to play and picnic on. The Pugin Chancel is beautiful to see and prayerful to spend time in. There are memorials to the Legh and Gerard family and much more.

Open Friday 8th September 10 am – 3 pm
Open Saturday 9th September 10 am – 3 pm

Arts festival winners unveil prize exhibitions at town’s top galleries

Image courtesy of Annie Feng

The winners of last year’s Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival Open competitions have unveiled the exhibitions awarded as part of their first place prize.

28-year-old Bex Ilsley, who is based in Manchester, won the Art Open with Your Cities Will Shine Forever, a wall-mounted installation and virtual reality app viewed through a headset.

And Steve Deer, 55, a fine art photographer from Wirral who predominantly shoots powerful landscapes with a graphic narrative, won the Photography Open with a striking image entitled The Birds.

Emotional Processing, Bex’s first solo exhibition which is now in situ at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, features four new pieces representing a kind of re-entry into the physical world after living and working for so long in the virtual one.

Bex described her inspiration: “For so long, my online life has served as a refuge from a world that is crumbling into chaos around me.

“I sank into virtuality and what has returned is garish, hollow, commercialised, dismembered. And yet somehow it’s a loop, a circle, a return.

“It’s what I always was, more authentic now in its admission that it was never authentic at all; not in the real world, not in the ether.”

Bex Ilsley’s ‘The heaviest weight, the clumsiest shape’ and ‘Character Building’ in situ at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery

Bex is a contemporary artist best known for creating colourful images of her body and performance art, as well as her use of social media, particularly Instagram; her followers include Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips and her work is held in private collections around the world.

Her career has continued on an “upward trajectory” since the WCAF win a year ago, with highlights including a live performance piece at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea; a three-month creative residency with Make Liverpool; a showing in New York’s Times Square; and no less than 11 group shows, including one at Manchester’s Castlefield Gallery – a major goal achieved for Bex.

On a personal level Bex admitted it had been a tough 12 months but explained that she had in part drawn on her “internal responses to trauma and anxiety” to shape the work featured in Emotional Processing.

She added: “The first solo show is a milestone, it’s something I’ve fantasized about for a long time and it feels truly great to have one under my belt.

“It was completely new to me to plan and curate something without having to think about how my work could sit alongside the work of others.

“If anything, this made it more of a challenge for me but one I enjoyed immensely. I’m proud of it, it’s an achievement, and I think it looks good!”

Steve is also enjoying his first solo exhibition with A New Perspective: Observations in the Landscape, which features 33 prints at The Gallery in Bank Quay House, Warrington.

While capturing simplicity, mood and depth, his striking photography explores social documentary, sports action, candid street scenes and plenty of water.

Steve Deer’s ‘Carcass’

Steve’s other accolades include winner of Wirral Festival of Firsts Photography Competition 2014, a Photo Democracy Fine Art Photographer of the Year 2013 win, and a ‘commended’ in the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2013 competition exhibited at The National Theatre, London. 

An art director for an advertising agency, Steve admitted preparation for the exhibition was hard work but he was proud of the results.

“I do like to capture landscapes and my images tend to be quite minimalist and moody; I try to look at things differently.

“I would consider myself an artist who happens to work with a camera, rather than a photographer.”

Moving between classic and contemporary photography, the works on show have been shot with a combination of digital cameras, and Steve admitted a lot of his newer work is shot on a mobile phone rather than more complicated kit.

“Anyone can be a photographer these days with the phone capabilities and editing apps which are available,” he added, “and it’s amazing what you can do with them.

“But for me it’s about understanding what turns a good picture into a piece of art; that’s the skill.”

Derek Dick, cultural manager for Culture Warrington, the charity which organises WCAF, said he was impressed by the high standard of work Bex and Steve had produced for their exhibitions.

“They have proved themselves more than worthy winners of last year’s Open competition,” he said, “and I wish them every success for the future.

“One of our aims at Culture Warrington is to provide opportunities and support for emerging artists in the region and I hope that Bex and Steve’s first solo exhibitions lead to many more in the future.”

Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival launches on Friday 29 September and runs alongside Warrington Festival, which celebrates the arts, food, sport and heritage in the town, and is part of a wider calendar of events held across Cheshire in association with Slant, the county’s cultural destination programme.


Listings information:

Exhibition title: Bex Ilsley: Emotional Processing

Dates: Until Saturday 28 October

Admission: Free

Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Museum Street, Warrington, WA1 1JB


Exhibition title: A New Perspective: Observations in the Landscape by Steve Deer

Dates: Until 25 September

Admission: Free

The Gallery at Bank Quay House, Sankey Street, Warrington, WA1 1NN

Monks Hall Works, Sankey

Today’s blog post is a brief one, I wanted to share with you all a great picture of Monks Hall Iron and Steel works at Sankey, founded in 1874 and finally closed in 1986.



The reason I like this little drawing, taken from a Victorian advertisement, is that it shows perfectly just why so vast a company would be based exactly where it was. In front of the work we have the Mersey and behind the works passes the railway. Add to this Liverpool road and the nearby Sankey Canal and you have a veritable smorgasbord of transport links.

If you read my earlier blog post about pollution in Sankey, then you might also note the forest of chimneys on the works, proudly shown bellowing out thick black smoke.

Around the time of Monks Hall being founded, smoke pollution in the town was becoming an issue of debate in the papers, with the general response of Warrington’s industrialists being that every chimney represented people in work, food on tables, and clothes on the backs of the poor.

Whether you agreed with the poet John Dyer and saw factory chimneys as “the incense of thanksgiving, all is joy”, or agreed with writer Charlotte Bronte and saw “Soot vomiting mills”, smoking chimneys were a major part of Warrington’s streetscape, and a familiar site to every resident.



Trio of leading artists unveil A Strange Reality at Warrington gallery

Echo/Still – Paul Mellor

Three experienced artists have collaborated to create an impressive exhibition which explores A Strange Reality at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.

The exhibition, featuring more than 30 canvases including several large scale works, launched on Saturday with an informal talk by the artists – John Elcock, Josie Jenkins and Paul Mellor – and runs until Saturday 16 September.

A Strange Reality sees each of these leading artists express a distinct and individual style, while sharing a common interest in exploring the exciting possibilities of paint and the enduring importance of the landscape tradition.

The paintings on display examine the sublime, memory, recollection and ambiguity, and include references to art history, cinema, urban decay and isolated landscapes.

Scrap 6 – Josie Jenkins

Speaking on behalf of the artists, Josie said: “There are concurrent themes running through the work that we selected for the exhibition.

“We are all using a landscape setting but the paintings are in many cases about humanity: human thought, emotion, behaviour and psychology.

“We wanted to show how landscape can be used to explore the strange reality of the world around us.”

An award-winning artist, Josie is originally from the East Riding of Yorkshire but is now based in Liverpool.

Using landscape or outdoor space as a subject matter, Josie depicts the physical evidence of human behaviour.

She is interested in making work which brings about the emotion of wonder, either due to its subject matter or through the construction of the artwork.

Paul Mellor’s work considers themes of isolation, melancholy, history, memory, loss, allegory and mortality, and displays faith in the continuing relevance of painting in a digital age.

A recurring concern of his work is to open a dialogue that seeks to interpret a psychological space that is more representative of a state of mind than any specific place.

The Decoy – John Elcock

John Elcock is a visual artist with an interest in landscape and symbolism. His paintings respond to objects or locations with a unique sense of place, whether expressed in their light, geology, sheer remoteness or birdlife.

It is a response, he argues, that is a continuation of the classical landscape tradition in its attempt to reveal something of the sublime in the world around us.

Roger Jeffery, exhibitions and interpretation officer for Culture Warrington, the charity which runs Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, said: “This is a really engaging display which shows how relevant landscape painting still is.

“The three artists’ use of landscape to explore the human world is intriguing and provides a fascinating context to the striking work exhibited.”


Listings information

Exhibition title: A Strange Reality

Dates: Until Saturday 16 September

Times: All day

Admission: Free

Location: Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Museum Street, Warrington, WA1 1JB

Fascinating town brewery exhibition also offers support for addiction and misuse

A fascinating exhibition on Warrington’s brewing history also offers support and inspiration for those living with alcohol addiction.

Beer, Breweries and the Band of Hope, on display at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery until Saturday 2 September, provides a fascinating look back at one of the oldest trades in existence – by the Middle Ages every town including Warrington was home to brewers working on a commercial scale.

This display commemorates the 150th anniversary of one of the region’s most prolific breweries, Burtonwood Brewery, as well as focussing on the local Temperance movement which grew in response to the number of breweries in the town.

Craig Sherwood, collections officer for Culture Warrington, the charity which runs the museum, said: “Before the 19th century many believed alcohol was essential to life and wellbeing; it was also safer to drink beer as most town water supplies were heavily polluted – even children would drink the occasional beer.

“But concerns over drunkenness and rowdy behaviour which could develop from excessive drinking led some to advocate abstinence, believing alcohol was responsible for society’s ills and that reform was needed.”

Safe drinking limits are explored, with information available from charities and organisations such as Pathways to Recovery which supports people with alcohol-related problems.

The display also features present day testimonies from people who have struggled with alcohol addiction and are now accessing support through projects such as Warrington Borough Council’s Creative Remedies, a social prescribing scheme which supports people with a variety of needs through activities including art, photography and music.

A documentary on The Recoverists, a group of local musicians and artists who have battled addiction and recovery by coming together to perform, explores the impact of alcohol on musicians.

Craig added: “The Recoverists are promoting the positive impact which musical creativity can have on people who have battled addiction.

“We at Culture Warrington are privileged to present this documentary as part of Beer, Breweries and the Band of Hope and I’d like to say a big thankyou to those who shared their stories for the sake of this display.

“Credit also goes to Pathways and its partners for their support in this project and the amazing services they provide for people in recovery.”


Listings information

Exhibition title: Beer, Breweries and the Band of Hope

Dates: Until Saturday 2 September

Times: All day

Admission: Free

Location: Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Museum Street, Warrington, WA1 1JB