UNCERTAIN FUTURE: The Pittock Mural is once again deteriorating. It was painted in 1957
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: The Pittock Mural is once again deteriorating. It was painted in 1957

RESIDENTS in Barnard Castle are to be asked whether a piece of the town’s social history should be saved for future generations.

The Pittuck Mural was painted onto the east wall of St Mary’s Parish Hall, in Newgate, shortly after its construction in 1957. It was gifted to the town by artist Douglas Pittuck, who taught at Barnard Castle School.

Despite restoration work in 2003, the mural is once again in need of work to protect it for the future. Members of the St Mary’s congregation, concerned about its worsening state, have organised an open afternoon and meeting to see if residents wish to see the mural preserved or not.

Jennie White, one of those involved, said despite work being done on the outside of the parish hall wall to prevent damp coming through, the mural was already deteriorating again.

“We had a meeting with Matthew Read, of The Bowes Centre for Art, Craft and Design, who agrees that it is worth investigating to see if there is an appetite locally to help preserve it some way,” she said. “In many ways, it is in an unfortunate place – painted straight onto plaster of a damp wall.

“Access to view is difficult as the hall has many users. Also, tables and chairs are stored beside it. It would be difficult to make access available at all times because of manpower and costs.”

Mrs White said she had raised the matter with the Friends of St Mary’s.

“We needed to talk about maintenance. If the church could not keep on restoring it, we feel it is important to the town and we want to get the feeling of others.”

Sam Turner

Mr Read added: “Are people passionate about it? Do they know it is there? The big problem with repainting it is it becomes something different. It becomes a version of what it was.

“Then you have got this challenge of it being painted on render, therefore, it’s costly. We want a sense of what the public think. Is it worth saving? Is there a passion to save it.”

John Trevett, another member of the congregation involved in the project, added: “As a piece of social history, I think it’s fantastic, but at the moment it's just in a building, locked away.”

The mural reflects life in the town from the early 1950s. It includes landmarks such as the Market Cross, Methodist chapel, St Mary's Church and the round tower of the castle. 

The Glaxo factory, The Bowes Museum and part of Barnard Castle School are also depicted, along with a typical white Raby Estates farm and houses in Bridgegate, which were subsequently demolished as part of the slum clearance programme. 

Various figures from the era populate the mural, from women in headscarves to men in flat caps and schoolboys in blazers. Soldiers from the former Deerbolt camp are also present.

The open afternoon will take place at St Mary's Parish Hall on Monday, January 28, from noon, with a short presentation and discussion at 6pm.