Residents united in wish to see 1950s town mural saved
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
IT was standing room only at an open meeting to discover whether there was an appetite to save a town mural for future generations.
About 60 people attended the meeting organised by members of St Mary’s Church congregation in Barnard Castle last week. A further 40 people called into the Parish Hall on Newgate to view the Pittuck Mural during the day.
The mural was painted and gifted to the town by Douglas Pittuck, who taught art at Barnard Castle School, shortly after the hall was constructed in the late 1950s.
The subject matter of the mural reflects the community life of the town at the time. Restoration work has been carried out twice to preserve the artwork, most recently 16 years ago. It is now again in need of attention.
Jennie White, one of the organisers of the public event, said it had been a good response. She said: “There were some Pittuck family members, some ex-pupils of Douglas Pittuck and quite a few community groups, as well as the town mayor and council representatives.”
She added there was overwhelming support from those who came along for the group to come up with ideas to restore and maintain the mural within the parish hall.
Mrs White said the group would now go through the comments received and carry out research into what can be done with the mural.
She added: “We don't know what is possible at the moment. We will research ways to make it more accessible but within the constraints of the hall being booked.
“There is no simple answer. There were a lot of questions and a lot of support and we are now going to move forward.”
Mrs White said there was also widespread support for the mural to more accessible rather than half hidden behind tables and chairs.
Matthew Read, director of The Bowes Centre for Art, Craft and Design, who helped organise the open day, said: “It’s been amazing how many people have popped along to have a look and we are building up a real picture of who is who in the painting.
“We’ve had residents who can identify certain people in the painting and it would be great to think we could have a narrative about it all.
“Looking to the future I think there are possibilities to save the mural and have it open to the public. I think having it open at set times is do-able.
“Of course we could look at having a copy of the mural made which could then be rolled up and put out when needed.”
Barnard Castle resident Jean Kipling said: “I definitely think we should try to save it. Although I have been to the hall lots of times I haven’t usually seen it as I am facing the other way towards the stage.”
John Rhodes, from Startforth, said: “It should be restored and preserved. It would be a shame to see it go. I remember seeing it as a child when I was on stage performing in pantos here during the sixties as part of the Sunday School.”
Art lovers Margaret and Ian Newton, from Startforth, said it was the first time they had seen the mural and are fans of Mr Pittuck’s work.
Mr Newton said: “We didn’t know it existed but we both absolutely love it. We have one of his paintings at home and it is definitely worth saving.”
Mrs White said the group was still keen to hear the views of those interested in the mural but who hadn’t been able to get along to the open day and meeting.
Anyone wishing to comment can do so via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on the St Mary’s Parish Church Facebook page.