Vintage railway posters by Hartlepool's Frank Henry Mason and more go on display at historic Ushaw House

It’s full steam ahead for a vintage poster exhibition which celebrates the golden era of travel on the East Coast mainline.

Thursday, 17th March 2022, 11:16 am

The iconic style of LNER posters used to advertise locations on its route from London to Edinburgh will be familiar to many.

Now, more than 40 rare original posters of this distinctive British artwork, on loan from private collections, are on display at Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, near Ushaw Moor, County Durham.

Many of the locations so beautifully depicted in the artworks, which were designed to capture the attention of tourists, include North East spots such as Northumberland, Redcar, Durham, Newcastle, Whitby and Scarborough.

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From Edinburgh to London & Beyond is on display at Ushaw from March 19

Among the artists featured in the exhibition is Hartlepool’s Frank Henry Mason who designed his first poster in 1910 for the Great Northern Railway, right up until his last poster design for the nationalised British Railways in 1961.

The posters featured in the exhibition, as well as three preparatory works, span the period of the 1920s to 1950s, often regarded as the golden age of railway travel in Britain.

Andrew Heard, visitor programme manager at Ushaw and curator of the exhibition, says part of the uniqueness of the artworks is their broad appeal to people.

"These were very democratic posters,” he explained. “They were works of art, but they were artworks that were being used. Some were more realist and some were more pictorial, but they all communicated an idea and destination and they did it very effectively.

Andrew Heard, exhibition curator at Ushaw. Picture by FRANK REID.

"William Teasdale was the advertising manager at LNER and he came up with the idea of commissioning artists in 1923 because he knew the power of art.

“Railway posters from this period were early examples of glamorous and aspirational travel marketing for the masses.”

Almost 100 years after the posters were first commissioned, they are still capturing people’s imaginations today.

“There’s certainly an element of nostalgia with the artworks and this rail line, in particular north of Newcastle, it’s so picturesque,” explained Andrew.

A railway poster by artist Leonard Cusden on display in the exhibition at Ushaw. Picture by FRANK REID.

Speaking about the Frank Henry Mason pieces on display, Andrew said: “We are fortunate to be able to include numerous posters by Frank Henry Mason in the exhibition.

"Durham is known as the ‘Cradle of the Railways’ because it was here that Locomotion No. 1, the world’s first steam-powered passenger engine operated on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825.

“This exhibition celebrates a bygone era of rail travel but also reflects the North East’s pioneering heritage as the birthplace of passenger rail.”

Other artists featured include Claude Henry Buckle, one of Britain’s most prolific designers of railway posters, whose son Terry is a volunteer gardener at Ushaw.

The main house at Ushaw. Picture by FRANK REID.

It was Terry mentioning his father’s artworks which sowed the seeds for the exhibition.

To coincide with the display, Ushaw is also hosting rail-inspired activities throughout the summer for visitors, including an outdoor miniature steam locomotive and a large scale installation of a model railway.

:: From Edinburgh to London & Beyond opens on March 19 and runs until June 26 in the William Allen Gallery, Ushaw, daily from 11am to 4pm. Exhibition access is included in the price of admission.

Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens

Formerly known as Ushaw College, the site was a seminary for the Catholic priesthood until 2011, and is familiar to many North East schools who used its facilities.

Situated four miles from the centre of Durham, its hundreds of acres of grounds house many buildings and chapels which are striking examples of Georgian and Victorian Gothic architecture.

Railway posters on display in the exhibition at Ushaw, featuring the East Coast mainline and branch lines

Due to a shortage of vocations, it closed as a seminary, but in 2015 the historic site entered a new chapter in its colourful history and was reborn as Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, a heritage and cultural attraction with gallery space, lecture theatre, cafe, chapels and ornamental gardens to explore.

Around five exhibitions are staged at the site each year, as well as events in its grounds.

The site also has a library housing thousands of rare books. The library is available to view by tour only. The next tour dates are Saturday, March 26 from 11am-11:45am, Saturday, April 9 11am-11:45am and Friday, April 22 from 11am-11:45am.

A registered independent charity, Ushaw is reliant on donations to help it operate.

*Annual passes for unlimited visits cost £19 for adults, £12.50 for children and under 5’s go free. Alternatively, daily passes are available. There are also concessions for local postcodes. Ushaw is open daily from 11am to 4pm throughout the year.

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Railway posters on display in the exhibition at Ushaw. Picture by FRANK REID.
Railway posters on display in the exhibition at Ushaw. Picture by FRANK REID.
Railway posters on display in the exhibition at Ushaw. Picture by FRANK REID.