Remembering Lowry: When the master of the matchstick men came to Hartlepool

Margaret Bell takes a look at the Lowry drawing.
Margaret Bell takes a look at the Lowry drawing.

The man behind the matchstick men certainly created a stir in Hartlepool around 40 years ago.

Lowry’s work called The Front, Hartlepool, went on show in the town in 1978.

It had been painted just nine years earlier and it showed Lowry’s 1969 view of Seaview Terrace. It was described as a drawing which measured just over 11 inches by 16 inches.

It went on show at the Gray Art Gallery and the Hartlepool Mail reporter at the time hailed the work as “an easily distinguished part of the town.”

The museum assistant at the time was Mr Denis Blanthorn and he said the piece was regarded as a popular exhibit.

He told the Mail back in 1978: “Quite a number of people say it is a good piece of work. Without doubt, it has been a talking point in the town.”

Did you get to see the work? Or perhaps you even got to meet the celebrated artist during his visit to the town. We would love to hear your memories of it all. Email

In 1978, the Hartlepool Mail interviewed some of the people who went to see the exhibit.

They included Margaret Bell, of Westland Avenue, who was not so impressed and said she said she preferred an exhibition of local artists which she described as “excellent.”

But two others had even more reason to comment.

Ronald Browell and his wife Irene were from Lowry country in Lancashire and were paying a visit to Hartlepool.

Mrs Browell thought The Front, Hartlepool, was not the most colourful pieces of Lowry’s work she had seen - and she and her husband were regular viewers.

And Mr Browell commented: “Since his death we have seen quite a lot of his work. He was not so popular when he was alive.”

The museum paid more than £2,000 for the Lowry picture - half the price met by a grant from the Royal Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Lowry’s Hartlepool links were vying for the headlines in 1978 with an interesting range of other topics.

Hartlepool’s community health experts had just held a meeting to say that the recent outbreaks of typhoid in the town seemed to be over. Dr Hamilton Milliganm the town’s Community Health Physician, said: “We are optimistic.”

Lawrence Mitchell, 67, was closing up for the last time with his shoe shop in Raby Road. Mitchells had served the people of the town since 1888 but Lawrence decided to sell it off.

Hartlepool MP Ted Leadbitter joined the battle to keep the Smart and Brown fridge factory open, and protect the 374 jobs there.

And on a similar theme, every major employer in th town was being sent a letter to ask them to take on more apprentices. Coun Bob Barnfather, chairman of the Hartlepool Industrial Development Committee, spearheaded the drive and said he thought it was “ridiculous” to spend thousands on a child’s education only for them to leave work with no job to go to.