“Spennymoor has all that a painter needs in order to depict humanity.”Norman Cornish
The North East’s answer to Lowry, Norman Cornish is a well-regarded artist who painted at a time when black coal coursed through the veins of every family in the area. Not being from the North-East originally, I can’t say that I’ve heard of Cornish or seen his works. However, now that I’ve just bought a house in the area, I’ll be making more of an effort to explore local areas.
To celebrate the centenary of Cornish’s birth, the Norman Cornish trail has been created to take you around Spennymoor to see where he took his inspiration from. Many of the locations have changed drastically, with buildings having been demolished, but I was interested to get out and about in my local area. Cornish’s paintings were often of places he would pass in his daily life; St Paul’s Church, the three mile walk to the mine in Ferryhill, even the local chip van. Cornish places huge importance on people in all of his paintings.
Now, I won’t go into much detail about the decline of the mining towns in the North-East but I think it’s fair to say that Spennymoor hasn’t faired too well over the years. However, with Durham on it’s doorstep and plans for revival, you never know what the future holds.
The Norman Cornish trail starts and ends at Spennymoor’s focal point; the town hall with its bell tower keeping watch. The walk is approximately 1.5 miles so not too strenuous at all. The Bob Abley Art Gallery was quiet, with me being the only visitor, but there were plenty of iconic Cornish works on display as well as a large collection for sale. Interestingly, the 1950’s town that’s currently under construction at the Beamish Museum will feature the home of Norman Cornish including his studio.
Whilst you’re not going to be blown away by interesting architecture or beautiful views, the Cornish Trail will show take you to some iconic locations painted by the artist. There were a few pleasant surprises on my walk including Jubilee Park, which for some reason I’d never been to, as well as some pretty nice Victorian houses on Whitworth Terrace. Even if you haven’t heard of the artist, it’s nice to see what life would have been like in Spennymoor’s heyday.
For more information and a copy of the trail guide, just click here.