Newcastle Cathedral

Newcastle Cathedral’s famous characters appear larger than life

A two metre high outdoor art exhibition featuring some of Newcastle upon Tyne’s most interesting historical figures goes on display around the perimeter of Newcastle Cathedral today. Cathedral Characters is a collection of exciting illustrations created by students from Choppington Primary School, St Michael’s Church of England Primary School in Alnwick and Whitley Memorial Church of England First School in Bedlington.

Cathedral Characters is the first in a series of creative projects which sees Newcastle Cathedral collaborating with regional schools and community groups as part of its multi-million pound National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Common Ground in Sacred Space. Working with local illustrator Josie Brookes, students used various experimental drawing and collage techniques to bring to life some of the city’s historical figures memorialised in the Cathedral’s vast ledger stone collection.

Without a record of what these well-known people looked like, students had to refer to written and visual information to help them put a face to each name. Those depicted in the colourful creations include Jane and John Hancock, who were both keen naturalists and parents of Albany and John Hancock, instrumental figures in the development of the Great North Museum: Hancock; Lady Jane Clavering who was a powerful businesswoman; Joseph Barber who sold books, stationery and pharmaceutical products; Matthew Prior who made instruments, toys and false teeth, and Mary Pawson who was a popular local wine merchant!

Lindy Gilliland, Project Manager at Newcastle Cathedral, said: “I’m thrilled that our first major schools’ exhibition is on view in the churchyards for the whole city to see. The children have been really imaginative in portraying historical figures commemorated in the Cathedral and the results show how engaged they were with these people’s stories. We hope that lots of visitors will enjoy the exhibition and also the amazing memorials which lie inside. I’m looking forward to many more schools taking part in the Cathedral’s activities programme over the coming year”.

The Very Revd Geoff Miller, Dean of Newcastle, added: “History only becomes heritage when it engages our imagination, when it is brought into the present in order to help create the future. Newcastle Cathedral has a unique and wonderful collection of ledger stones marking the people of old who helped make Newcastle what it is today. Watching these young people creatively interact with them, and then bring them alive for us by playfully making these fantastic, vibrant portraits is a huge delight. History comes alive at the hands of our young folk and we are really pleased to share it with you.”

To celebrate the opening of Cathedral Characters, Year One and Year Two students from Choppington Primary School will be visiting Newcastle Cathedral on Monday 9 March to view their artwork which runs 60 metres along the south side perimeter, from Amen Corner to Milburn House. The external exhibition will remain in place until spring 2021 to coincide with the launch of the redeveloped Cathedral inside and out. In addition, a smaller exhibition depicting the same colourful artworks is available for visitors to view inside the Cathedral until early summer 2020.