Lincoln’s Usher Gallery: What’s at stake?

From an iconic Lowry to artefacts from the bronze age, thousands of pieces of artworks and archeological finds have an uncertain future at Lincoln’s Usher Gallery as the row over its future use rumbles on.

A vast array of watercolours, tokens and oil paintings are currently owned by the art gallery based on Lindum Road in the city.

Stretching as far back as the early first century, the Usher owns a collection of works of art that cover and depict both Lincolnshire and Lincoln.

But, there are also works which depict other areas of the country, such as a monochrome painting of the River Teme in Shropshire from the 18th century.

Following proposals to change the use of the Usher, City of Lincoln Council have warned that the collections may have to be moved out of the county.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

But, Lincolnshire County Council, which proposed the changes, say that exhibitions and heritage will be improved.

While both authorities debate over what should be done with the Usher, this is what is at stake.

What’s at stake?

Among the collection owned by the Usher is a miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I with a gold chased frame.

The painting is from the 18th century and depicts the Queen wearing a red dress with a high stiff lace ruff, and pearls and jewels on her hair and dress.

It’s in excellent condition and is one of many that serve as a reflection of national heritage, particularly those interested in Britain’s monarchy.

JMW Turner’s view of Lincoln Cathedral. Photo: City of Lincoln Council

Closer to home, a variety of artists have offered up their works on Lincoln Cathedral, such as JMW Turner’s.

Others offer a picturesque view of other areas of Lincoln, like Peter De Wint’s 19th century work on the view across The Holmes.

A number of watercolour paintings from Frederick Mackenzie on Lincoln can be found, including the minster, Lincoln Castle and cathedral.

Laurence Stephen Lowry’s Britain at Play. Photo: City of Lincoln Council

There’s also more famous paintings, such as Laurence Stephen Lowry’s Britain at Play which has been on display at the Tate in London.

The famous oil painting sits alongside his 1936 canvas, View of a Town, which depicts six people and a dog walking with a town, including a factory and terraced houses, visible in the background.

But, it’s not just pieces of art that the Usher offers.

Stretching back to the bronze age, the Usher includes such archeological finds as axes, spearheads and swords.

Other pieces come from the Viking period, including sections of a boat what is known as a “Brigg raft”.

What is the plan for the Usher?

While these works of art, archaeological artefacts and historical pieces offer an unrivalled reflection of heritage in the county and beyond, they do not save the Usher from change.

As previously reported, the county council plans to convert the gallery for other uses while moving exhibitions to The Collection.

It’s also considering options like handing the building over to other organisations to operate.

The proposals received backing from councillors last month and paved the way for changes to the county’s heritage attractions.

Plans to change the use of the Usher gallery sparked petitions and protests. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

County councillors said that heritage services need to “offer more” and become “more commercially minded”.

The idea is that bigger exhibitions will pay for some of the smaller attractions in the region.

Bigger events, such as the current dinosaur exhibition, the recent Moon Museum and the future Vivienne Westwood exhibit at the castle, was designed to make the service more sustainable, argued the council.

But, since the announcement, both the county council and city council have had a war of words over the use of the gallery.

City council leader, Ric Metcalfe, described the plans as a “betrayal of the county’s rich heritage”, while county council leader, Martin Hill, said the proposals were “value for money”.

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