Lost mural of Burslem Riot that was destroyed in a fire

My legacy is my art. I have painted for years. I hope that someone wants them when I’ve gone.

I was involved in painting several murals over my time as an artist, but sadly most of them have been destroyed in one way or another. I painted a mural in the stairwell of the Unemployment action centre in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent just after I finished college. Then we found the building was going to be demolished. So myself and a friend got permission to go in and take photos. Unfortunately the photographs came back blank. The film had not been attached to the spool and was not exposed!

Then I painted some murals with a council art group. Over a few weeks we worked on a school canteen (alien/ sci-fi landscape) a ward at a hospital (images of Stoke-on-Trent to aid elderly patients memories), and a memorial for the 1914 to 18 war. All of these were demolished.

Finally I did twelve murals at the Leopard Hotel in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. This took me the good part of two years on and off. The painting above was a mural I did of the Burslem riot of 1842? I researched it and a lot of the characters were based on local Burlem residents and people who worked at or frequented the Leopard. All of the murals were destroyed in a fire that burnt down the hotel.

I have also painted scenery for the local pantomime and Mystery plays, but I don’t know what has happened to them.

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

So if this isn’t my legacy what is? All the paintings and artwork I have created over the years since I was a child. Not all of them still exist. Art turns out to be quite ephemeral in some ways. But I’ve sold enough that, if no one wants the ones I still have, the rest have gone to new owners. Even if they were to appear in charity shops, I hope that some do find good homes.

It depends

What do you do to be involved in the community?

I have been a volunteer in the past and taught a few classes in adult numeracy and literacy. I’ve painted murals for a hospital and school, which was a paid job, but it was for community projects. I’ve served on a few committees both politically and for the community, and I still try and help to some extent.

My problem now is that I am not as mobile as I was, and after finishing work early because of my health I am out of touch with a lot of things. But I do still sing in choirs which are entertaining for communities, and I try and donate what I can. It troubles me that I’ve stepped back from things. That can knock your confidence. I also helped moderate a couple of websites for a few years, but they closed down, and after spending two or three hours every night dealing with problems and spam, I was glad to stop. I’m still happy to deliver leaflets, despite meeting snapping dogs at the letterboxes.

So my answer is, it depends what I’m capable of, but I try and do something where I can.

Before an Exhibition

When do you feel most productive?

Something stirs inside me about a fortnight before I have an exhibition of my art (it doesn’t happen very often). I’ve probably had seven or eight solo exhibitions in my life and some group ones.

Suddenly I get the urge to create and I can produce several paintings in a very short time. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, I become very concentrated on what I want to produce. It’s like time changes and I can be working till 3 or 4 in the morning without realising how time is flying (is this flow?). At other times I feel less able to create, the switch hasn’t tripped inside my mind I guess.

Productivity has to have a reason. I need to be motivated to get work done. Every day I do a little bit of art, so over the years I must have been very productive, but now with my health I am slowing down. Something I could do quickly takes more time. I feel that, it makes me sad and annoyed with myself. I really want to turn the clock back a few years, but I guess that’s not going to happen, so I’ll keep trying to carry on. I use different media and have recently tried charcoal and pastels as well as my usual acrylic paint on canvas.

Mural painting.

What job would you do for free?

One of my old murals. I would love to still be doing these and if I had enough money to live on I would volunteer to do things like this for free. Maybe in a children’s ward, or some landscapes for a community centre. I have actually done one or two for free as a volunteer in the past. My first was painting the scenery at my senior school a few decades ago. I wish I’d got photos of it.

My only problem is my health. I can’t move as well as I used to and my balance is not good. I sake a lot so I can’t paint as smooth a line as I did in the past. Age seems to be catching up with me. It’s frustrating because this is the sort of thing I love doing. I get great satisfaction from it. I cannot remember when I didn’t paint or draw. It has been my life when I’ve been able to do it.

Leopard Hotel may be restored

About a year ago, the Leopard Hotel in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. was destroyed in a fire. I was distraught because I had painted several murals in the Arnold Bennett suite at the back of the hotel. I had also been an extra in a horror film called Humanus which was partly filmed there. I would love it to be restored. It was old and quirky, and episodes of ‘most haunted’ were recorded around the building. But now? It’s a shell of its former glory.

The Leopard had fallen on hard times when it was taken over by Neil Cox and Neil Crisp in the early 2000’s. They started to pull the business round and bought out the essential quirkiness of the building, organising ghost tours and revising ad improving the good and drink. It was soon a venue people loved to go in. During that time they wanted some murals painting in the back room. I spent a couple of years between 2006 and 2007 painting ten or eleven of them. Why can’t I remember?

I loved doing it, and the figures in the paintings were often based on the locals, I even gave a talk to the local history group about what I had painted and the sources I used to decide on the subjects.

Now? I will definitely visit if its rebuilt. But I don’t think I could physically paint those murals again. And as I was only paid £75 per picture, for two years of work, it was never going to make me a profit, but I did it for the love of Art and the Leopard.

Arnold Bennett suite. The Leopard Hotel.

This was the back room of the Leopard Hotel in Burslem (the Arnold Bennett suite). The hotel burned down last year taking my murals with it. They were painted in emulsion paint directly onto the walls so it would have been impossible to remove them before the hotel caught fire (apparently the empty hotel had someone growing cannabis in it and the fire was from an electrical fault. It had been bought for redevelopment and the local community wanted to take it over to make it work again. Now its gone. You can see the relative sizes of them to the size of the room. I painted them between 2006 and 2007. I miss them.

Another memory.

The Leopardess at the Leopard Hotel in Burslem. She was supposed to be a mixed race woman that married the owner of the hotel and came to England to run it. I was told several tales by the landlords of the Leopard while I was painting murals there and I really wish I had written them down. But you know what it’s like. You are standing on top of a set of stepladders and chatting while you paint. You have ideas for each mural and have to fit in with what the owners want you to paint. Sometimes I was in the Arnold Bennett suite on my own for hours (I’d go up after work), listening to old creaking timbers and odd noises. It could be spooky in there. My memory isn’t what it was.

Local murals

Round the back of B’arts are a series of three murals. I think they may be constellations? I know there is a star group called Draco but I’m not sure about the Leopard or the Hare /rabbit? Anyway it’s a random piece of art but I do like it. There are chalked in letters above each animal so I’m guessing it’s not finished yet? Whatever, I love the movement in the animals. Good to see colourful art in the area.


We drove past the Leopard Hotel in Burslem today. Its just hidden behind wooden hoardings and scaffolding. I haven’t been up past it since the fire that destroyed it back in February. We only glanced at it. I couldn’t stop. It’s a hole in the history of Burslem, and a hole in my memory. I managed to find a photo of the Leopard sign. It was also known as the famous Leopard. I’m still trying to find copies of the photos I took of the murals I painted in there. A remote hope.

How the Leopard looked

This was the function room, the Arnold Bennett suite, in the back of the Leopard Hotel with my murals visible on the walls. They were quite high up and I’m only short, so I spent a lot of time climbing up and down ladders! If I had realised it was likely to take me almost two years to paint them (there were eleven? ) seven on one side and four on the other if I remember?

Titles were :

The Leopardess

Umbrellas by Clarice Cliff

Arthur Berry, artist

Walter, the regular

Pot banks and woman worker

Murdered woman

The Leopard coat of arms

The Burslem Riot 1842

Wedgwood and Brindley

Molly Leigh, Burslem witch

Burslem Angel

I cannot remember if there was another one. I’m hoping to collect a full set of images of them. I hope that local people will be able to help me.