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.

Lost

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.

On the walls

Photo courtesy Fred Hughes

I got a couple of photos from my friend of the Arnold Bennett suite in the Leopard Hotel in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. These were taken before the fire that destroyed most of the building although some walls are still standing.

People have asked if the paintings were removed when the pub closed two years ago. But they were murals. The room originally had flock wallpaper inside framed areas on the walls. When the new owners took over the pub they decided to have murals painted in there. They contacted Burslem School of Art and I was asked if I was interested. I’d painted murals and scenery before so I said yes.

The owners lined each space with lining paper and I got coloured emulsion paints to create each mural.

I think this photo in particular gives an idea of the size of the murals and how they were laid out. I hope to get more images of them so I can have an archive of them for my records.

In despair

In 2006 to 2007 I painted a series of twelve murals at the Leopard Hotel in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. Recently the pub has been closed down after the previous owner left.

I was asked by the owners Neil Crisp and Neil Cox to do a series of Murals based on the history of Burslem. I painted the Burslem riot scene whose characters included local residents and pub staff, a murder scene of a woman said to have been killed there, a pottery worker at the end or start of her shift. I also painted ‘the Leopardess’ one of the original owners, a picture of Molly Leigh, the Burslem witch, pottery owner Josiah Wedgwood, and three of his friends discussing the building of the Trent and Mersey canal. Also Arthur Berry, famous artist and my tutor at college. Walter a pub regular who had drunk there since his youth. A Clarice Cliff design called Umbrellas, and a painting of the Burslem Angel that stands in top of the old town Hall. I also designed and painted a design for a coat of arms for the hotel.

I always wanted some decent photos of the murals but only have a few pictures. The lighting was not very good in the Arnold Bennett suite. They at least are some memories I have.

The pub was renowned for being haunted and regular ghost tours of the empty hotel rooms attracted a lot of attention. It was even featured in ‘Britains most haunted’ a TV show.

It was a couple of years ago that it closed. Covid didn’t help. I was sad to see it shut but it sounded like they had someone interested in getting it going again.

Over the last few days a report came out that it had been broken into and someone had been arrested ror growing cannabis in there.

Now? Who knows. Apparently three people have been arrested for setting fire to it? Whatever happens its so sad. I guess it will be unrecoverable, destroyed. Part of my life has gone with it.

Child’s mural

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I did this mural of Mr Incredible about nine or ten years ago for someone’s son. The paint is acrylic because it’s easy to apply and dries within hours. I think it’s also quite stable. I used clear matt varnish over it and left about a centimeter margin of varnish all around the figure so the paint would not lift off. I’ve recently done a new mural for the family in their new house. I found out recently that my original murals (there were three others, Batman, Spiderman, and Superman) were painted over. Sad I know, but at least I gave some fun to the family while they were there.

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Some of my other murals at the Leopard Hotel…

These are three of my murals in the Leopard Hotel in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.

The first is a painting of a design by Clarice Cliff called Umbrellas, a painting of a woman who may have been murdered in the back room, and gives rise to the possibility it is haunted, and a portrait of the artist Arthur Berry, together with a painting of his in the background. Arthur was one of my tutors at college.

There are other paintings but I need to take good photos of them. They were painted about 12 years ago.

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