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.

The bricks….

Someone had taken off the plaster and replaced the bricks, you could see it, new mortar holding them in place. The house had been bought at auction, half refurbished, needing plasterboard and plaster. It wouldn’t take much to tidy it up ready for the rental market.

But Sam was nosey, she liked riddles, and as the wallwas double thickness and she wanted to fit an extra window, well why not put a lintle in and add the bathroom window here?

She decided to get her brother to help. They would support the top of the hole with a metal beam and then knock out the hole afterwards. They managed to get the beam in but it was late so they stopped.

Early next morning she went to the house. Picking up a sledge hammer she hit the wall where the new bricks were a couple of times, there was a crack and half a brick fell out. She could see, what? Plastic behind it. Someone had wrapped a package up and stuffed it into the gap between the layers of bricks. She hit the wall again, the bricks shattered and fell to the floor. She reached in…. A bag full of ten and twenty pound notes! What were they doing there. They were new style notes, the ones that look like plastic not paper.

Should she keep them? Should she hand them in? The phrase ‘finders keepers’ came into her mind…. Should she?

Bethesda

View of the organ and some of the exposed brickwork where the plasterwork has either fallen off or has been removed. In places brickwork is missing. The main doors at the front of the building are barred on the inside with planks of wood, to prevent unauthorised access to the old Chapel. It looks tired and dilapidated but when I think back to how it was a few years ago there has been considerable improvement, slowly but surely it is coming back to life. It was a privilege and pleasure to hear the organ being played yesterday and to perform there in such amazing surroundings.

Wet wall

A wall of a farmhouse. The bricks are sodden. There is algae and moss growing on them. The mortar is crumbling.

The farmhouse might be restored. The farm buildings have been sold. Some new houses are to be built but the building is listed I think. This could be the chance for it to live again. Get those bricks dried out. Bring new life back into the village? I hope so.

Old architecture.

I didn’t take many photos at Stoke Sings because I wasn’t sure people would approve, but I did take some photos of the inside of the hall. It’s surprising because externally it’s all modern glass and metal and neat brickwork. But inside the old fittings and fixtures remain. BUT… That’s good because the acoustics are fantastic. The composer Edward Elgar even said it had  some of the best acoustics in the country. Clearly the people of Stoke-on-Trent loved their music very much.