Leopard

1765…and now it’s gone. History destroyed after more than 200 years. Potters going in to drink at the end of a hot shift. Gilders taking a pint of beer. Food served, life passing by. Once a hotel famous in the Midlands. Feared because it was haunted, loved because it was haunted. Life came and went. It became dilapidated but was rescued. Then covid struck and it closed. But friendly people wanted to buy it back off the new owners and turn it into a community building. Something that would see it restored. Now it will probably never rise from its ashes. Photo by Stokie Bloke. Will remove if this is not acceptable to him.

Destruction

Today’s #bandofsketchers prompt was destruction. The Leopard Hotel in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, was destroyed by fire just a few weeks ago. This is a sketch from a photo by Stokie Bloke (I can’t face visiting the Leopard Hotel). Not very accurate. You can see the roof has gone. There were more photos including the room where my murals were. The walls are still standing, but there are just blank ashy grey spaces. So sad.

Changing spots

When I was painting in the Leopard Hotel I designed a coat of arms for the hotel. The hotels ginger cat lies across the top of a shield with garlands of leaves and berries around it. The shield is split into four sections. From the top left there are crossed knives and forks on a blue ground with a gold chevron. The top right is a portrait of Prince Leopold (not sure where he was from) it was possible that the Leopard could have been named after him. Bottom right are three foaming tankards in gold. And bottom left is a painting of a Leopard. The motto on the banner underneath says ‘The Leopard can change its spots’. The idea behind it was that the pub had just been taken over and the landlords Neil Cox and Neil Crisp wanted to turn it into a friendly place to eat great food and wonderful beer. I think they made a great job of it and for a few years it prospered but the changing face of the town, the empty buildings and then covid finally managed to close it. Sorry for the fuzzy photo.

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.

Fait acompli

As I get older I realise I can’t go back in time. Entropy, the movement of things from order to disorder. Things break down. Chaos increases. Things burn down. Look at the dinosaurs, they dissappeared. The Burslem Leopard Hotel is now extinct. My time there is lost.

Stop feeling sorry for myself.

Accept its happened.

Have time to mourn.

Try and recover.

It’s only a building,

Sadness,

X

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.

The Colour Room

Mural of Clarice Cliff umbrella tea set I painted at the leopard Hotel.

I’m excited, a film about the life of Clarice Cliff, the Art Deco pottery painter and designer has just come out on film. I’ve also found out some of my friends are extras in the film! I want to find out if I can go and see it at a local screening.

Clarice Cliff is famous for designs such as “bizzare” and other geometric shaped pots painted in colourful and stylish patterns. She was working in the 1930’s at the same time as other paintresses such as Suzy Cooper. Apologies for my lack of information. If you look her up on Wikipedia or perhaps the museum services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. She is very famous here. X

Will the Leopard reopen?

In about 2006 and 2007 I painted several murals in the Arnold Bennett suite of the Leopard Hotel. It has appeared on Britain’s most Haunted on TV and until a couple of years ago was still open. Now no one seems to know what is happening with it. I’m sure it still needs a lot of work doing on it. No doubt my murals will get painted over if it is refurbished. It’s sad, because for a few years the place thrived. But there was also bad luck there. I wish things coukd be better for it. X

No recognition.

Its aa little thing, but my painting of the Burslem Riot is on the back of a friends book. She’s in the newspaper today and you can clearly see my image on the back of her book. The problem is the article is about the local dialect which she writes about, not about my painting. So I guess I can’t complain. But my images do crop up and I don’t get recognition. I should have put something up where they are on display (in the now closed Leopard Hotel in Burslem), but I didn’t think about it, and then I didn’t organise it, and now it’s all locked up. Thinking if putting a letter through the front door infroducing myself as the artist who painted them. I hope they don’t get ripped out!

My mural of Molly Leigh

Molly Leigh was said to be the Burslem witch. She lived in a small cottage, a photo of which I based this picture on. There are no photos of her so I tried to find a painting of an elderly woman from about that time and chose a picture of a French peasant by Theodore Gericault as an inspiration. The plants in the background are meant to be foxgloves and different herbs in a garden I imagined to be full of things you could use for remedies. I didn’t find much out about her life, except she is meant to be buried in a local church yard with the grave orientated East West, instead of the normal North South way. We went for a walk and ended up in the graveyard, only to get told off by someone from the church who kept getting people messing about round Mollys grave. When we explained we were on a photo walk of Burslem and we didn’t want to do any strange rituals he was OK. The painting is set on a night of the full moon and I tried to make the sky atmospheric and spooky. I’m sorry people won’t be able to see my murals in the Leopard anymore. No doubt they will be painted over or removed.