A brief history of Stockport Art Guild and it's long association with the War Memorial Gallery


    The Stockport Guild of Arts & Crafts was formed in 1919. Back in 1912 there were plans to
    build an Art Gallery in Stockport, and in 1919 it was decided to proceed building a combined War Memorial & Art Gallery.

    The Stockport War Memorial Gallery was completed in 1925, with a final cost of £24,000, which was raised entirely by voluntary subscriptions.In those early days the Guild members met at various local meeting halls as well as in member’s houses, and as time went on began using the Stockport Art School facilities for meetings.

    The Stockport Art Guild was exhibiting almost from the gallery’s inception. In 1929 the Guild held its 10th Annual Exhibition in the gallery. For over 80 years now the Guild has always held an Annual Exhibition in the same Stockport War Memorial Galleries.
    From the minutes of the Guild Council meeting on November 10th 1929: It was proposed that the sum of £3 be paid to the caretaker of the Memorial Buildings in recognition of his help and assistance before, during, and after, the 10th Exhibition. In those days the use of the Stockport War Memorial Gallery was granted by the local Education Department.


    Around 1935/36 the Guild’s name was changed to the Stockport Art Guild when the Craft
    element was removed. As the Guild became more established there was a feeling within the membership that more
    space to display their work was needed. The following extract taken from the minutes of the Chairman’s address at the 1936 Art Guild Annual General Meeting (A.G.M.) illustrates the member’s ambition to gain more display space within the gallery:

    Mr Scott said, ‘By the majority of towns-people, the Stockport Art Guild is welcomed as a sign of aesthetic culture. In the past there appeared to be some doubt with regard to the use of the Upper Gallery’.  Councillor Kate Johnson had said, ‘we should assert our position and right to demand the gallery.’

    The Chairman went on to say that he looked forward to the time coming when it would be taken for granted that we would have full use
    of all the gallery space.As the guild continued to grow in members the whole of the art gallery was eventually given over to the annual exhibition, and has continued in this way only until quite recently, when the borough council decided to restrict future annual exhibitions to the upper gallery only.

    1939-1945 (World War II)

    Even during war time, the Guild maintained its activities, continuing to hold an annual exhibition at the gallery. At the
    February 3rd  1940 Guild Council meeting, the Chairman, Mr Scott, congratulated the Guild on having put up a show of work in the recent 20th Exhibition which, in spite of war conditions, had maintained both quality and numbers.

    The effects of continuing War seemed to be having an effect
    on the Guild’s outside activities but the members tried to carry on as normally as possible.

    At the A.G.M. on February 21st 1942, the Chairman’s remarks included the following:

    ‘Mr Scott recalled the hopes expressed at the last Annual General Meeting, that another year would bring a brighter outlook. Instead it seemed that the Shadow of War was now deeper, but we should be wise to continue in our faith that there were better things ahead, and in the meantime to carry on with the Guild activities and with the interests of daily life.
    These activities
    and interests helped keep us sane and fit for the War work which must be done.’


    During the 50’s & 60’s the Guild continued to flourish and even rented its own studio space, at 4 St. Peters Square, Stockport. Regular painting sessions and demonstrations were held there and also the studio was used by individual members to create their own work.

    The Stockport War Memorial Galleries were also allowing the Guild to host regular studio evenings on Monday (portrait) and Thursday(life) evenings. These studio evenings still play a large part in the Guild’s activities and are regularly well attended.

    It was at the 50th A.G.M. held on March 8th, 1969, that plans were being made for the 50th or Golden Jubilee Exhibition. – from the minutes, the President mentions the exhibition:

    ‘This year we reach our half century of exhibitions. We want to make it something special. Lord Bowden (of Chesterfield) will open it, he is a brilliant chap. He disclaims any great knowledge of art but he has wide interests.’.

    The 50th Golden Jubilee exhibition was held on November 1st to November 30th 1969 and was a great success.

    1970s - L.S. Lowry & the Guild

    At the A.G.M. the following year (1970) the President remarked:

    ‘Our Jubilee Exhibition was one of our best. It compared very
    well indeed with other societies. We can be justifiably proud.
    Lord Bowden proved to be a satisfactory opener. He not only opened the exhibition, he also opened his cheque book’.

    An interesting recollection from a member has come to light. On the occasion of exhibiting her very first painting in the gallery she had an encounter she’ll never forget!. In her own words:

    I will never forget the day I met L.S. Lowry. He was visiting Stockport Art Guild’s annual exhibition at the gallery at Greek Street (c. 1970). I had recently joined the Art Guild and my very first painting, a pastel still life, had been
    accepted. I’d gone to have another look around, as you do.Cliff, the caretaker, came up to me. “Hey Chris, have you
    ever met Mr. Lowry – he’s in the gallery now. Would you like me to introduce you.” Well you can imagine……!
    Five minutes later we shook hands, then chatted and chatted. “Have you got a painting in the exhibition,” he asked. “Would you like me to give it a criticism, tell me where it is and give me twenty minutes, then come back and find me.”

    Twenty minutes later I found L.S. Lowry still standing in front of my painting. He turned to me and said, “If this is your first painting, never stop.” I didn’t think to get his autograph even though he kept reaching for his pen, but this chance meeting with L S Lowry is mine alone, worth far more to me than an autograph. I have kept that first painting.

    Christine Garner 2010

    1980 - 2000

    In the latter half of the 20th century the Guild continued in much the same way, retaining a large membership and each year
    holding its annual show at the Stockport War Memorial Gallery. The number of works on display, from around one hundred entrants, was typically approaching 300 paintings & sculptures, and these filled the upper and lower gallery spaces.


    Stockport Art Guild launches a new website in November 2005 which was created by Art Guild member Neil Robinson

    2007 - present day

    The Guild’s long-standing arrangement with the gallery was interrupted in 2007 when the
    annual exhibition was cancelled by the gallery authorities. Although the annual exhibition was re-instated the following year, it was now confined to upper gallery space. This event had also coincided with the loss of the annual prestigious Stockport Open Exhibition (This event has since been re-instated in 2011 by the sKarts group), which had attracted interest from artists in the region and beyond. With these changes many members felt they now had a much limited opportunity to have their work adjudicated and displayed to the public, and unfortunately for the Guild this led to a fall in its membership.

    Membership is slowly recovering and the Stockport Art Guild currently has well in excess of one hundred fee paying members as well as many life members. At the gallery, studio evenings continue unabated, interspersed with demonstrations and workshops by visiting artists are also occasionally run locally. Regular newsletters and a brand new website relaunched in 2012 at www.stockportartguild.com strive to keep members informed of the Guild’s activities.

    Our association with the Stockport War Memorial Gallery has been greatly appreciated over the years and the help and assistance offered by the gallery staff, particularly around exhibition time, has undoubtedly strengthened our relationship.  We believe our long association with the gallery has been beneficial to the area’s residents and visitors and has offered great encouragement to anyone wishing to pursue an artistic path.

    In 2019, Stockport Art Guild will be celebrating it's 100th year as an arts organization. A book has been published to celebrate the centenary of the organisation.

    ©Stockport Art Guild