Woodhorn Northumberland Museum and Archives

The museum at Woodhorn Colliery houses one of the most significant collections in Europe of paintings by workers who had no formal training in art. In the early twentieth century some miners from pits in Northumberland were accustomed to sell paintings for small sums in the Grainger Market at Newcastle. The school of Ashington painters developed from 1934 when the Workers’ Educational Association established in the mining village an art appreciation class, whose members preferred to paint pictures rather than look at slides of the works of Michelangelo. The following year members visited the principal galleries in London, and in 1936 the Ashington Group was formally established and held its first exhibition in Newcastle. In the late 1930s and during the Second World War the group received some recognition from celebrated artists and critics, and in 1943 a hut was built to house a collection of members’ work. The group subsequently faded from the public eye, but in 1975 their work was again brought to public attention, and an exhibition was displayed in 1980 in Germany, the Netherlands and China. The collection is now displayed in the Woodhorn Colliery Museum and Gallery, which also accommodates the Northumberland county archives and a museum of local life and mining. It is an impressive memorial to generations of self-taught working-class artists, who had no opportunities for professional training. Another form of working-class art that may be seen at the museum is the collection of miners’ lodge banners that were displayed on formal occasions and carried on demonstrations and rallies.

Woodhorn Northumberland Museum and Archives
Queen Elizabeth II Country Park
NE63 9YF Ashington
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 1670 - 528080