Uncovering a Lowry orignal in Mottram (with audio)

LS Lowry described it as ugly and uncomfortable but Alice Rose and Chris Byrd cannot wait to restore the artist's former home in Mottram. Emma Mayoh reports <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Click the picture on the right to start playing the audio

This recording is courtesy of The Macclesfield & District Talking Newspaper For The Blind

The Macclesfield & District Talking Newspaper For The Blind produces an 80 minute weekly recording of local news and an additional 80 minute audio magazine which are sent free of charge to around 200 blind and visually impaired people who live in Macclesfield, Bollington, Poynton, Prestbury and surrounding districts or who have links with the area.They have been providing this service for more than 35 years. All volunteers are unpaid and our work does not attract statutory funding of any kind.

For more information please look at the charity's website, www.macctn.org.uk

It’s the moment homeowners dread. Peeling back the carpet or stripping off the wallpaper can sometimes uncover costly horrors. But for Alice Rose and Chris Byrd it could not have been more exciting.

Hidden beneath the old carpet of their dining room at The Elms in Mottram, were millions of specks and multi-coloured blobs of paint that had fallen from the brushes of L S Lowry.

It may not have been the undiscovered masterpiece the 26-year-olds had secretly hoped for - and are still looking for. But it was a clear hallmark that this was once the home of the renowned artist.

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Chris said: ‘The lady we bought it off told us about it. When we moved in we couldn’t resist it any longer and had to have a look. We pulled the corner of the carpet back and we just couldn’t believe it, the paint was everywhere.

‘An original Lowry had sold just a month before this happened for �2 million and it was painted at the time he lived here. It’s really strange to think of all of his masterpieces hanging in your dining room. It’s mind-blowing. We might not have a masterpiece but this is pretty special. We have his signature on the deeds too.’

The couple moved into Lowry’s former home last September. The dining room was his studio and every inch of the walls would have been covered with paintings, drawings and sketches completed during the almost 30 years he lived there up until his death in 1976.

A lot of work, including extending the back of the house and decoration, was done to the house by the previous owners. But Chris and Alice, who admit they knew little about Lowry before buying his old house, are hoping to return it to what it may have been like when he lived there.

They have been studying photographs of the house in exhibitions and on the internet and have started researching the artist himself. They plan to restore the staircase, which winds up the centre of the house and has lots of intricate detailing. An original cast iron stove, made by W Brooke & Sons Ltd in Hyde, will form a centrepiece in the kitchen. Original doors, window shutters and floorboards will also receive some attention and they would like to move the fireplace from the lounge back to its original location in what was Lowry’s bedroom.

Alice’s father, Robin, who is a traditional craftsman, is also hoping to make a kitchen in-keeping with the house as well as a coat stand like one the couple saw on an old picture of the hallway when Lowry lived there. They plan to use traditional paints, wallpapers and as many reclaimed materials as possible in the renovation.

Also helping them to piece together what the house may have been like are the locals, including Lowry’s milkman, his window cleaner and the regulars in the local pub.

Alice said: ‘A chap turned up the other day and he used to live next door when Lowry lived here so had met him. He told us all sorts of stories about him.

‘We went to the pub up the road too and everyone in there had lots of stories. There is still a really strong connection to Lowry because he is such a recent artist. We do feel like we have this relationship with the community already and we want to make sure we do them proud.’

An independent filmmaker has recorded footage at The Elms and of Alice and Chris as part of a new documentary on the artist’s life and the house, which stands just a few steps away from a commemorative statue of Lowry in the village centre, is a tourist attraction. People regularly peer in through the windows or stop to read the blue plaque on the outside wall. They have also been warned that Lowry enthusiasts are likely to request to have a look around the house.

Alice said: ‘We heard that a fan once came up to the house and the owners were having their chimney pot done. The person paid the builder �50 for one of the bricks.

‘We’re more than happy for people to come and have a look. We have an obligation to the history of it and we’re proud of it.’

You might expect Alice and Chris to feel intimidated by the magnitude and importance of the project they are taking on - to add to it they aim to have everything done within a year. But the couple, whose last house was a 300-year-old cottage they restored themselves, are ready for the challenge.

Alice, who will also run her cake business from a studio at the house, said: ‘We can’t wait to get started and get it finished. We’re really excited about getting stuck in. There is a lot of wallpaper to strip and we could find anything under there. People do say that he used to paint on any surface he could find so there might be paintings on the walls.

‘We want to find out as much as we can about the house, from Lowry’s time and also try and find out more about the people who lived here before him. I feel really proud that we’re able to do this. It’s quite an honour to have this house and we are now becoming a part of that history. It’s a very exciting process for us. I think we will be in this house for a long time. It will be difficult to beat. Lowry described it as ugly and uncomfortable but we hope it will be the perfect home for us.’ 

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