Several artists have contributed to Maryport’s cultural credentials but perhaps none more so than LS Lowry. SARAH FRENCH follows a walking trail that takes in some of the sights he painted

Percy Kelly, Sheila Fell, William Mitchell and more were drawn to the light and sights of Maryport, but in terms of achieving even wider recognition for the west coast town it was Laurence Stephen Lowry who put it on the map.

His oil pointing of Christchurch sold at auction in 2007 for £216,500, while the original of Senhouse Street, Maryport, sold at Christie’s in 2004 for £498,050.

Lowry came to Maryport many times, both to visit his friend Geoffrey Bennett and with his protegee Sheila Fell, from Aspatria, whom Lowry described as “the finest landscape artist of the mid-20th century”. They painted together around west Cumbria, including in Maryport.

Lowry also visited local artist Percy Kelly, whose work he admired and who came from Workington and lived in several villages in the area.

Lowry first exhibited in Cumberland in 1951 as part of the Tullie Realism in Contemporary Painting by Northern Artists exhibition arranged by artist Norman Alford and Bob Forrester.

The Lowry Art TrailThe Lowry Art Trail (Image: French and Lamming Media)

So, he was already familiar with Maryport when Geoffrey, whom he had met in Manchester in the 1920s when Bennett worked with Lowry’s cousin, moved to the town and was promoted to manager of the Westminster Bank, in Senhouse Street, in 1953. Lowry wrote to his friend saying: “Dear Mr Bennett, So you have gone to Maryport! I’m very glad…you have gone to a wonderful place!”.

Taking inspiration from Lowry’s work and his connection with Maryport, in 2021 local primary schools took part in a project on the artist, funded by Maryport Town Council. The children learned about Lowry’s upbringing and development as an artist and how to draw in his style.

Dolly Money, local arts patron and co-founder of Shipping Brow Gallery, near the harbour, explains: “We gave the children images of the paintings Lowry had done around Maryport, and he did a lot. His favourite locations were the Market Steps, the harbour and Senhouse Street, and we thought the style of Lowry would appeal to children.

“Then we asked local artists John McNamee and Alan Roper to work with the children to help them create their own versions of Lowry’s work, which is used on banners on the Lowry Trail along with Alan’s work.”

The start of the Lowry Trail at Maryport Station (Image: French and Lamming Media)

The short trail, which only takes around half an hour to walk, begins at Maryport railway station, where one assumes Lowry arrived into the town.

From here the route continues along Station Road, joins Curzon Street then heads left up Senhouse Street, the retail heart of the town.

Geoffrey and his wife Alice, a Maryport Urban District Councillor, elected in 1955, lived above the Westminster Bank at 31-33 Senhouse Street.

A mural painted by local children in Lowry style can be viewed in the street, which has recently been undergoing a facelift with the road and its parking upgraded and reconfigured, cluttered street furniture removed and new signage and planters due to be installed.

One of Lowry’s works is a very simple drawing of an empty street, in Maryport, although more residential and shorter than Senhouse Street. Drawings by children from Dearham Primary School can be seen on the information board at site two on the Lowry Trail.

The children's Lowry-esque mural in Senhouse StreetThe children's Lowry-esque mural in Senhouse Street (Image: French and Lamming Media)

The accompanying information on Maryport Town Council’s website explains: “’The Street’ is an example of one of Lowry’s mysterious unpopulated landscapes using a limited range of colours. Lowry did not simply sit in front of his subject and paint it, he recreated it back in his studio from memory and imagination, and his scribbled notes.

“Through this methodology, he was able to omit and merge, altering what he had seen when necessary to make a more ordered and effective picture, which nevertheless remained true to the spirit of the subject.”

Maryport from the top of Market StepsMaryport from the top of Market Steps (Image: French and Lamming Media)

The next stop on the trail was a favourite location of Lowry’s. Known locally as the ‘zig-zag steps’ the Market Steps lead down from Brow Street to King Street.

Lowry’s 1954 version, ‘Town Steps, Maryport’, encompasses his trademark lamp post and fence railings, ‘matchstick’ people and dogs.

The trail leads on to the harbour. Lowry’s picture, The Harbour, was painted in 1957 when the artist was in his mid-60s. The trail notes explain: “It features a mixture of sailing vessels in the foreground with an abundance of buildings, industrial, commercial and dwellings in the centre, an austere, grey sky and a harbour at high tide.

“Lowry’s artworks are often characterised by his use of a limited palette of colours, favouring ivory black, flake white, Prussian blue, ochre and vermillion.”

LS Lowry's A Harbour Scene is being used to promote Maryport, exclusively at Shipping Brow GalleryLS Lowry's A Harbour Scene is being used to promote Maryport, exclusively at Shipping Brow Gallery (Image: French and Lamming Media)

Interpretations of The Harbour by children from Our Lady and St Patrick’s Church appear on the harbourside information board.

Christchurch on the harbour is undergoing redevelopment as a new home for Maryport Maritime Museum. The work has included repairs to the church clock which connects to another of Maryport’s claims to fame. The clock was gifted to the town by its most famous son, Thomas Henry Ismay, whose acquisition of the ship builder White Star Line led to the launch of the ill-fated Titanic.

Led by Cumberland Council, internal works on the 19th century church are continuing ahead of the museum collection being installed and its planned reopening this summer.

Lowry’s Church on the Quay, Maryport, depicts the harbour edge and King Street fading into the distance. A version of the scene drawn by the artist in 1954 sold in November 2020 for £81,000. Children from Ewanrigg Junior School created their own interpretations of the work, used on the location’s information board.

Across the street, in South Quay, is where Lowry painted his most valuable painting of Maryport to date, Senhouse Street, in 1955.

Shipping Brow GalleryShipping Brow Gallery (Image: French and Lamming Media)

The trail ends at site seven from which the view of the street has changed little today: the building to the bottom right (once the Maritime Museum) is now Shipping Brow Gallery and, whilst it does not have any Lowrys in its collection, founders Dolly and Brian Money have loaned a large collection of Percy Kellys which are displayed alongside William Mitchells, together with contemporary works. Its first artist in residence Felix Butterwick will unveil his exhibition in August.

Following her recent visit to the Lowry exhibition at The Beacon, in Whitehaven, Claire Stewart, curator of The Lowry Collection in Salford, visited the gallery and walked the Lowry Trail. “She said it was one of the highlights of her trip,” says Dolly.

Meanwhile, work is continuing to enhance areas of the town as part of a £12 million regeneration project of three of its biggest assets – the high street, harbour and Promenade. The developments are being funded by the Government’s Future High Streets Fund and managed by Cumberland Council.

Shipping Brow, MaryportShipping Brow, Maryport (Image: French and Lamming Media)

The latest project has focused on the Promenade where old railings in Sea Brow Gardens have been replaced with upgraded with galvanised railings, by Maryport-based firm Shane Taylor Welding Ltd, to be followed by footpath surface upgrades.

Cubby Construction, of Carlisle, has been appointed to create a new café and beach shop on the Promenade on the site of a disused toilet block. The scheme includes a new bike and skate track.

The harbourside project will see a blank patch of grass transformed into an outdoor event and performance space, and there is to be a new splash park and an upgrade to the Shiver Me Timbers play park. The fourth aspect of the plans is an upgrade to the Wave centre into Maryport Activity Centre.