The Hatton Gallery is a two-minute walk from the Great North Museum, and there’s a handy signpost to show you the way. If you didn’t know the gallery was within the Newcastle University campus, you could easily miss it altogether. However, it’s opposite the Northern Stage, which is quite noticeable.
The History of the University Buildings
The Hatton Gallery sits within the Fine Art School building, which is Grade II listed, at the top end of the campus. The university is housed in numerous structures, with some stunning architecture and imposing redbrick buildings. Particularly famous are the Arches, with a statue of Edward VII in between them. They’re a surprisingly recent feature, built after a gift from John Bell Simpson, a mine owner, in 1911.
Newcastle University started life in 1834, as the School of Medicine and Surgery, with fewer than 30 students. In 1851, the school split into two after the teachers fell out, and became Newcastle upon Tyne College of Medicine and Practical Science and the larger Newcastle College of Medicine. The disagreement only lasted six years before they were amalgamated into one.
On the site of the former Armstrong College is the Armstrong Building, named after industrialist William Armstrong. The first wing was opened in 1888, with the subsequent sections built and opened in 1894 and 1906. It was requisitioned during the First World War and served as a hospital.
The student union building is equally impressive. It was designed by Robert Burns Dick in a neo-Jacobean style and built in 1924. Burns Dick already had form for memorable architecture, as his firm were responsible for the Tyne Bridge towers.
Another local architect, Joseph Oswald, built the Bruce Building between 1896 and 1900, which served as a brewery for the Newcastle Breweries Ltd. The building was renovated a few years ago and the team carrying out the work found a fire watcher’s post from World War Two. The only other post still in situ in the UK is at the North Shields Ferry Landing.
The History of the Hatton Gallery
The gallery is named after Professor Richard George Hatton, who worked at the King Edward VII School of Art, Armstrong College, Durham University before moving the Fine Art department at Newcastle.
The art school dates back to 1837, when the North of England Society for the Promotion of Fine Arts was founded, with Hatton key in helping to build its status. The school itself opened in 1912, with the gallery following in 1925. Its collections and reputation grew further in the 1950s and 60s.
The school flourished under professors Lawrence Gowing and Kenneth Rowntree, who were also artists. They brought about changes in how fine art was taught and encouraged experimentation, supported by staff who were keen to shake things up. Their regular, temporary exhibitions were considered radical, and between 1948 and 1968 the permanent collection was also firmly established.
Today, the Hatton Gallery hosts exhibitions of final year postgraduate and undergraduate student work, as well as various temporary exhibitions alongside its permanent collections (around 3,500 works). The gallery is open to visitors and entry is free.
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