Longton school in the 1940s was, unknown to some, home to a renowned Burslem artist


NOBODY told us we had a famous art teacher when I was at Longton High School in the 1940s.

Only much later did I learn that Leonard Brammer was a nationally-known figure in the art world. So I look back with pride on the one occasion when Mr Brammer gave me full marks for my drawing of a cavalry charge.

Leonard Brammer Burslem artist work

Doris Brown’s long stint teaching people of all kinds to paint is a reminder of the legion of artistic talent which has existed among Staffordshire people for many generations. Doris attended Burslem School of Art, a proving-ground of the highest standards.

I never entered this holy of holies, but I did go to Burslem Arts Ball, which was a wonderfully avant-garde event for the Potteries of the 1950s.

I suppose the 20th-century prince of Potteries painters was Reg Haggar, who was born in East Anglia but lived here for 70 years, so I think we can call him a Potter.

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He had a lifelong fascination with the shape of the bottle ovens and sat outdoors at his easel even when it was snowing in what he called “the dreary wastes of Neck End”.

Haggar was a man after my own heart. As The Sentinel’s art critic, he lambasted “aesthetic quackery” in modern art and accused many of its practitioners of being charlatans.

John Abberley at the Burton Stores Pub in Hanley

But let’s turn to those gifted amateurs who painted for the joy of it and had their own studio hidden away upstairs.

I’m thinking of people like the late Alf Wakefield, a Shelton steelworker for 33 years who never had an art lesson in his life, but made a superb job of painting the industrial scene. Alf cunningly brought his pictures to life by showing plenty of men at their work.

Another departed pal, Maurice Hancock, had a similar compulsion to reproduce street scenes of his youth, remembering the brightly-coloured buses which ran around the Potteries.

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The Way We Were

Maurice was what I’d call a master draughtsman. When he painted a bottle oven he got every brick into his picture. It was like painting a bit of history, he said.

Maurice’s pictures have an honoured place in my home, though they are outnumbered by those of Harry Smith, an outstanding professional artist I remember with affection.

Leonard Brammer’s Pot Banks

With his sober suits and smartly-brushed hair, Harry looked more like a bank manager than a painter.

In fact, he worked as a teacher at Thistley Hough girls’ grammar school while his canvases went round the world.

I hope those girls were better informed about their famous teacher than we were at Longton about Leonard Brammer.





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