William Coldstream By Humphrey Spender - April 1938

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Artist William Coldstream paints the view from the roof of Mere Hall, Bolton. Coldstream’s painting Bolton is now in the National Gallery of Canada. Artist Graham Bell painted on the roof alongside Coldstream. His painting Thomasson Park, Bolton is now in the Yale Center for British Art. (Photographs 1993.83.14.15, 1993.83.14.16, 1993.83.14.17 were also taken on the roof of Mere Hall)

Tom Harrisson, leader of the Worktown project in Bolton, thought artists could make an important contribution to the study. He invited a number of artists and photographers to the town to make art- Michael Wickham, Julian Trevelyan, William Coldstream and Graham Bell.  Humphrey Spender also made drawings and paintings as well as taking photographs.

Harrisson was as interested in what local people thought about the paintings as he was in how the artists saw Bolton. He had photos made of the artworks produced, including Coldstream and Bell’s paintings and showed them to people in the pub and on the street. Most people thought that Coldstream and Bell’s paintings made the town look ‘deserted, hollow, lifeless, yet all the chimneys were smoking.’ One woman commented ‘There’s something about it I don’t like. We’re dead, we are! Our people are dead!’ Harrisson thought that this was a ‘perfect comment’ as the artists, both from the south of England, probably saw the town in exactly this way.

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