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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 19:46 GMT
Blaydon Races art saved for region
The Blaydon Races sold at Sotheby's
William Irving painted The Blaydon Races in 1903
A historic painting of the Blaydon Races has been saved for the North East after being put on sale at Sotheby's in London on Wednesday.

It was bought by the Tyne and Wear Museums service for just over 124,000, including auction fees, twice what it was expected to fetch.

The art work, painted in 1903 by William Irving, is expected to go on public display at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead before Christmas.

It had been the property of the Marriott hotel group, on display at the Gosforth Park Hotel on the outskirts of Newcastle.


It was bought because of its regional importance rather than its artistic merit

Tyne and Wear Museums Service
Tyne and Wear Museums made the successful bid despite a spokesman for the buyers admitting the piece, which had a reserve price of 60,000, was of limited artistic merit.

When William Irving's painting first went on view in Newcastle 99 years ago, police asked the art dealers to close their blinds as crowds were pressing dangerously against the windows.

The painting's popularity stems from the music hall song The Blaydon Races - still sung by crowds at Newcastle United home games - which describes a colourful bus journey from the city to the former racecourse on the outskirts of Gateshead in 1862.

Fighting fund

The song was written by entertainer Geordie Ridley and won iconic status for its rousing chorus and the drunken, eccentric characters it portrays from Victorian Tyneside.

The artist was an illustrator with the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle and later had paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy in London before he died in 1943, aged 77.

The Blaydon Races
The painting is of 'limited artistic merit'
A museums spokesman said: "It was bought because of its regional importance rather than its artistic merit."

For the last 99 years the painting hung in the lobby of the Gosforth Park Hotel and when its Marriott Group owners announced its sale, a fighting fund was set up to keep it in the region.

Tyne and Wear Museums bought the painting using cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Gateshead Council, private trusts and donations.

It will be checked by a conservation expert then exhibited at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, in December.

'Rich heritage'

Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council, said: "This painting is a unique record of one of Tyneside's most famous events and, as such, I am delighted that it is coming to Gateshead.

"The rich heritage and culture folklore of our region is proving increasingly popular to those outside the North East.

"The assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders in securing this work of art is welcomed."

There was an outcry when it was revealed the painting may leave the region, perhaps for the US, and the Tyne and Wear Museum Service bid 110,000 to make sure it stayed in the region.

The actual cost, including sales fees, will be more than 124,000.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Liz Corbin
"Tyne and Wear Museums were determined to win"

Click here to go to Tyne
See also:

01 Nov 02 | England
16 Jul 02 | Entertainment
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