The iconic style of the LNER posters used to advertise locations on its London to Edinburgh route will be familiar to many.
Today more than 40 rare original posters of this distinctive British work of art, on loan from private collections, are on display at Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, near Ushaw Moor, County Durham.
Many of the places so beautifully depicted in artwork, designed to capture the attention of tourists, include places in the North East such as Northumberland, Redcar, Durham, Newcastle, Whitby and Scarborough.
Among the artists featured in the exhibition is Frank Henry Mason, from Hartlepool, who designed his first poster in 1910 for the Great Northern Railway, until his last poster for the nationalized British Railways in 1961.
The posters featured in the exhibition, along with three preparatory works, cover the period from the 1920s to the 1950s, often considered the golden age of rail travel in Britain.
Andrew Heard, visitor program manager at Ushaw and curator of the exhibition, explains that part of the uniqueness of the artworks is their broad appeal to people.
“They were very democratic posters,” he explained. “They were works of art, but they were works of art that were used. Some were more realistic and some were more painterly, but they all communicated an idea and a destination and they did that very effectively.
“William Teasdale was the advertising manager at LNER and he had the idea of bringing in artists in 1923 because he knew the power of art.
“The railway posters of this period were the first examples of glamorous and ambitious travel marketing to the masses.”
Almost 100 years after the posters were first commissioned, they still capture people’s imaginations today.
“There’s definitely an element of nostalgia with the artwork and this railway line, especially north of Newcastle, it’s so picturesque,” Andrew explained.
Speaking of the Frank Henry Mason pieces on display, Andrew said: “We are fortunate to be able to include many Frank Henry Mason posters in the exhibition.
“Durham is known as the ‘cradle of railways’ as it was here that Locomotion No. 1, the world’s first steam locomotive, ran on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825.
“This exhibit celebrates a bygone era of rail travel, but also reflects the pioneering heritage of the Northeast as the birthplace of passenger rail travel.”
Other artists featured include Claude Henry Buckle, one of Britain’s most prolific railway poster designers, whose son Terry is a volunteer gardener in Ushaw.
It was Terry who mentioned his father’s works that sowed the seeds for the exhibition.
To coincide with the exhibition, Ushaw is also hosting railway-inspired activities throughout the summer for visitors, including an outdoor model steam locomotive and a large-scale installation of a model railway. .
:: From Edinburgh to London & Beyond opens March 19 and runs until June 26 at the William Allen Gallery, Ushaw, daily from 11am-4pm. Access to the exhibition is included in the admission price.
Historic House, Chapels and Gardens of Ushaw
Formerly known as Ushaw College, the site was a seminary for the Catholic priesthood until 2011 and is familiar to many North East schools that have used its facilities.
Located four miles from the center of Durham, its hundreds of acres of grounds are home to many buildings and chapels which are striking examples of Georgian and Victorian Gothic architecture.
Due to a shortage of vocations it closed as a seminary, but in 2015 the historic site entered a new chapter in its colorful history and was reborn as Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and gardens, a heritage and cultural attraction with gallery space, conference theatre, cafe, chapels and ornamental gardens to explore.
About five exhibitions are held at the site each year, as well as events in its grounds.
The site also has a library housing thousands of rare books. The library is only accessible by guided tour. The next tour dates are Saturday, March 26 from 11-11:45 a.m., Saturday, April 9 from 11-11:45 a.m., and Friday, April 22 from 11-11:45 a.m.
An independent registered charity, Ushaw depends on donations to help it run.
:: Annual passes for unlimited visits cost £19 for adults, £12.50 for children and under 5s are free. Alternatively, daily passes are available. There are also concessions for local postcodes. Ushaw is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the year.