Shipley Art Gallery and Gateshead Library

It’s fair to say I haven’t been to Shipley in well over three decades, so I decided a visit was long overdue and persuaded my friend S to take a drive over there – and both of us were very glad we went.

The gallery is just over 100 years old and houses the extensive collection bequeathed by local solicitor Joseph Shipley, as well as having a (more recently developed) focus on British crafts and ceramics. (You can read about it here.) Housed in a beautiful old building, it’s a delight of a place, with enough to see that it’s worth the trip, but not so much that you need to spend hours trailing around it. It’s very child friendly – there was a massive school trip in when we were there (being impressively well-behaved) – and there are spaces laid out clearly for kids to get involved. There’s a cute little gift shop, and some of the pieces on display are well-known or have strong ties to the region, including a maquette for The Angel of the North and William Irving’s The Blaydon Races. The staff were also super friendly and helpful.

S

ince we were in the neighbourhood, we decided to pop into the library – a similarly aged building just down the road – and discovered just what a library should be. A sympathetic update means the outside retains its aged beauty but inside is modern, bright, airy and well-laid out. The library is well stocked for books (including graphic novels, yay!) and has a great children’s section, but also is clearly a thriving research hub and host to a gallery (unfortunately they were setting up a show, so we couldn’t see inside), as well as having a lovely shop and nice cafe. I’d sort of expected a sad little ghost building – if the government is to be believed, no one uses libraries anymore – but this was bustling, and we had a lot of nerdy fun looking at old maps (including an interactive section, where I had fun checking out what my neighbourhood used to look like).

Both of these are gems that I admit I had sort of forgotten existed – both are definitely worth checking out.

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