Dudley Museum and Art Gallery obtains Grade II listed status

The DUDLEY Museum and Art Gallery has been listed Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The listing comes on the advice of Historic England and gives the historic red-brick building greater protection and recognition.

Owned by Dudley Council, the building was originally a free library, art gallery and art school when it opened in 1884.

The art school was very popular and in 1920, after a chance meeting at the art gallery with Ivo Shaw, headmaster of the Dudley Art School, the painter Percy Shakespeare (1906-1943) began his studies.

The school recognized his talent for figure drawing and portraiture and waived his fees.

Shakespeare, who lived in Kate’s Hill and was the fourth of eight children, went on to exhibit numerous times at the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon.

Tragically, he was killed in a bomb blast in Brighton in 1943, aged 37. His former mentor Ivo Shaw called him “the best oil painter the school has produced”.

In recent years there has been increased interest in his paintings.

In January 2022, a blue plaque was unveiled on the facade of the building commemorating his life and work.

The art school closed in 1966 and the building was then used only as a museum and gallery.

Its extensive geological collection inspired works of art, which were added to the old reading room windows in 1992. Etched geological images trace the history of evolution via various fossil references, including the famous Dudley Crinoid , as well as a quote from Salvador Dali: “the rocks of the imagination still remain”.

At the east corner of the building a set of meteorological instruments was added in 1927 – donated by James Smellie to commemorate his wife, Mayor of Dudley for 1925-26.

The museum eventually closed to the public in 2016 and its collections were moved to Dudley Archives and the local history centre.

Rachel Williams, Listing Advisor for Historic England, said: ‘Old Dudley Museum and Gallery is an impressive building of great architectural value. There are details and features in the surviving fabric, such as the Dudley Town coat of arms on the building and references to Dudley Castle in the stained glass windows, which tell the stories of social, artistic and scientific education in the town , and refer to places and traditions”.

Councilor Simon Phipps, Dudley Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Enterprise, said: ‘We are delighted to have yet another Grade II listing in the town centre. “Although the newly listed building is currently unoccupied, we are in exciting talks with third parties to have it repurposed and returned to active service.

“The building is also featured in our recently launched architectural heritage trail and an online tour behind the gates is available at www.dudleyheritageopendays.org.uk.”

Tim Bridges, conservation adviser at the Victorian Society who applied for the building to be listed, said the society was also “delighted” with the news and added: “As conservation adviser for the West Midlands, I am especially pleased that all of our good work has paid off and that the community of Dudley and surrounding areas will have a beautiful Victorian building to enjoy, in new ways, in the future for many generations to come.

Christopher S. Washington