Hereford’s had its fair share of battles. Over eight centuries the City’s defences have fallen, been rebuilt, been fortified and concealed. In Norman times a castle was in evidence beyond the cathedral, which again fell, was rebuilt and now is either gone or it’s remains concealed under public park Castle Green. What does this have to do with the Old Mayor’s Parlour? Well, it has a fresco which is said to be of Hereford Castle, there is no signature and no date. It is proof that art has been a part of this listed building for centuries.
The room on the first floor has three bays, following the rake of the roof and the collars; the beams are plastered and have running foliage and other enrichments; the main posts have ribs forming geometrical designs and nature is represented with foliage-sprigs, leopards heads, and fleurs-de-lis. There is a panel with a shield of the arms of England.
Wooden timbers and uneven ceiling heights are a quirky back-drop of walls which are bathed in light from windows on three sides and ceiling spotlights which highlight both the work of exhibiting artists and the decorated white plaster ceiling. Renovations in 2014 included insulating the building which makes it cool in summer and with the wood-burner effect fire makes the space cosy in winter.
Out with the old and in with the new is not always best. It’s certainly not the ethos of the Church Street Charitable Trust who continue to devote time and funds to help Hereford retain the building’s heritage whilst embracing the needs and functions of the modern world.
There has been original art and craft on show and for sale in Church Street, Hereford since at least 1961, when one of the original trustees of the Trust, Mrs Christine Bulmer, MBE, helped found the Hereford Society of Craftsmen and offered them a shop to exhibit and sell their work. Mrs Bulmer went on to open two galleries in Church Street, including one at the Old Mayors Parlour, in August 1976 inaugurated by Lady Rennell, andMrs Bulmer’s appreciation of the arts saw her take an active role on the committees of the World Craft Federation and the Federation of British Craft Societies.
It seems very fitting that the opening exhibition for the re-launch of the gallery is “Seeds of Change”. There will be an artist in residence, naturalist Rob Parkin, who is starting a project to capture wildflowers in the UK and Mrs Bulmer was a great botanist and keen gardener, being a member of The National Trust, CPRE, TheNature Trust and the North Wales Naturalist Trust.
Gallery@OMP is keen over time to bring something new to the City; to expand it’s cultural experience. It’s offering a space to hire for contemporary artists to exhibit, steward and meet the public. Due to the evolution in the art world many artists, especially those working in rural spaces, often need to work in groups to make hiring and exhibiting in gallery spaces feasible. Crowd-funding has also helped many to have solo shows before they obtain national recognition and get taken on by an agency gallery. A visit to an exhibition at the Gallery@OMP will offer you a modern cultural experience in a historic building in one of the oldest parts of Hereford.