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Uncertain future for Preston’s Church Street mural

Posted on - 20th September, 2023 - 12:06pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
Shawn Sharpe's mural Mother takes pride of place on Church Street. Pic Lisa Brown
Shawn Sharpe’s mural Mother takes pride of place on Church Street. Pic Lisa Brown

A huge mural that has worked its way into Prestonians’ hearts in just the few weeks since its appearance in the city centre did not have planning permission when it was painted – meaning that its fate now lies in the hands of town hall officials.

The striking artwork, depicting a woman cradling a lamb, looks out across Preston Minister from its home on the side of Hogarths gin bar on Church Street.

The 10 metre by five metre piece was created over the course of five painstaking days of work by professional artist Shawn Sharpe in July.

Read more: Meeting Shawn Sharpe, the artist behind Church Street’s striking Preston mural

However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) can reveal that an oversight on behalf of pub company Amber Taverns, which owns Hogarths, meant that planning approval had not been sought before the mural began to take shape on the previously blank canvass.

The Blackpool-based firm has now lodged an application with Preston City Council in the hope of being granted retrospective approval for the piece, which was inspired by – and incorporates elements of – Preston’s crest.

When it was first completed, the image was greeted with the kind of unanimous online support that usually eludes all subjects discussed on social media. After being posted on the Preston Past and Present page on Facebook, the mural attracted more than 3,100 likes – and not a single show of dissent.

Local photographer Scrappy NW photographed the mural by drone. Pic Scrappy NW
Local photographer Scrappy NW photographed the mural by drone. Pic Scrappy NW

“Exquisite”, “stunning” and “incredible” were amongst the glowing descriptions bestowed upon the work – and the Facebook group’s administrators declared it “the most popular post we’ve ever had”.

The Hogarths building dates back to the early 1890s and is Grade II-listed – so strict planning rules apply to it. The potential impact of the mural on other nearby heritage assets – like the Minister itself, which is Grade II*-listed – may also be taken into account.

In a statement submitted with the delayed application, Amber Taverns argues that the mural adds to “the local and history and culture” of the city, with its use of the lamb of St. Wilfrid – the city’s patron saint.

Read more: Hand-painted mural revisiting Preston’s rich textiles history set to adorn The Harris hoardings

In an online post after finishing the mural, Shawn Sharpe said that it was intended to represent “someone to watch over our city and her lambs”.

He added: “I wanted to create a piece for the people of Preston, something that you can all take ownership of and feel proud of when talking about our city – Proud Preston.”

The “PP” on the city shield – which also features in the artwork – stands for “Princeps Pacis”, meaning “Prince of Peace”, another title for Jesus Christ. However, it is often deliberately interpreted as the “Proud Preston” moniker.

Preston mural by Shawn Sharper in Church Street Pic: Blog Preston
Preston mural by Shawn Sharper in Church Street Pic: Blog Preston

Speaking to the LDRS, Gary Roberts, operations director for Amber Taverns, explained the firm’s planning error.

“In my eagerness to secure the mural, I missed the detail in the listing regarding the side rendered wall [as a feature].

“But I am sure [people] appreciate the Mother mural is awesome

“Hopefully, the application will be granted – and Mother will be a feature of the Preston landscape for years to come,” Mr. Roberts added.

Shawn Sharpe was approached for comment by the LDRS.

Read more: Pictures from the Encounter Festival 2023 across the city centre

Have your say on mural’s future

Anybody wishing to comment on the planning application for permission to retain the mural should contact Preston City Council, by 7th October, by emailing devcon@preston.gov.uk and quoting reference number 06/2023/1004, or writing to Development and Housing Directorate. Preston City Council, Town Hall, Lancaster Road, Preston, PR1 2RL.

Only relevant planning matters can be taken into account and details of how to frame comments in that context can be found on the Preston City Council website by searching the site for “commenting on planning applications”.

Read more: New look NatWest branch opens in city centre

Know your history

According to Historic England, the three-storey Hogarths building on which the Mother mural has been painted was originally a Conservative Working Men’s Club.

Its Grade II listing describes it as being of Jacobean style, with a first-floor balcony and two-storey octagonal corner oriel and moulded cornice.

The foundation stone was laid by Edmund Birley Esq., JP, on 17th December, 1892, and the club was opened by the Marquis of Salisbury KG on 17th October, 1893.

Preston Conservative Working Men’s Club originated – along with other organisations promoted among Protestant working men of the time – to advance the political interests of the local landlord and property developer, Sir W.E.M.Tomlinson MP. It was in opposition to middle-class Conservative leaders who founded Guildhall Street Conservative Club at Guildhall House.

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