The Collection

The Collection in Lincoln was formed from an amalgamation of the Usher Gallery and the City and County Museum, physically by adding an extension to the Usher Gallery to house the museum exhibits that were formerly housed in the museum in the town centre adjoining the Central Library.

The Usher Gallery, as was, is an imposing building set in its own grounds, part way up Lindum Hill, leading up from the town centre.

The Usher Gallery was founded and named after James Usher, a local jeweler and collector to house his vast collection of ceramics, watches, clocks, coins, silver and miniatures as well as paintings.

The Usher Gallery was designed by the architect, Sir Reginald Blomfield and was officially opened on the 25 May 1927 by the Prince of Wales. It is a basically simple building faced in stone with brick panels separated by simplified Tuscan pilasters above which is a frieze decorated with triglyphs and a roof line finished with a balustrade. The portico, central in the south façade, is topped by a broken pediment and urn finials. It stands in a small park on the hillside looking southwards across the lower part of Lincoln.

The extension, designed by the architectural firm of Panter Hudspith (project architect, Hugh Strange), was opened in October 2005 after much hard work including an archaeological excavation. Despite the extension having been designed to rest above the Roman horizon, at the foot of the pit for the lift shaft, it just found the corner of a mosaic-paved passage which had been laid around a courtyard.

Much of the building is faced and paved with Ancaster stone and takes the concept of the glass-covered courtyard from the British Museum in a feature reminiscent of a medieval alley. A similar concept can be seen in the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea in South Wales.

This exemplifies the design. The various requirements of the extension, permanent display, temporary exhibitions, teaching, café and so on, are represented by corresponding elements of the building which give it, internally and externally, the feeling of an urban community, though the whole is one.

The main entrance is at the northern, uphill end and leads past, to the left, the café which faces south across a sculpturally interesting courtyard and to the right, the shop. Passing the reception desk leads to the orientation hall which is the glass-covered 'alley' passing east to west. From it, the visitor reaches auditorium where video or personal introductions to the museum or to education courses may be given; the education suite; the archaeological collection or the New Curtois Gallery, where touring exhibitions are housed. Below these last two, at the downhill end of the building, are the stores and workshops which service the whole.

The building, making use as it does of open space, is to say the least, impressive.

The sample of mosaic, exposed by the pre-construction archaeological excavation is now on view inside as part of a display extending through all periods from the pre-glacial. It includes a satellite photograph of the county of Lincolnshire on a scale which permits fields and villages to be sought out while the picture's extent allows a general pattern of geology and the influence of the Roman roads to show through.

The Usher Gallery houses the long-established displays which include furniture, clocks and other forms of the decorative arts, from James Usher's collection. There is a range of fine art works by Turner, Piper and Lowry. The gallery's specialism is in the works of Peter de Wint, a former Lincoln resident. Four galleries of various sizes are set aside for temporary exhibitions.

The finds from the recent excavation of a Bronze Age settlement on the banks of the River Witham near Washingborough, just outside Lincoln, are housed in The Collection.

Lincolnshire ~ Lincoln
(c) Keith Parkins 2008 -- January 2008 rev 1