Painting the town in an amazing new light

This summer, an art exhibition is capturing the essence of King’s Lynn’s past and bringing it into the present in a wonderfully vibrant way

"Familiar but different” is range of mediums and chose to use how Alan Castleton likes to acrylic gouache for this collection. summarise his collection of 21 I’m not especially familiar with it but delightful paintings, which will I felt it would achieve the colour be showcased at True’s Yard and depth I needed.” Fisherfolk Museum throughout July and The exhibition is a fascinating August.

The passionate local creative has taken inspiration from a selection of charming black and white photographs of favourite landmarks and scenes of the town from yesteryear, using his incredible skills to recreate them in colour.

“Each picture has a story to tell and I hope I’ve been able to make them more relatable, especially to the younger generation,” says Alan. “I work in a wide concept, presenting time-honoured views of the old town in a new light and exquisite detail. We see the Tuesday and Saturday Market Places in their heyday, packed with people and stalls, the quayside buzzing as ships unload their cargoes and a flock of sheep being herded in front of the striking London Road library on the way to market around the turn of the century.

There are poignant views of townscapes long gone, demolished by the bulldozers but never forgotten; the old Millfleet, the North End, The Mart in its full fairground glory. Stunning works show Tower Gardens in the 1960s, heritage buildings such as Greenland Fishery and locals going about their daily lives. A charming piece which will resonate with many depicts North End shopkeeper Harry Southgate outside his corner shop, the supermarket of the day in the mid-20th century.

PICTURES: Alan’s painting showing sheep being herded past King’s Lynn Library around the turn of the century (above). Another painting by Alan depicts well-known North End retailer Harry Southgate outside his shop on the corner of St Ann’s Street (below).

Who could fail to be enthralled by seeing the original Fisher Fleet and the Purfleet in the days when it was a working waterfront?

“Some people
will remember these scenes of the past, so there will be a touch of nostalgia for many viewers,” Alan continues. “Hopefully they will also spark interest from the younger generation”.

The way that Alan’s affection for the town shines through in every painting is not surprising as he is a true North Ender. He spent his early years within a stone’s throw of True’s Yard so this is something of a homecoming and it’s fantastic his work is being displayed there.

When the North Lynn fishing community was effectively wiped out
in the 1960s and 70s, True’s Yard was largely derelict. Alan’s grandfather, Frank Castleton, was the first chairman of a committee who set out to save the last bastion of the North End and create a valuable resource for the town.

“I was born in King’s Lynn in 1951 to a well-known North End fishing family, so life as a fisherman seemed my likely destiny,” says Alan. “However, my grandmother was adamant that wasn’t going to happen and I moved away in my late teens. I spent the following 33 years living and working in north Essex, mostly in business management, before returning to West Norfolk over 20 years ago for a quieter life.”

Alan had always painted and found he could now devote more time to it, with his tranquil garden studio serving as the perfect place to experiment with many different mediums - from oils and pastels to graphite and printmaking.

Having worked with the local historians Dr Paul Richards and Alison Gifford on a book entitled ‘King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, History and Landscapes,’ Alan was invited to select and help organise the annual summer exhibition at True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum.

“As it happens, I’d started a project of my own some months before,” Alan explains. “I’d posted some examples on social media and was astonished by the feedback, so I offered the committee the option of basing the whole 2024 exhibition on this theme.”

“When I set to work last September, I had no idea my last great project might be doomed to failure before it began,” he continues. “I had completed about five paintings when I was struck down with a rare neurological disease. Suddenly, in the space of a week, I could hardly see, swallow, speak or even hold a paintbrush for more than half an hour at a time.”

Always one for a challenge and determined not to give up, Alan adapted and changed the way he worked.

“I was sometimes painting with just one eye open, whatever it took,” he adds. “It helped me to focus on something other than my illness and to stay positive.”

Happily, Alan learned that while his condition is incurable, it is treatable and he was delighted to complete his final painting on 1st May 2024.

It was wonderful, not just for Alan who had overcome his challenge, but also for True’s Yard to have another special summer showcase and for visitors to enjoy viewing historic Lynn in a new dimension.

‘Nostalgia...King’s Lynn Through Time’ is open from July 6th until August 31st at True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum. A truly captivating collection created with passion and perseverance, it’s not to be missed!

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