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Doreen Fletcher’s Early Paintings

June 8, 2020
by the gentle author

Readers are familiar with Doreen Fletcher‘s paintings of the East End that were published in a monograph by Spitalfields Life Books and exhibited with such success at the Nunnery Gallery last year. Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a selection of her early paintings which originate from the Potteries where Doreen grew up. These pictures comprise a significant body of work, painted by Doreen in her teens and early twenties, which have never been see together before publicly.

Salvation Army Building, 1970 (Courtesy of Brampton Museum)

Brook St, 1975

“This was the very first urban oil painting I ever did. I was inspired by the fact that each time I returned to visit my parents, a little more of their environment had disappeared and I felt an urgent need to record what remained. I little realised at the time I had found both a subject and a content that would last a lifetime.”

Bungalow in Summertime, 1976

“When I painted this, I had already lived in London for two years with my boyfriend, an art student at Wimbledon. During the summers we decamped to our hometown of Newcastle-under-Lyme on his motorbike which I loved riding pillion. On summer evenings, we drove around the countryside, stopping for a drink at a country inn and savouring the contrast between our new, busy lifestyles in London and the peaceful country lanes we travelled.

One evening, I was taken aback to see a suburban bungalow in the middle of a field. It looked completely out of place and reminded me of the house where my great uncle lived in which the heavy oak furniture seemed out of scale in the small rooms. Due to this I had developed a prejudice against what I saw as ‘bungalow culture.’”

House in Whitfield Ave, 1977

“The house where I grew up was declared not fit for human habitation in 1974. My parents were happy to move into a council property they were offered across the road from this one. There was a huge garden with two greenhouses where my dad grew vegetables in regimented rows, with tomatoes and chrysanthemums. He was delighted, but my mother was lonely and missed the intimacy of the cramped streets with a shop on every corner near the town centre.”

The Albert, Liverpool Rd, 1977

Takeaway Chip Shop, 1979

“This is typical of chip shops dotted all over Newcastle and the Potteries where long queues would form at tea-time and again after the pubs had closed.”

Black & Yellow Door, 1980

“Notice the foot scraper that all terraced houses had in those days, for knocking off the clay from clogs and later Wellingtons. The bright colours of the paintwork were trendy in the early-mid seventies, as opposed to the dull browns, navy blues and maroons favoured in the fifties and sixties.”

Beats Grocers, 1980 (Courtesy Potteries Museum & Art Gallery)

Finesse Hair Salon, 1980

“Hairdressers such as this abounded in the sixties and many remain today. My mum went every Friday to have her hair ‘set’ and, twice a year, she subjected herself to the torture of strong-smelling perm lotion, with her hair screwed in rollers, then baked under a hairdryer for a couple of hours. As a result, she did not have much left of her once luxurious hair by the time she was fifty. I grew up fearful of these hairdressers and, to this day, I delay a haircut as long as possible.”

House with Pylon, 1980

Gardeners’ Hut, Westlands, 1980

11 Whitfield Avenue

Red House in Talke, 1980

“When I went on the bus with my mum to visit my gran at Talke  during the school holidays, we passed this house somewhere around Talke Pitts and, even amongst the red brick of the Midlands, it struck me as very red indeed. I must have been eight or nine but the memory of it remained and, when I went in search of it fifteen years later, I was delighted to find it was still standing.”

Sheldon’s Hair Salon, Knutton, 1982

“It is my mother who is looking in the window of Sheldon’s hairdressers and dress shop. She went once a week to have her hair ‘set.’ At that time, she was ten years younger than I am now but considered herself old at fifty-five and dressed accordingly. When I was a child, we used to take a walk each Sunday afternoon to places such as Knutton, a former mining village on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Even in such a small place, a shop like Sheldon’s could support its proprietors.”

Chatwins Bakers, 1982

“I painted this ten years after I left Newcastle and five years after I first envisaged it. 

Chatwins Bakery was a family business, alive and thriving today, having expanded from fresh bread baked daily by John Chatwin and sold by horse and cart to twenty shops throughout Staffordshire, Cheshire and North Wales.”

Wrights Grocers, 1982

“I painted this in the early eighties while I was living in Paddington but it recalls a corner shop in my hometown. In the background, a row of condemned houses awaits demolition and it is apparent the grocery store is not long for this world either. The goods it contains are typical of what was on offer in any small shop across the country.”

Church in Brampton, 1982

“Although I was sent to a strict Church of England Primary School, I have been a non-believer since the age of five and a committed atheist since I was twelve. In spite of this, the Methodist, puritanical blood runs deep in my veins and I have never been attracted to Baroque architecture preferring the severe Victorian architectural styles of Newcastle and Stoke.”

View from Clayton Fields, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 1985 (Courtesy of Brampton Museum)

“This was a commission from Newcastle Borough Council. I was asked to removed the green and white stripes on the side of one of the buildings in the distance because the Chief Executive considered them an eyesore.”

Tiffany Dance Hall, 1979

Tiffany’s at Night, 1988

“Tiffany’s in the early seventies was the centre of the universe. I went there on Saturday afternoons with my friend Janet and later we graduated to Wednesday evenings from 7pm-10pm. It was the only time in my life that I visited a Dance Hall, they have never interested me since”

Winter in the Park, 1989

“This is the sister painting to the ‘Gardeners’ Hut’ but done many years later.”

Northern Stores, 1998

“Even in the sixties, the Northern Stores was an anachronism. It was a hardware shop I enjoyed visiting with my dad on Saturday mornings when he would buy something for his allotment, perhaps chicken feed or paraffin or a bag of nails for mending a fence. My pleasure at being out with him was heightened by the awareness that our next stop would be the art materials shop or the bookshop where he always spent more on me than he did on his own needs.”

Paintings copyright © Doreen Fletcher

You may also like to take a look at

Doreen Fletcher’s East End

Doreen Fletcher in her own words




23 Responses leave one →
  1. Jane Jones permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Doreen Fletcher’s story is as beautiful as her paintings. She has recorded a past many might have forgotten, but which reminds me of a world I once inhabited.

  2. Molly Porter permalink
    June 8, 2020

    It is a joy to see more work by Doreen Fletcher – thank you for the pleasure. Her early work is already so accomplished, immediately distinctive and greatly appealing.

  3. Libby Hall permalink
    June 8, 2020


  4. June 8, 2020

    I really enjoyed seeing this work. A real sense of the north. Beautiful paintings and so good to see how you became totally obsessed with documenting change and how sad that can sometimes feel.

  5. Ron Wilkinson permalink
    June 8, 2020

    I love the way she paints the surfaces of the buildings, the brick or the upper storey on the Whitfield house which looks like a pebble surfaced stucco. Nice paintings.
    Ron from San Diego CA

  6. June 8, 2020

    A wonderful body of work, thank you for sharing more of Doreen’s glorious paintings with us all.
    Her dad’s Saturday morning expenditure in the art shop certainly paid off!

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    June 8, 2020

    I very much enjoyed looking at Doreen’s paintings. I like to look carefully at them and see all the detail and imagine what is going on. Thank you GA.

  8. Lucy H permalink
    June 8, 2020

    These painting just ‘sing’!
    I grew up in Newcastle-under Lyme too and I absolutely LOVE these.
    Those not in collections… where are they? Are they for sale?
    May we have another book of these early works? 🙂

  9. Peter permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Is there enough work for another book?

  10. Christopher permalink
    June 8, 2020

    I think Dorreen’s paintings are absolutely fabulous, and many of the views I know from my journeys around the East End in my younger days. Another book of her unpublished ones would be great. I already have ‘Doreen Fletcher Paints’

  11. June 8, 2020

    I second that – another book, please.
    These are very special, thanks again for sharing.

  12. Jane W permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Wonderful paintings, and I hope they can be exhibited with strong publicity in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery or the Brampton at some point. I’m sure I’m not the only person from the Potteries who would love to see them ‘for real’.

  13. Nicholas Borden permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Nice paintings

  14. Eric Forward permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Love these – especially Chatwins Bakers – and highly recommend the book.

  15. David Johnson permalink
    June 8, 2020

    I used to live in Newcastle-under-Lyme in the early 1970s and these wonderful paintings are very evocative of the town then.

  16. Steve Beckett permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Not that long ago but a world away from shops & streets now!

  17. June 8, 2020

    Thank you GA and thank you Doreen! I grew up in the industrial Midlands in the 60s/70s and they certainly speak to me.

    The quiet atmosphere of these paintings notwithstanding, there so much technical skill too; I was very struck by the reflection of the buildings opposite in the shiny black surround of the hairdressers windows.

    A joy on this Monday morning.

  18. Patsy Pankhurst permalink
    June 8, 2020

    Super paintings, a lovely trip down memory lane.

    Just one more comment – Sheldons Hairdressers & Shop was definitely situated in Silverdale and not Knutton.

  19. June 8, 2020

    Wonderful paintings by Doreen, who time and again elevates the commonplace to the extraordinary. One particular aspect that comes across in her notes is the necessary gap between first sighting her subject and committing paint to canvas – a ‘gestation period’ of sometimes many years. The vision must fully infuse and distil. The results, witnessed here, are lucid, shining and potent.

  20. June 8, 2020

    Ms. Fletcher has Such Lovely Paintings.?????

  21. John Campbell permalink
    June 8, 2020

    What a treat to see more of these great pictures. Thank you Doreen for your wonderful work.

  22. June 11, 2020

    Doreen’s talent just blows me away. I’ve tried to buy her books before, but sadly ‘sold out’. I just hope someone sees fit to reprint them at sometime. I can lose myself in her pictures and in my own memories of life as I grew up.

  23. Claire Mkinsi permalink
    June 16, 2020

    These paintings seem simultaneously to be both realistic and poetic. What longing they stirred in me for the lost city scapes of my home city, Stoke-on-Trent. Doreen has taken something I always assumed was depressing and mundane, and transformed them into something beautiful, poignant and precious. The colours are somehow intense and all these paintings have helped to remind me that there is beauty in the ordinary.

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