The First Gallery

Bitterne, Southampton, UK

1 Burnham Chase
Southampton SO18 5DG.
Tel. (+44) (0)23 80 462723.

Director Hilda Margery Clarke BA (Hons), FRSA.
Member of TEG.

E-mail (please follow link)

Street map

to enable you to find the First gallery.

The First Gallery is also a private house in Bitterne, where the Clarke family have for many years provided a venue for good but often little-known artists and craftspeople to show and sell their wares. They also have an important rôle in promoting the work of a previous generation of local artists and in keeping their memories alive. Leo Stable, the founder of the John Hansard Gallery on Southampton University Campus was an associate, and the City Art Gallery maintains close links. Lots of people have never heard of The First Gallery (part of an ordinary suburban house); many others have made a mental note to come and have a look. Do feel free to ring for directions. While we are tucked away, we're well worth finding!

2001 Programme

NEWSLETTER - Spring 2001

When The First Gallery came into being our idea was for a sort of "homing-in" place to support professional living artists and potters. We were inspired by Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (Jim Ede's famous cottage home which he opened hospitably every afternoon for tea and conversation amongst his treasures). Anyone who has been there will remember its harmonious atmosphere. Though he has long gone, the loving care Jim Ede put into the making of his home, the delight in his contemporaries' pictures, sculptures and lovely objects surrounding him and his wish to share it with others, still creates the feel of the place. Not so presumptuous as to try to copy him, we took with us a "seedling" from his generosity of sharing, which had so profoundly impressed us.

That tiny plant has blossomed into The First Gallery, undoubtedly a success, and developing way beyond what we envisaged thirty years ago. Some things have changed but not the open-hearted welcome. We now include all manner of crafts and have extended the 'living' artists to include some no longer alive but with whom we have associations, such as Eric Meadus. There has to be a personal element in whatever we do, not a closed circle but an open door for whoever is interested. We see no reason for keeping art separate from the everyday. The ethos of our thinking is to show the work of people we believe in and care about in an enjoyable setting. (That does not imply anything about those we have not shown: only that space and time constrain us).

Apart from such practical restrictions, we are free to do as we like. As if to prove it, although we hope it is patently obvious that we had no personal contact with Queen Victoria (!), we are joining in the centenary commemorations of her death with our May exhibition of Victoriana. We hasten to add that this is a one-off for fun and we are not moving into the antiques / collectables market.

Coming up in our programme are three commemoratives too important to overlook. This autumn, we'll be holding a 70th BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE TO ERIC MEADUS. 2003 is RICHARD EURICH's birth centenary: in March there will be an exhibition of paintings and drawings. It will also be 150 years since the birth of ARTHUR MATTINSON, the architect behind Blackpool Tower and an accomplished water-colourist, so we're marking that anniversary in the autumn (see Architect at Leisure). These 'historical' exhibitions are a coincidence: having the necessary personal connections, they are a salute to those we have known.

We began with living makers and are still committed to them. one of these is the sculptor, ALLAN BENNETT, whose work many of you will have seen last year in the inaugural show of The Secref Sculpture Garden, our latest extension. Doubtless his Gardener's Nightmare (the large red insect constructed from farming implements) will have stuck in the mind. He is busy now preparing his own brand of serio-comic visual jokes specially for his one-man show here at the end of June. His seemingly light-hearted approach should not fool us: there are pertinent underlying layers not immediately apparent. We don't have to be solemn to be serious (Picasso)

So we go on planning. I aim to live to be 100 to fulfil all our ideas so what are you folks scheming to do about that centenary? Arsenic, perhaps...? or coming to support us as usual, we hope.

See you

P.S. almost forgot to mention my own retrospective exhibition at Ramsgate Library Gallery in August. More details nearer the time.


Robert Race, March 10-17 2001

Keep Moving!

Robert's usual inimitable collection of hand-worked automata

How They Were Amused

an Exhibition of Victorian objects and achievments to celebrate the reign of VICTORIA in the centenary year of her death

Saturday 12 May - Saturday 19 May 2001

2-7 daily and by appointment

Come and listen to the polyphons, peep into the stereoscopes, browse amongst the books, photographs, watercolours, drawings, prints, ephemera, clocks, ceramics, needlework, jewellery, phonograph with wax cylinders, horn gramophone and records.

Some exhibits for sale.


Re-fabricated Outdoor Sculpture by Allan Bennett

Sats, Suns 23, 24 June and 30 June, 1 July 2001 10.30-4.30 (weekdays by appointment only)

Private View Friday 22 June 6-9.30pm

(PV may be postponed a week if inclement, tel 80 462723); come by 8pm for a puzzle-trail relating to the exhibits with prizes and stay after 9.15pm or later for illuminations. Allan's raw materials are the 'detritus of our production-line world' - you may have seen his 'Gardeners Nightmare' (right) made from old sickle and fork-blades in the last Summer Show - a new version of it will be in this one.

Given a second chance of 'life', the detritus is wittily juxtaposed, welded, twisted and recoloured into quirky, desirable sculptures. In so doing, Bennett twists and recolours the meanings once associated with the original objects. Bennett's nonchalant humour belies the subversive undertows lurking beneath. SECOND VISION repays a second viewing.

Some parts of the previous 'Victoriana' exhibition How They Were Amused will also be on display in the House.

There was a

Margery Clarke Retrospective

at Ramsgate 4 August - 1 September 2001

Note new opening arrangements: 1st week 2-7pm, 2nd by appointment


The First Gallery's 70th Anniversary Eric Meadus Exhibition
29 September-13 October 2001

A 70th anniversary informal look back at the work of this major local artist at the First Gallery. The son of a tram driver, Meadus lived in the same council house in Swaythling almost all his life. The exhibition is not a formal retrospective as such since room has to be left for a follow up from the big collections eg. Southampton City Art Gallery, Winchester CC, Brighton, Cork, but the exhibition charts his progress ranging from the early work (some previously unshown) to his late masterpieces. By the time of Meadus' untimely death he was producing from his own unique vision powerful images which drew attention, not only locally, but from London (RA. & Cork St.) and Paris (La Revue Moderne) and this educational exhibition explores not only that vision but through it the history of modern art. The Gallery worked with Tudor House Museum on an Eric Meadus exhibition running from April until early October 1999 and this sequel at The First Gallery itself will be open 29 September-13 October, 2-7pm daily including Sundays up to 7 October, thereafter or at other times please ring first 80 462723 with an Open Morning on Sunday 14 October 11am-2pm.

More about Eric Meadus on the
Meadus Anniversary Exhibition Leaflet
Meadus Biography Page
and the
English Francophile Touring Exhibition Page

Christmas Show 10-24 November 2001

Daily 2-7pm until Sunday 18, thereafter or at other times by telephoning in advance.

Private View Friday 9 November 6-9pm
Open Morning Sunday 25 November 11am-2pm

Even during the season of tight budgets, The First Gallery makes no concession to the quality of what we show. Throughout the year, we're on the lookout for well-made, unusual things that won't cost you the earth. Deliberately, our lowest price is below £1 and there's a good choice of items between £10 and £40.

Ceramics by our stalwarts Clive Bowen, Lotte Glob, John Maltby and Sarah Perry and automata by Peter Markey and Robert Race rub shoulders with stained glass by Mel Howse, Margery's own delightful soft toys (and talented paintings) and items by other less familiar names, some of which are sourced only weeks before the show.

Please note our new pattern of opening-times: first week as before, but now by appointment during the second week (or at any other time outside set hours).

Sarah Perry Pots

For additional thoughts on the history of the Gallery

The First ... 25 Years

Home Page and Current Programme

Street map

to enable you to find the First gallery.

Web design © Wessex Antithesis 2004.