Spennymoor Town Hall Art Gallery is named after the late Bob Abley. A retired secondary school teacher, Bob took on the role of voluntary curator when the gallery opened. He immediately focused on bringing together local artists to display their work. The first exhibition he curated in June 2011, celebrated Spennymoor’s art heritage arising from the Settlement Sketching Club started in 1931. All the main artists associated with the Settlement were represented – Bert Dees, Bob Heslop, Jack Roach, Norman Cornish, Jack Green and Tom McGuiness. The exhibition created a great deal of local interest and, as a result, Bob Abley managed to recruit several volunteers to help in the gallery,
Councillor Clive Maddison, George Teasdale, Bob Abley and Councillor Jim Smith were the original champions of the art gallery and were instrumental in it coming about in 2011. In 2013 one of the rooms within the gallery was named after Councillor Jim Smith, who sadly died in the autumn of 2012, in honour and recognition of his contribution.
In June and July 2013, the then Settlement Art Group exhibited their work. Their work was were placed alongside a retrospective exhibition of the art of Bob Heslop and Tom Alderson, who both worked together at the Settlement in the 1950’s. This coincided with Bob Heslop’s family donating much of the artist’s unsold work to the gallery.
In 2014, the then Committee Room in the gallery was named after Robert Heslop and an exhibition entitled ‘A Putter’s Art’ was opened by the artist’s son and daughter. By that time, Bob Abley had been forced by ill-health to retire from his role as gallery curator and the Town Council generously agreed to name the gallery The Bob Abley Gallery at Spennymoor Town Hall.
Bob died in June 2014 in the middle of planning an exhibition which combined his love of history and art with his love of his hometown. The Spennymoor’s Great War exhibition in August [marking the centenary of the start of World War One] was completed by his colleagues. It was seen by many of those who visited it as a memorial to Bob as well as to those who suffered in the war and its aftermath.
Since then, the Town Council have taken on the management of the Bob Abley Art Gallery which has grown both in size, as well as in reputation, now open seven days a week it has become one of the largest and busiest Art Galleries in the North East of England.
With visitors, art buyers, and art investors now traveling from around the world to see both local as well as internationally renowned artists selling their work. It has very quickly become the destination of choice for all those who love to view, buy, and invest in art.