The Harley Gallery in Worksop Nottinghamshire is part of the ongoing work of the Welbeck Estate. The gallery sits in a beautifully restored estate, which also houses a fabulous cafe, amazing farmshop that sells the cheapest raw milk I have found anywhere and a pretty decent garden centre.
The gallery itself includes several spaces, one for temporary exhibitions and the other housing the Portland Collection, a historic collection of fine and decorative art, as well as a well stocked gift shop, which has some beautiful, if pricy objects inside.
The gallery is one of the hidden gems in the Midlands. Considering the pedigree of some of the artists I have seem there and the quality of the permanent collection, very few people seem to know about it, even those working in museums in the West Midlands. This is especially sad because, unlike Chatsworth House which can require a second mortgage in entry fees, everything is free to access!
The second time I visited was to see the ‘Bricked’ exhibition; a creative endeavor created entirely out of lego. Little M, being 4, is totally crazy about the stuff, and so I thought it would be an opportunity to sneakily engage in some art with him, in a medium he would appreciate.
Brick Wonders was the second exhibition at Harley by artist Warren Elsmore. In it he recreates the seven wonders of the world entirely out of lego, as well as a diverse range of seventy other models with different technological, scientific and educational messages. My favourites were the quite gruesome operating theatre and hypodermic needle, which looked worryingly realistic, and the map of global fibre optic cabling that enables the internet we all rely on in the 21st Century. The breadth of content made for a brilliant starting point for many conversations with younger visitors about a whole host of topics.
The exhibition appeal was well considered, with a lego graffiti wall, together with a lego trail around the Portland Collection. The collection is breathtaking, with many pieces with significant cultural relevance, such as the earring worn by Charles I on the day of his execution. it spans a range of themes, such as horse paintings, miniatures, jewellery, books and household silver. Given this side of the gallery may have less appeal to kids, a lego trail extended around the space, with small lego figures located alongside different objects. This layered fun and engagement for children into what could be a wholly adult space and allowed the grownups a chance to explore without too much complaining.
We finished our trip with a visit to the Harley Cafe, located just across the square. The cafe’s food is excellent quality, with many items able to be made gluten free at short notice. The cafe is one of the most accommodating for guests with food intolerances, as well as providing one of the widest GF choices I have found in the midlands.
For anyone visiting the East Midlands who is taking a look at Chatsworth, I urge you to make the short hop across Derbyshire and check out the Welbeck Estate’s Harley Gallery as another must see!