The gallery in The Storey in Lancaster is one of the best exhibition spaces in the north west of England. It provides the only opportunity in the local area to present large-scale artworks and installations, and is admired by artists and curators from across the UK. It is a splendid and spacious Victorian gallery with excellent natural light and is one of the city’s most notable examples of architectural and cultural heritage. The gallery is located in the Storey Institute, a Grade II listed, 19th century building which is a landmark in the centre of Lancaster, next to the castle.
The building underwent a £3.4 million refurbishment in 2007-09, funded by ERDF, Arts Council England, and NWDA, to house the Storey Creative Industries Centre, and to become The Storey.
The Storey Institute was built over 100 years ago by Sir Thomas Storey, a local industrialist, for the educational and cultural benefit of the people of Lancaster. Initially it housed the City Art Gallery, the Public Library, and the Girls’ Grammar School, while from the 1950s until 1982 it was Lancaster College of Art. The building is a major landmark in the centre of the city, next to the castle, and retains much of its Victorian character, with a rare marble statue of Victoria and Albert in the Gallery.
The opening exhibition in 1889 included works by Gainsborough, Constable, and Canaletto. In the 1960s there were occasional exhibitions, including an Arts Council touring show of Picasso and Matisse, and another with works by Francis Bacon, but by the late 1970s and early 80s the gallery was rarely used. However, starting in 1991, a group of Lancaster-based artists re-established use of the gallery, and mounted temporary exhibitions of contemporary visual art and craft, together with related educational activities for schools, colleges and adults.
Adjoining the gallery is a large walled garden which had also been neglected for many years. In 1998 Storey Gallery succeeded in attracting Tate Liverpool and the Henry Moore Trust to fund the creation of a permanent environmental artwork,The Tasting Garden, by Mark Dion, as part of artranspennine98. This international status ‘art garden’ is an important cultural asset for Lancaster and the region.
The Storey Gallery organisation operated in this splendid gallery space for 21 years from 1991 to 2012, but it is not using it any longer.