The gallery opened in 1939 with much of the initial funding from the gallery coming from two bequests one from Robert Chipperfield and another from Frederick William Smith. The gallery was damaged during World War 2 and repairing this damaged delayed its reopening until 1946.

The gallery’s art collection covers six centuries of European art history, with over 5,300 works. It is housed in an example of 1930s municipal architecture. The gallery holds a Designated Collection, considered of national importance.

Art gallery library and records

We maintain history files relating to all artists whose works are in the permanent collection as well as a small library containing related monographs, publications and exhibition catalogues. These records are made accessible to the general public through a supervised appointment scheme and are also accessible to staff and freelance workers involved in the interpretation of the collection. For more information please send an email to or telephone 023 8083 4563.

Slide library

We have a slide library containing some 20,000 images. Slides cover all types and styles of art of all periods and includes slides of works in the permanent collection. The slides can be borrowed by members of the public for renewable one month periods free of charge. The service is run on an appointment only basis by a volunteer. For more information please send an email to or telephone 023 8083 4563.

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