The History of Derby Sketching Club

During Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year of 1887, a group of enthusiastic and talented young men held a meeting at the County Hotel in Derby. William Swindell, F. Booty, A.J. Keene, George Thompson, Charles Terry and Frank Timms aimed to provide a place where they and others could work and share their interest in painting and sketching – a place to share their art. An annual subscription of 2 shillings and 6 pence was set and, with an entrance fee of 5 shillings for new members, the Derby Sketching Club was founded.


The Club’s first Art Exhibition was held in January 1889 at the Athenaeum Rooms and was followed by a Smoking Concert at the Royal Hotel. Most of the town’s dignitaries were invited and, according to the press reports of the day, a good time was had by all.


It was not long before other talented artists, Ernest Townsend, R. W. Bardill. Harold Gresley and J. P. Wale joined this Derby art club. Their works are much sought after by collectors today. The Derby Sketching Club thrived and work continued through both wars. In 1943 a magazine, The Palette, was published. This was particularly appreciated by men who were serving in His Majesty’s Forces as it kept them in touch with Club events.


It was during the 1940s that Alfred Goody gave his most valuable support to the art club. He amassed a fine collection of works by Derbyshire artists which recorded the life and landscape of the area throughout those years. The collection is now kept in Derby City Museum and Art Gallery.


Membership steadily increased and accommodation became a problem. Premises in Full Street, a studio above Adsott’s Taxidermists on London Road, the Castle Inn (all are now demolished) and 31, Market Place have all provided a home for the Sketching Club. In 1949 a film was made about the club which revealed how many members worked. The Club eventually moved into rooms in the Green Lane annexe of the university. In recent years a unit in Markeaton Craft Village provided space for artists to work and exhibit.


Derby Women’s Art Group was founded in 1922 and the two clubs ran quite separately until the early 1960s when the first suggestions of a merger were made. However, nothing came of this until 1995 when talks took place again. The merger finally followed in January 1996.


Derby Sketching Club met each Friday at 6.45 p.m. at the University of Derby’s Mickleover Campus until December 1977 when all meetings moved to Littleover Grange Hall Community Centre, the present venue. Here the members can work in a much larger space.