What was once a piggery is today the Bowridge Gallery, a beautifully bright and airy space that showcases original artwork and stunning furniture made by local makers, designers and artists who have a connection to the area.
The gallery, situated overlooking Gillingham on top of Bowridge Hill, is the brainchild of Jane and Nigel Heath who rent the 60-year-old piggery from Bowridge Hill Farm. ‘My background has been in furniture manufacturing for the last 28 years and is now in furniture finishing,’ says Nigel. ‘The original idea was to create a place for the furniture makers I finish for to have a space to show their work, as very few of them have their own showrooms.’
The idea blossomed into something more when they decided to use the walls as well. ‘I knew enough furniture makers to fill the gallery but we thought the walls might be a bit bare,’ he says. ‘We needn’t have worried, though, as there are many very good artists looking for places to show work.’
As both Nigel and Jane work full-time (Jane is a house matron at Kings School, Bruton), the renovation, which included putting in a new floor, adding windows and an entrance door plus fitting a small kitchen, was done in their spare time, taking four months to complete.
The gallery had its official opening last summer, and is still a relatively unknown gem in the Dorset countryside. It currently shows work from 30 furniture makers, artists and sculptors. ‘We have new work being shown every couple of weeks as we try to have a good turnaround to keep the it looking fresh,’ says Nigel.
The artworks on display are diverse, both in style and price, with artwork to suit all tastes and budgets. Enjoy Percy Lizzard’s fantastically simple birds as well as the stunningly passionate abstract surrealism of Fernando Velazquez (originally from Seville, now living in Sherborne); take in the intricacy of Elizabeth Hazelwood’s miniature paintings and the realism of Richard Horner’s Cornish water colour scenes and Caroline Le Bourgeois’s series of furled sail paintings. Jane, herself, is a keen amateur photographer who also does decoupage and some of her pieces are also for sale at the gallery.
Amazing furniture from exciting makers and designers are displayed in the 1300 square feet of floor space giving each piece room to be admired. There’s a timeless English Elm coffee table by Shaftesbury-based Hawkin’s Furniture and a stunning cherry and walnut dining set from Yeovil’s Gordon Hopkin Furniture; a single hand crafted olive ash chair by MGM furniture stands alone to show the craftsmanship presented in a tactile beautifully made piece of furniture. ‘These are pieces that will be appreciated for their quality for years to come,’ says Nigel.
The gallery also shows glass, metal and stonework by various talented makers and sculptors who have honed their skill after years of working with their particular media. A large chrysalis of Kilkenny limestone by Thomas Kenrick, or a classically shaped blue glass bowl by Sonja Klingler shows the depth of talent and artistry in the local area. ‘The Bowridge Gallery is the place to find locally made furniture and artwork that will stand up to anything shown in any gallery in the country,’ says Nigel. ‘It’s a place to buy someone special that present they weren’t expecting or, to buy yourself something to cherish.’
The Bowridge Gallery
Open noon-5pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Admission free. Visitors can enjoy a complimentary pot of tea or freshly ground coffee.
The Bowridge Gallery, Bowridge Hill, Gillingham, Dorset, SP8 5QS