Here to help
Newsletter Signup

The Ashington Group (Pitmen Painters)

permanent Exhibition

Be like Robson Green in the ITV Perspectives documentary and discover the artwork of a remarkable group of men - The Pitmen Painters.

Only at Woodhorn you can see the stunning Ashington Group Collection of work. This unique collection of more than 80 paintings was compiled by the original members of The Group themselves over many years. They felt the paintings represented the very best of their work.

The Group largely made up of coal miners (or pitmen as they are known), first came together in 1934 through the Workers Education Association to study 'something different' - art appreciation. In an effort to understand what it was all about, their tutor Robert Lyon encouraged them to learn by doing it themselves.

What they produced was fascinating and if a picture paints a thousand words, these pitmen's paintings speak more eloquently than any photograph. They captured every aspect of life in and around their mining community, above and below ground, from the scenes around the kitchen table and in the allotment to the dangerous and dirty world of the coal face.

1989.17.75_whippets_200This amazing story of The Ashington Group inspired the wonderful play by Billy Elliot writer, Lee Hall. "Pitmen Painters" has received rave reviews for sell-out performances in the North East and the National Theatre in London. In September 2010, New York audiences too were enthralled by the story when it opened on Broadway! Since then the play has run in the West End of London and has enjoyed a second national tour of the UK and there ahve been performances around the world including the US and New Zealand. (If you are interested in performing the play find out more here.)

Today the Ashington Group is acclaimed worldwide, yet back in the 1930s none of them would have dreamed that a few evening classes would bring them such fame and international attention.

The Ashington Group Collection is on permanent display in a dedicated gallery with the support of the Ashington Group Trustees.

Why not take a look at the Ashington Group's own website:, which also includes information on a bursary scheme being offered by the Ashington Group Trustees, to eligible applicants in the Wansbeck area who are embarking on a course of study in the visual arts at a UK Higher Education institution. For the full criteria, and details of the application process, please click on the following link: Ashington Group Trustees Bursaries.

Books, Prints and Posters

1989.17.12_progging_the_mat_142If you have been inspired by the play, book or even the artworks themselves and would like your own copy, a selection of Ashington Group Collection posters, postcards and books are available to purchase online through the Woodhorn shop as well as products inspired by the Ashington Group and collections held by Woodhorn Museum.

If you would like to read more about the Ashington Group you might like to purchase a copy of the original Pitmen Painters book by William Feaver, the Ashington Group Catalogue and the My Life as a Pitman catalogue which are all available from the Woodhorn online shop or contact us on or 01670 624466 for alternative ways to order.

If you'd be interested in guided tours (for group visits) of the main Ashington Group Collection plus other paintings that aren't available to the general public including Oliver Kilbourn's My Life as a Pitman collection, please drop us a line.