The brief for ‘The Riverside Mission Room’ was to create a space inspired by the local history of Leeds dockyard, in and around the locality where Art Hostel resides; and the good works of the Riverside Mission Institute that reached out to the ‘bargees and vagrants’ of Victorian and Edwardian Leeds until the 1950’s.
The small building, known then as the Mission Hall, still stands today, on the wharfe at Warehouse Hill, and was originally used for services by St James Church and then the Parish Church. When the services were discontinued the mission was taken over by the Seamen and Boatmen’s Friend Society to ‘promote the social, moral, and religious welfare of the river and canal population of Leeds and District’.
Workers from the mission would visit boatmen and their families, and Sunday services were held in the Hall. The Institute had a reading room, billiard room, kitchen, wash house and courthouse. There was a Sunday School for the children and classes and meetings were held for the women during the week. The Riverside Mission offered access to education, clean space, emotional support and facilities for bargees and their families, and destitute and vagrant people in the city; creating essentially, a community hub.
Bespoke pattern designer Hannah Stacey was commissioned to design the interior of this room as her work with hand cut, collaged wallpapers fitted the brief particularly well, catching our eye and imagination.
The commission was offered on behalf of long-time arts supporters Mick Ward and Gill Crawshaw, who based their brief on their own personal connection with the Misson Hall where Mick’s mum, Olive, spent much of her childhood, and where she married his dad, Eric.
Hannah’s wallpaper tells a story through her collage… the black and white photographs used are original images of the dockyard community from Leeds City Archives (with many thanks to Ross Horsely). If you look you will find, a group of women – the bargees wives given jobs at the wash room, and a man from the billiard room. Inspired by motifs and patterns found in Leeds oldest pubs – The Adelphi and now Black Swan (previously The Mucky Duck)
Hannah has incorporated original tile work and woodwork designs from the same period, interweaving the design.
A running line repeats throughout the wallpaper representing the River Aire – that dock life was dependent upon and where Mission Hall was central to the community. Wildlife motifs, such as a toad, are inspired by the river bank.
The room, incorporates traditional elements – original parque flooring, a tiled fireplace, heavy mahogany beds, a red leather arm chair, desk lamp and library shelf with art books for guests to browse, and in the spirit of the Riverside Mission’s “good work” the guests, if inspired by any one particular book, are encouraged to take it home, but replace it with a similarly art-themed book from a nearby local charity shop, for the next guest to enjoy.
Hannah’s lasting statement is that it should “feel liveable”. She reflected that she found herself learning new techniques – creating new wooden shutters for the windows using salvaged wood doors, Hannah also cut and learnt to grout the fireplace tiles and wired a lamp! Hannah has been hands on – investing time, workmanship, applying craft skills and good old fashioned graft, to ensure it fulfilled the vision.
Hannah’s work has a narrative and she loves that guests can connect with it, by reading a book and enjoying a quiet moment – a luxury the bargees families discovered, commenting “I like that it’s an open-ended story – people can interpret it their own way, and add to it”
Mick Ward, Hannah’s sponsor is Head of Commissioning Adult and Social Care at Leeds City Council. He explained
“I wanted to give something back to the arts scene in Leeds, I benefit from seeing the artists and community benefit from a strong arts infrastructure.”
Interested in the geography of the Art Hostel, as Mick’s mother was the daughter of a bargee, this was inherently part of his brief. Mick continued “I wished to connect one group that were trying to do good in the 1880’s to today’s community striving to do good work.”
The Art Hostel and the Mission Hall are both 18th century buildings and are intrinsically linked geographically – the connection between them is that they are created for people and are shaped by people.
Mick, added he feels the Art Hostel will “create a potential for making connections, which is vital if you want a vibrant arts scene….. it says ‘we’re open for business’ and we’re serious about art in Leeds.”
Hannah’s room has single beds, comfortably sleeping two, and will be available to book on this website, from this April.