The Secret Tunnel restored in Knaresborough
The Secret Tunnel restored in Knaresborough

The Secret Tunnel restored in Knaresborough

26 June 2018

The mural titled “The Secret Tunnel” on the York bound platform at Knaresborough has been restored by Peter Kearney.

In the first part of the 2000’s, the “Knaresborough in Bloom” committee together with the FEVA committee, discussed a suggestion from the FEVA Visual Arts coordinator, local Artist, Julie Cope,  that she could produce an Art work using the art technique of “trompe l’oeil (deceiving the eye) in a prominent position on Knaresborough High Street to advertise the FEVA week.

So it was agreed that Julie would produce a trompe l’oeil painting of a pink doorway and windows on either side – pink is the FEVA colour and Harrogate Council provide hanging baskets with a pink theme along the high street for each FEVA held every year in August.

These two windows then had real window boxes fixed beneath them to add to the general feeling of “what is real or not! “Knaresborough in Bloom” provided the flowers and the funding for this proto type and it proved to be so popular that a “Town Doorways” project developed from this in the following years led by Julie Cope and Andrew.

Julie co-opted 2 other local artists (Peter Kearney and Shirley Vine) to produce a series of painted “doors” around the town in the following years. There are around 11 panels around the town now as new ones were added each year.

The station mural by Peter Kearney was put up in 2006. Cllr Andrew Willoughby led the way to fund the scheme and to make Knaresborough famous for it’ “Tromp’s”!

Julie was the main artist originally. Because of the popularity of these paintings another organisation, “Renaissance Knaresborough” was formed by a group of local businesses – and this organisation developed the “Knaresborough Windows” project using these same three artists. They were successful in getting the Arts Council to contribute to the funding. And now there are over 16 windows around the town with an impressive brochure available for tourists to follow a “Tour of the Windows”.



The history behind my “Secret tunnel”

Julie Cope became far too busy with producing Windows and Doorway projects and although she and Andrew had got permission to place a “trompe” on that station wall, she asked Peter Kearney if he could take on the project instead. Her original idea was to paint the Hogwarts Express engine but Peter was given full remit to design what ever he liked.

As this project stemmed from the “Doors”theme, which by then had moved on to a more liberal interpretation of the theme, Peter decided that “Openings” was a title that was OK!

Peter said:

I wanted to keep to a railway theme so, armed with my sketch book and camera, I searched for inspiration from the station buildings and locality. The biggest “Opening” that caught my eye was of course the tunnel!

I particularly liked the way the railway lines glistened at the far end of the tunnel and the way that the line curved to the right at the far end. As the huge wall that was my “canvass” was so flat and featureless I wanted to create a great feeling of depth, – so the idea of putting a tunnel in the wall took shape. If a tunnel was actually there then it would lead to the area around the parish church of St. John’s -so that provided an actual glimpse of a well known local landmark.

I had also noticed that there was a brick built “shed” near the real tunnel entrance and this had a round topped window in it. (- a useful artistic device to compliment the curve of tunnel roof!) So I had this idea that if a similar shed had been built long ago against this huge wall – but now had become redundant – then a group of labourers were given the task of demolishing this “shed”. The mural shows the moment when they have discovered that the job has become far more complicated than they thought!

Nobody knew that there was a “secret” tunnel behind this shed! So,in true British fashion, they have “downed tools”, made a cup of tea and gone off to find the “boss”! This is the moment illustrated here. However, with a bit of “artistic licence”, I have included a local newspaper with the headlines of “Secret Tunnel Discovered” and I have given my name and the names of those with me; actually the names of some members of my art group who had helped me produce this mural. Part of the requirements of the funding of the “Doors”project was that it should involve members of the local community.

The mural was first put up 12 years ago, (the FEVA mug of tea shown is dated 2006) – and as the wall faces south the sun really blasts down on it and this had an effect on some of the paint work.

To prolong the life of the panels all the “Doors” panels were taken down each Autumn and stored in the vaults of the HSBC Bank!

With the closure of this bank there is nowhere for them to be stored and protected from the ravages of the winter weather so for three years at least they have slowly started to rot away. Andrew persuaded me to try and restore them to prolong their life as they are on a couple of tourist routes in a local FEVA pamphlet and have become quite a well known local feature.



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