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The History of Lincoln’s Usher Gallery

Lincolnshire's premier art gallery, The Usher Gallery, first opened in 1927 and has a fascinating origin story thanks to a local businessman.

The Usher Gallery's very existence is thanks to one James Ward Usher, son of a successful jewellery and watchmaker in Lincoln.

Passionate about collecting, over time he built a substantial collection of pocket watches, ceramics, English silver, enamels and portrait miniatures; he was shrewd and would travel far and wide in search of particular items, selecting exceptional pieces with good provenance.

An avid businessman, Usher at one point obtained the sole rights to use the Lincoln Imp to sell exclusive jewellery – making him somewhat of a celebrity in Lincoln.

Upon his death in 1921, he bequeathed his collections to the city, along with a bequest of £60,000 for a gallery to be built to house the pieces.

The building itself was designed by architect Reginald Blomfield who was also responsible for Lincoln's Central Library and Westgate Water Tower, and was officially opened by the Prince of Wales on May 25th,1927, with a gold key that’s whereabouts is now unknown.

Today, Usher's original collections are still on permanent display, alongside growing works of fine art and horology, national collections and a rich programme of exciting temporary displays, including coups such as the internationally recognised BP Portrait Award exhibition in recent years.


To commemorate the 90th anniversary of its opening in 2017, The Usher Gallery hosted an exclusive evening of celebrations on Saturday 27th May from 7pm.

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