Ralph Hedley B.B.A
Barge Day

Alternative title
The Lord Mayor’s barge

oil on canvas
1405 x 1886 mm
SIGNED b.l. R.HEDLEY 1891-


Bewick Club 9th Annual Exhibition,
Newcastle upon Tyne, 1892 (60)     

Loan Exhibition of Works by
Ralph Hedley R.B.A., 
Laing Art Gallery,
Newcastle upon Tyne, 1938 (14)

Ralph Hedley: Tyneside Painter, 
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, 1990-91

Executors’ Book 14

Laing Art Gallery,
Newcastl, England
Reference TWCMS : 2006.810
Bequest of Julian Brown, 2006

Ralph Hedley Archive Reference

Barge Day

Every five years on ‘Barge Day’, Newcastle Council celebrated its claim to the foreshore of the Tyne (the area between the high and the low tides); they made a circuit of the tidal portion of the Tyne, reading proclamations and creating a fine public entertainment.

The ceremony in 1891 had an extra significance because the Council had been warned in an official letter that the Crown claimed the right to the foreshore on the south side of the Tyne. The event went ahead anyway on 8 May.

The two Mayoral barges set off downriver for South Shields, each full of dignitaries and rowed by ten oarsmen. Three steamers followed, with more dignitaries and guests, and behind them was a large flotilla of smaller boats. A little way down the river, the steamer Mabel, with Ralph Hedley among those on board, took the barges in tow. After some ceremonials at South Shields and the reading of a proclamation, the party returned to Newcastle by boat. There it transferred to the railway and went to Newburn for a second reading of the proclamation, more antics and tea.

The Proclamation

O yes, O yes, O yes. Proclamation is hereby made that the soil of the River Tyne wherever covered with water between between Hedwin Streams and Spar Hawk, is within the borough and city and county of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and belongs to, and is in the jurisdiction of the Mayor, aldermen and citizens of the said city and county. Dated this 7th day of May in the year of our Lord 1891. – Jos. Baxter Ellis, Mayor; Hill Motum, Town Clerk.

Sketch for Barge Day

Ralph Hedley, Sketch for Barge Day, 1891 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED  

Sketch for Barge Day
Ralph Hedley R.B.A.

oil on canvas
423 x 523 mm

Laing Art Gallery,
Newcastle, England
Reference TWCMS : C10612
Given by Reginald E. Baty, 1945

Immediately after the ceremony, Hedley began work on a picture to commemorate the event, with the dignatories on board the barges to be shown as life portraits. Although the sketch was a study in situ, the finished picture was a large studio work with the personalities arriving there by appointment to be painted in.

When it came to the people on the second boat, a disagreement arose between them as to whom should be depicted and where. It got to such a pitch that Hedley put down his brushes and refused to continue. Barge Day was never finished and remained on the wall of the Gosforth home of his son, Roger Hedley, until the 1970s. It remained in the family until it was bequeathed to The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, by Julian Brown, Ralph Hedley's great grandson, in 2006.

Ralph Hedley B.B.A Barge Day  1891  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED