Noel Harry Leaver (1889-1951)

There are 33 watercolours and one pencil drawing by Noel H Leaver in the permanent collection. There are also 61 Leaver watercolours on loan from the Towneley Hall Society, known as the Bracewell collection, they were received as a bequest from Dr Peter Bracewell in 2007.

Although born in Yorkshire, Leaver came to Burnley before he was 3 months old and lived much of his life in Burnley. In 1905, the first guide to the museum was printed privately by George Hindle, a local historian. He employed Noel Leaver to produce drawings of the mummy case and the entrance door as Burnley Corporation did not allow Hindle to take photographs inside the Hall. That same year, the 16 years old Leaver won a National Studentship at Burnley School of Art to attend the Royal College of Art in London. There he was very successful, winning a number of prizes.

He returned to Burnley in 1919 and exhibited 24 watercolours at Towneley in Room III, off Long Gallery. Two were purchased for the permanent collection and displayed in the Art Gallery in 1920 and then in the Stocks Massey gallery from 1923. Between 1929 and 1939, he was visiting master at Burnley Schol of Art and his classes often visited Towneley for drawing exercises. In May 1950 he was co-opted as a member of the sub-committee. At the time of Leaver's death there were seven of his paintings at Towneley. By 1972 the collection had grown to 16 paintings.

In 1983, James Taylor published a biography of Noel H. Leaver and Towneley held an important exhibition of Leaver's work. Dr Bracewell, a GP in Manchester, was one of the visitors and as a result began the collection that is now owned by the Towneley Hall Society.

There are several copies of Leaver's biography in the Library together with much research material that James Taylor collected about Leaver when writing the book

In 2009, a 32 page booklet about the Bracewell collection was published at the time of the first exhibition of the collection at Towneley. An illustrated introduction to collecting Leaver watercolours, it was illustrated using paintings from the Bracewell collection and the text gave the key facts relating to Leaver's career taken from James Taylor's 1983 biography.

A number of prints using Leaver's paintings have been published such as a series depicting English cathedrals for annual calenders. The Towneley print collection includes six examples, including one published by Marks and Spencer that was a violation of copyright. The Bracewell collection also includes one print of Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey.


Author: tk - September 2018