AN art gallery that attracts thousands of visitors from across the North has been named after a volunteer curator who helped it get established.

Bob Abley was instrumental in the creation of the gallery at Spennymoor Town Hall, in County Durham, which opened in 2011.

As curator, Mr Abley helped make the gallery a popular visitor attraction and valuable platform for new and established artists to exhibit and sell their work.

When he retired in January, Spennymoor Town Council unanimously agreed to rename the venue The Bob Abley Gallery at Spennymoor Town Hall as a lasting tribute to his voluntary work.

Council leader, Coun Ian Harrington, said: “The council fully supported the creation of the gallery in the town hall but it was Bob, with a few dedicated others, that got it going.

“He was curator, organiser, picture hanger, tea maker and loved it and made it a tremendous success.

“It draws people from far and wide, something like 8,500 people and that is just the ones who signed the visitors’ book, from local people to tourists.

“We felt naming the museum after him was a nice way to create a lasting tribute to all the work he has done.”

Coun Harrington said the gallery’s success has benefited Durham Mining Museum which is also in the town hall.

Mr Abley, 74, has collected local art, including work by the famous Spennymoor Settlement artists such as pit painter Norman Cornish, for almost 30 years.

The former teacher and book dealer became involved in the local art scene when he retired, as a volunteer at The Spennymoor Settlement from 2006 until he moved to Spennymoor Town Hall to help open the new gallery.

He said: “I was absolutely taken aback when they renamed the gallery, it was a really nice gesture.

“When you get a look under the surface of Spennymoor there really is a lot of talent and it was always important to me to give local artists, from the well known to the up and coming, somewhere to exhibit.”

Spennymoor Town Council’s facilities manager, Colin Ranson, now manages the gallery and any North-East artists interested in using the venue can contact him on 01388-815276.