Hitchin Art Club is celebrating its 80th anniversary with a new exhibition at North Herts Museum.

The museum is displaying a number of paintings by current club members, a number of which are on sale at prices starting from £35.

Archive material will also be on show, including photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, art club minute books from its earliest days, and other early ephemera.

Ros Allwood, cultural services manager at North Herts Council, said: "This is a special collection of paintings and memorabilia from this long-running and significant local art club.

"There will be some scenes you’ll recognise and some from further afield as well as other artworks including still lifes and portraits."

Hitchin Art Club was founded in the winter of 1943 by, among others, Vi Lewis, Mollie Hancock, and Bob Waldock, though its true origins came even earlier.

In the 1930s, Miss Kathleen Johnson, art mistress at Hitchin Girls' Grammar School, ran classes for young artists at her home - Fig Tree Cottage in Taylor's Hill.

She continued the classes into the war years, charging two shillings for a two-hour long lesson.

In 1943, Miss Johnson organised an art exhibition at the Sun Hotel to raise money for the Free French Forces.

The exhibition was opened by a distinguished French General, and many of the artists and townspeople gathered for the occasion agreed with Miss Johnson that a Hitchin Art Club should be founded.

Its early meetings were held in the reading room at the old library, on the site of the present library in Paynes Park. Their first exhibition took place there in 1945, and continued for a long time there as an annual event.

The club has met in a number of locations over the years. These include 9 High Street, above Perks & Llewellyn chemist shop (later Woolworths), and a lavendar barn at Lucas Lane - both owned by founder Vi Lewis.

They have also held meetings at Hitchin Boys' Grammar School, the Baptist Church Hall, Kingshott School, Walsworth Community Centre, and now Hitchin Library.

The club remained optimsitic that they would one day be able to exhibit at the museum in Hitchin again, as they had previously.

A spokesperson for the club said: "We would like to thank the North Herts Museum and curator, Ros Allwood, for giving us the opportunity to celebrate with an exhibition at the Museum in this, our 80th anniversary year.

"We would like to give thanks to all those previous, and present, committee members, without which the club would not function.

"Their efforts and good humour throughout club evenings and exhibitions makes it a joy to be part of."

Their exhibition, running from May 6 to June 18, is open at North Herts Museum in Brand Street, Hitchin, from 10.30am to 4.30pm Tuesday through Saturday, and from 11am until 3pm on Sundays.

Admission to the museum and to this exhibition is free.

Hitchin Art Club will be holding further celebrations this year, with an outdoor exhibition in the Arcade, Hitchin, on July 1, and a display at Hitchin Creative Day during Hitchin Festival.

The club meets every Tuesday during term-time at the library in Paynes Park, between 7.30pm and 9.30pm.

New members, of any ability, are welcome. More information can be found on their website www.hitchinartclub.co.uk.