Lilian Airey - Paintings of Wem

Dr Graham Sayce has generously donated three paintings of Wem High Street by Lilian Airey to Wem Civic Society. As well as being well executed paintings, they provide a record of the appearance of Wem High Street in 1989.

Lilian Airey née Hatton was born in India in 1914 - her father was in the Army - and the family returned to the UK when she was a young child and lived in the Manchester area until 1985. She was always interested in craft work and by the 1930s she was a skilled embroidery designer working for a textile manufacturing company in Manchester and this employment continued into the war years and she often talked about designing posters during the war. In 1940 she married Bert Airey and subsequently had three children, Colin who lives in Manchester, Doris who lives in Australia, and Janet who died from cancer not long before she moved to Wem. Thereafter she became an enthusiastic supporter and fund raiser for St Anne's Hospice, Manchester where Janet was cared for.

Bert was a civil servant and following his retirement they moved from Manchester to Eckford Park, Wem in 1985.

All her life she was keen on arts and crafts, particularly embroidery and painting as well as being a keen gardener and after moving to Wem she was soon involved in local organisations - Wem Art Club, the Sweet Pea Show where for several years she painted and sold her paintings of sweet peas. She also amongst other things designed a banner for Wem Jubilee Band. She was quite a prolific painter, particularly of local scenes and flowers and plants and selections of her work were regularly exhibited in the Raven at Tilly. A very talented woman, she died on January 31st 2008, aged 93.

The society is grateful to Alan Dennison for the additional information used to expand this article.

One of her paintings showing the devastation in that city hangs in the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum in Rochdale. To see the picture click Fire Service Museum - Lilian Airey painting.
[Note:The Museum tells the story of firefighting, particularly in the Greater Manchester region. The area has played a significant role in the story of fire brigades and fire engineering. Manchester formed England’s first municipal fire service in 1826, whilst the country’s earliest motorised fire engine was delivered to Eccles in 1901.]

If anyone has any information about Lilian Airey, please get in touch with the civic society at

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