Opened by Francis Iles in Chatham in 1961, this family business moved to Rochester 10 years later. The gallery started selling work from Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, forging a reputation for offering unpretentious but impeccable quality work, which continues to this day. Now run by the three daughters of the founders, the business has expanded into an additional shop selling art and craft materials, opened in 1998 opposite the original building.
Both shops offer a focal point in the High Street for visitors and locals alike, with each priding itself on personal service and quality. Francis Iles also operates in London, exhibiting at events such as Affordable Art in Battersea, and the Watercolour and Drawing Fair. As you would expect in a family business, a close knit team of staff and the excellent working relationships forged with associated artists, are key contributors to its success.
Monthly and seasonal exhibitions are a local cultural highlight, with the galleries welcoming everyone to view and enjoy the latest work of featured artists. Francis Iles is one of only a handful of galleries nationally to have been approved by the Arts Council to offer "Own Art", which is a 10 month interest free scheme on any art purchase up to £2,000. Painting and craft workshops are also organised throughout the year.
A Fine Art Guild commended, specialist bespoke framing service is available on-site, offering personal advice and guidance on making the most of your artwork. Fully qualified restorers are highly praised for frame refurbishment and quality repair work undertaken on both oil and watercolour paintings, with prestigious clients relying on the gallery's expertise.
Both Francis Iles premises enjoy listed status for their historical interest. The Art & Craft Works was once part of the old Leonards department store. Hidden behind the tall shelves at the front of the shop, beautiful Art Deco wall tiles still remain from Leonard's Dairy. The original black and white floor tiles date from that period, and are still in use today.