TO BE FAIR, it’s difficult to describe Abbot Hall Art Gallery as a hidden treasure. The Kendal art house is one of the UK’s most important and revered regional galleries with a pretty weighty national profile.

Hidden gems lie though within its own collection of art, including important works by the great, locally born George Romney, including his striking masterpiece The Gower Family and JMW Turner’s ultra magnificent The Passage of Mount St Gothard (1804). More modern pieces owned by Abbot Hall include works by Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney and it also holds several works by Kurt Schwitters, which feature in the present exhibition Refuge: The Art of Belonging.

Now under the leadership of newly installed chief executive Rhian Harris, Abbot Hall is part of the Lakeland Arts portfolio of galleries and museums, which also includes the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry at Kendal, Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House at Bowness, and soon to open, Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories.

Abbot Hall was originally designed as an opulent house by architect John Carr of York in 1759 for Colonel George Wilson of Dallam Tower. Recognised as Kendal’s finest building, it was lived in by a succession of different families over the next century and purchased by the Kendal Corporation in 1896 for £3,750. By the 1950s it was almost derelict and threatened with demolition until a group of locals formed a charitable trust and raised money to save it. It opened as a public art gallery in 1962.