In 1958 Lowry was commissioned by the Friends of Middlesbrough Art Gallery to paint, for the sum of £50, a local subject for the Gallery's permanent collection. Lowry visited for a weekend in September and immediately chose St. Hilda's Church and the Old Town Hall. W.E. Johnson, the art critic who had organised the commission, described how the drawing had been made, 'For perhaps 20 minutes he sketched busily, cheating a bit by bringing in the church from the left to improve the composition, and drawing in no figures at all - not even a Lowry dog. He closed his pad, pocketed his pencils and said 'That's it', and we caught a bus home'.
A year went by before W.E. Johnson was despatched to Lowry's home to collect the finished painting. Lowry protested, unwilling to let the painting go, complaining that it was still wet and required more work, 'That one lamp post needs a friend on the other side, the kerb-line isn't quite right. I must put more railings in the front of the old town hall and there are no dogs - I should really give Middlesbrough some of my little dogs'. After another half an hour's work the painting was ready to leave the studio. It later transpired that there were two other exact versions of Middlesbrough's painting, one dated 1958 and another dated 1959, so presumably the artist had already sold these before painting another version for the Art Gallery (see J. Horsley and N. Sinclair, Lowry in the North East, Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery exhibition catalogue, Tyne and Wear, 1989, p. 18).
In the present work, the view is converted from an upright into a landscape, by extending the row of shops and terraces on either side of the composition and expanding the foreground. For a pencil drawing of the same subject, see Christie's, British Art On Paper, 7 June 2001, lot 152.