Photo ©Colin Davison 2017

This account of the history of Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbarn was written and compiled in 2019 by Fred Brookes, drawing on his own experience and research. 

Ownership of the website now resides with the Hatton Gallery, which is situated in the Department of Fine Art on Newcastle University campus and is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) on behalf of Newcastle University. The views represented in this account are Fred Brookes’ own and not necessarily those of Hatton Gallery or Newcastle University.

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Copyright in this website resides with the Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and obtain permissions to reproduce images in this work. Please do get in touch with any enquiries or any information relating to images or the rights holders, through the contact page.

Author – Fred Brookes

I was a student in the Department of Fine Art at Newcastle University from 1963 to graduation in 1967, and was on the teaching staff for the following two  years. I became involved with the Merzbarn as a member of the team of three students recruited by Richard Hamilton in May 1965 to make a survey of the artwork preparatory to the work to remove it to Newcastle University’s Hatton Gallery. I was sent to the site by the University in the summer of 1965 to look after its interests in the artwork and to care for the Merzbarn during the preparation and removal. After installation I carried out much of the repair and restoration work before the Merzbarn went on display in the gallery in 1966. I have researched, written, lectured and performed in relation to Schwitters and the Merzbarn, on and off, ever since. A long-standing ambition to seek to bring together a comprehensive history of the Merzbarn is fulfilled in the publication of this website.

That said, there is much more to be known about many aspects of the history of the Merzbarn. Further contributions to the story will be incorporated in periodic updates of this website. Contributors are welcome to contact the Hatton Gallery via the contact page.


The website was designed and implemented by Brian Homer using the Aesop Story Engine and the Novella theme on WordPress. Fonts made from http://www.onlinewebfonts.com oNline Web Fonts is licensed by CC BY 3.0


While I have drawn extensively in this account on my own first-hand experience of the Merzbarn and the people that I met who had worked with Schwitters on it, I have of course also included information and analysis from other sources, both published and unpublished, and from conversations and correspondence with people who know. What follows is a list, probably incomplete, of sources that are mentioned in the text or on which I have drawn.

What is the Merzbarn?

  • Photo and, throughout the text, other images of the Merzbarn as it stands now in the Hatton. ©Colin Davison; Hatton Archive

Chapter 1: How the Merzbarn Came About

  • Harry Pierce, “Cylinders Farm: An Experiment” unpublished memoir 1952, Hatton archive.
  • Correspondence in 1947 between Schwitters and Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate and Sprengel archives.
  • Correspondence in 1947 between Schwitters and his son Ernst; Tate and Sprengel archives.
  • FB conversations with Harry Pierce and Jack Cook, 1965, and with Edith Thomas 1966.
  • Scott Richards Weather Blog https://scottsweatherblog.wordpress.com/historic/summerautumn-1947/
  • Ian Tyler: Gypsum in Cumbria, Blue Rock Publications, 2000, and FB correspondence with the author 2019.
  • FB correspondence with Worshipful Company of Plaisterers 2019.
  • Derek Pullen and Jackie Heuman, Sculpcons Ltd: Merz Wall Conservation Report 2016; unpublished, Hatton archive.
  • Merz column photo: Wilhelm Hoepfner. (https://www.merzspiel.org/post/images-of-the-merzbau)

Chapter 2: What Makes It Like It Is

  • Correspondence 1947 between Schwitters and his son Ernst; Tate and Sprengel archives.
  • Photos: Themerson Archive, National Library of Poland, Warsaw; Sprengel Archive, Hanover; FB personal documentation, Hatton Archive.

Chapter 3: Making the Merzbarn

  • Correspondence 1947 between Schwitters and his son Ernst; Sprengel archive
  • Derek Pullen and Jackie Heuman, Sculpcons Ltd: Merz Wall Conservation Report 2016; unpublished. Hatton archive.
  • FB conversations with Harry Pierce and Jack Cook, 1965, and with Edith Thomas 1966.

Chapter 4: After Schwitters’ Death

  • Lease agreement between Pierce and Schwitters unsigned 1947; Tate archive.
  • Correspondence between Pierce and MoMA; MoMA archive.
  • Correspondence between Edith Thomas and Ernst Schwitters 1948; Sprengel archive.
  • John Elderfield: Kurt Schwitters, Thames & Hudson, 1985.

Chapter 5: The Merzbarn on Display

Chapter 6: Interest Stirs

  • Rob Airey: Opinion Here is Doubtful, Kurt Schwitters Society Newsletter, August 2013.

Chapter 7: The Merzbarn Moves

  • FB personal documentation; Hatton Archive.

Chapter 8: The Merzbarn at the Hatton

  • FB personal documentation; Hatton Archive.
  • Exhibition programme records and miscellaneous correspondence; Hatton Archive.

Addendum: What We Don’t See


  • Portfolio of survey photographs May 1965; Mark Lancaster, Hatton Archive.
  • Portfolio of photographs of the removal process June – September 1965 and installation June 20 1966; FB, Hatton Archive.
  • Maps of the Merzbarn’s route from Cylinders to Newcastle University in 1965-66 prepared by FB for Kunstgeographie project in 2008 (one map missing).
  • Speculative model-making, FB 2019