A LITTLE-known but increasingly popular Darwen artist was a college pal of John Lennon, it has been revealed.

Art experts have launched a hunt for more information about the life of enigmatic artist Margaret Chapman after demand for her work rocketed.

And it has now been revealed that she is mentioned in Ray Coleman's biography John Winston Lennon. Another friend of Lennon's is quoted as saying that the Beatle even moved into Mrs Chapman's home for a time while they were at college.

Little is known of Margaret, a published and modestly successful painter from Darwen who died in 2000.

But a rise in the popularity of northern artists in recent years has meant a surge in her work's popularity, with paintings regularly fetching up to £1,000.

Freelance art writer Siri Ellis, from Clitheroe, said it was incredibly important that we knew as much as possible about Margaret to understand her work better.

And after an appeal in the lancashire Telegraph last month new information has been discovered about her relationship with the Beatles in the early 1960s.

Ms Ellis said: "Following our appeal for information, what we do know is that there is a large seam of affection and respect for this Darwen artist.

"We now know that Margaret Chapman kept an owl as a pet and she was friends with John Lennon for a time in Liverpool, when she attended the Art College there."

She said Mrs Chapman, whose maiden name was Duxbury, was known as Duckie at college.

Ms Ellis said she has even heard anecdotal evidence that Mrs Chapman introduced Lennon to The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, a novel that the musician later said was one of his favourites.

Ms Ellis added: "Her work is becoming more and more popular in the last eight years since her death.

"I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time to contact us, we have already found out so much about her."

William Gregory, from Manchester auctioneers Cape Dunn, said that work by Margaret could often fetch up to £1,000.

She specialised in oil on canvas paintings and more than 50 of her pieces have been sold as prints around the world.

A painting called Sunday Morning Preston New Road' is currently on display in Blackburn Art Gallery.

Mrs Chapman was born in November 1940 and died in July 2000 aged 59.

Martin Rigby, 61, from Pole Lane, Darwen, said he has fond memories of Mrs Chapman from the 1970s when she taught at a night class at Darwen Technical College.

He said: "We went on a Monday and Thursday night in the very early 1970s to learn about oil paintings.

"Everyone had various levels of skill, but she gave tips on how to improve.

"I remember that there weren't enough people to go to both classes, so the Monday night session had to close.

"She was quite an attractive lady - slim with dark hair.

Anyone with more information can contact Ms Ellis on 01200 428468 .