Mu­se­ums on the up

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

TWO of Bri­tain’s most evoca­tive artists’ homes are among re­cent ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Her­itage Lot­tery fund­ing. Thomas Gains­bor­ough’s birth­place in Sud­bury, Suf­folk, has re­ceived £4.73 mil­lion to­wards a £7.5 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment and Kelm­scott Manor, Wil­liam Mor­ris’s Ox­ford­shire home, has been given ini­tial sup­port for a £4.7 mil­lion grant and awarded £334,800 to­wards the first stage of a £6 mil­lion project to se­cure its fu­ture.

Gains­bor­ough’s House (www. gains­bor­ough.org) con­tains the largest col­lec­tion of the artist’s work, along with ex­hi­bi­tion space and a print work­shop, but has no room for full-length por­traits.

A more am­bi­tious ap­proach is needed for it to es­tab­lish it­self as a ma­jor mu­seum with the heft to at­tract loans from na­tional col­lec­tions and pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tional cen­tre for the study of 18th-cen­tury art.

Over the past two years, pre­lim­i­nary work has been afoot un­der a new di­rec­tor. An ad­join­ing plot came on the mar­ket and, ad­mirably, Babergh District Coun­cil bought it while the house raised funds.

The project en­vis­ages four new spa­ces: a full-height gallery, an up­per storey with views across the roof- tops to the coun­try­side painted by Gains­bor­ough and two fur­ther gal­leries for tem­po­rary shows and con­tem­po­rary sales. This will al­low the re­fur­bish­ment of the house’s pe­riod rooms. Ex­pected to cost about £7 mil­lion, with an ex­tra £1 mil­lion en­dow­ment, the project is seen as im­por­tant for the re­gen­er­a­tion of Sud­bury. The re­vi­talised house will open in late 2020 or early 2021. In the mean­time, vis­i­tors con­tinue to en­joy the rooms, gar­den and some­thing of the at­mo­sphere that Gains­bor­ough knew. The 17th-cen­tury Kelm­scott Manor (www.kelm­scottmanor.org.uk), now owned by the So­ci­ety of An­ti­quar­ies, was the in­spi­ra­tion of de­signer, poet, pi­o­neer con­ser­va­tion­ist and so­cial cam­paigner Wil­liam Mor­ris from 1871 to his death in 1896. It has changed lit­tle since the 1960s. Then, a few hun­dred peo­ple vis­ited each year; now, it at­tracts more than 20,000. The so­ci­ety’s aim is to ‘trans­mit to a mod­ern au­di­ence the ex­cite­ment that the dis­cov­ery and con­tin­u­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of the Manor en­gen­dered in Mor­ris, while pro­tect­ing its tran­quil­ity and fragility’. Huon Mal­lalieu

Sir Ber­tram Macken­nalõs bronze statue of Thomas Gains­bor­ough in Sud­bury

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