Sudbury: Acquisition will help make Gainsborough’s House into an ‘innovative national centre’
06:00 28 April 2014
Trustees at the birthplace of Suffolk’s most famous artist, Thomas Gainsborough, are a step closer to achieving their aim of creating a “nationally significant gallery” after securing the much-needed space to expand.
The area next to Gainsborough’s House Museum in Sudbury – consisting of a car park, an old labour exchange and three garages – recently came on the market.
But given its prominent location on Weaver’s Lane, the plot – known as Gainsborough’s Chamber – attracted serious interest from other buyers, and museum trustees could not find the necessary funds to purchase it.
So Babergh District Council stepped in to buy the property and provide crucial extra time for the trustees to fundraise for the acquisition. Once Gainsborough’s House has secured enough cash, it will buy the building from Babergh.
In the meantime, it will rent the chamber and ancillary space, ensuring that the council’s full costs are covered.
The car park will be used to provide some much-needed disabled parking bays for visitors.
Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said the acquisition and development of the additional land and buildings would help ensure the facility’s long term survival.
He said: “Gainsborough’s House is at a very exciting point in its history and has the possibility of embarking upon a major capital project to create a vibrant, innovative national centre that is sustainable and forward looking. It has a house and collections of international significance and the opportunity of being a great force for regeneration in Sudbury.”
Nigel Bennett, chairman of Sudbury Steering Group, said the proactive approach by Babergh had provided Gainsborough’s House with the security it needed to plan for the future and “ensure this major heritage asset remains a tourism driver for Sudbury”.
Meanwhile, local chamber of commerce chairman Chris Storey, added: “The chamber has been aware of the importance of Gainsborough’s House to Sudbury and its potential to add value to the town by drawing visitors to what will become an increasing attraction situated in the heart of the town.”
Gainsborough’s House now needs to start a major fundraising campaign to enable the project to go ahead.