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Sudbury: Mystery buyer has an eye on council artwork

11:55 31 July 2014

(c) Sudbury Town Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Sudbury Town Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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A mystery buyer has expressed an interest in purchasing a potentially valuable painting from Sudbury Town Council.


The work, by George Washington Brownlow, which has been in the council’s hands for more than 20 years, currently hangs in the newly refurbished mayor’s parlour at the Town Hall.

Entitled The Moorhen’s Nest, it is thought to be the last and largest work by the prolific Victorian artist, who died in 1876 and lived for much of his life in Belchamp Walter, just over the Essex border from Sudbury. The prospective buyer is thought to be an avid collector of Brownlow’s work.

Will Axon, from Rowley’s fine art auctioneers, believes the painting could be worth as much as £15,000 if sold through a dealer.

He said: “Much of Brownlow’s work, which is of a similar subject, featuring children playing outside or in cottage interiors, sells for around the £1,000 to £2,000 mark, but most of his paintings are at least half the size of The Moorhen’s Nest. Given the provenance of the painting and the fact that it is a good size, it could make in the region of £10,000 on the open market and if you had to purchase it from a dealer, then it would be nearer the £15,000 mark.”

Mr Axon said Victorian “chocolate boxy” paintings were not as fashionable these days, but a Brownlow work sold at auction for £14,500 in 1981 when this type of picture was very much in demand.

Sudbury’s leisure and environment committee was told an approach had been made on behalf of an interested buyer.

Committee member Lesley Ford Platt said: “Surely we are not so short of money that we have to start selling the family silver?

It looks so lovely hanging on the wall and I am of the opinion that we should hang on to our assets.”



  • George Washington Brownlow was the younger brother of my great, great grandfather, Stephen Brownlow. My daughter and I have visited Belchamp Walter, where G. W. Brownlow lived and worked and also the local church where he is buried and where there is some of his work. We greatly enjoyed our visit and would have liked to seen 'The Moorhen's Nest' in Sudbury, which unfortunately was not possible on this occasion. However, we did hope to see it some day! I think it would be a dreadful shame if Sudbury Borough Council sold this painting to anyone. In my opinion it would be both a betrayal of G. W. Brownlow's memory and of Henry Westrope, who bequeathed this work to the people of Sudbury. It is part of Sudbury's and Belchamp Walter's history. I strongly feel the painting should stay in Sudbury, as Henry Westrope intended, and as a tribute to G. W. Brownlow, who died there.

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    E. Corrigan

    Saturday, August 2, 2014

  • I sincerely hope they never sell this painting, it was bequeathed to Sudbury Borough Council back in 1914 by Henry Westrope. I have seen this painting several times since it has been hanging in the Town Hall, it portrays my great grandmother, Mary Ann Ives as a child and was painted locally at Belchamp Walter in 1876.

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    Thursday, July 31, 2014

  • They would be utterly crazy to sell it. All that will happen is that there'll be a "Cable Mail" moment, when just after they sell it they realise they were poorly advised and got a low price; and shortly thereafter it will appear in an auction at a vastly increased price. It is not stated how the council acquired the painting, but I doubt they went out and bought it on a whim. If it was given to the council, then they have no business flogging it off.

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    T Doff

    Thursday, July 31, 2014

  • To be safe, if they decided to sell, they should put it in an auction with a guide price at the 'dealer valuation' (plus extra to allow for the exorbitant fees auctions charge) and if their 'mystery buyer' wants it then he will only get it at the minimum price he would have paid a dealer and it is possible the painting is even more valuable and may sell for far more. Recently a house valued at £25,000 sold for £225,000 at auction so sellers beware of making private deals, especially when it is public-owned assets.

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    Thursday, July 31, 2014

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