Painter's plea on artistic treasure

By Roddy AshworthA LEADING portrait painter has joined the call for increased public access to one of the region's greatest artistic treasures.Castle House in Dedham holds the world's biggest collection of paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings.

By Roddy Ashworth

A LEADING portrait painter has joined the call for increased public access to one of the region's greatest artistic treasures.

Castle House in Dedham holds the world's biggest collection of paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings.

Almost 200 works by the renowned artist - whose picture The Red Prince Mare recently sold for £4.4million - hang at Munning's former home in East Lane.


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However, despite his growing popularity, the museum, which is run by a charitable trust, is only open to visitors for six months of the year on two afternoons a week, with an extra two afternoons in August.

West Bergholt artist Richard Stone - who has painted portraits of most of the Royal Family, including the Queen and the Queen Mother - said it was sad that Castle House was not open to the public more often.

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“I am an enormous fan of Sir Alfred Munnings' work and have been since childhood. Although I never met Sir Alfred himself, I did meet Lady Munnings on more than occasion,” he added.

“I have a tremendous respect and love for his work. I certainly would enjoy seeing more of it and would love Castle House to be open more often.”

Mr Stone said he recognised security concerns and the number of visitors that the house could cope with were considerations for the trust when setting the museum's opening times.

“I have a lot of American clients, and several of them have paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings. They were unaware that Castle House even existed, let alone was open to the public,” he added.

“Given we have probably the finest collection of Sir Alfred Munnings' pictures in one place - in his own house and studio - I think it would be beneficial for everyone to have greater access.”

Dedham restaurateur and former East Anglia Tourist Board chairman, Gerald Milsom, has also called for the museum to be open more often.

But the Castle House Trust chairman, Ron Jones, said: “We don't treat lightly the fact of when we do or don't open. We study the trends and have our own website.

“We have recently been elected as one of the top 10 museum attractions in East Anglia and we are proud of that, but we have to measure the demand with the cost of opening. We have to try to keep the place open as a charity.”

Sir Alfred Munnings was born the son of a miller in Mendham, near Bungay, in 1878 and gained his reputation for his paintings of horses, gipsies, village characters, landscapes and hunting scenes.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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