Trust visit highlighted Sudbury’s links to renowned artist Mark Catesby

Catesby House in Sudbury

Catesby House in Sudbury - Credit: Archant

Residents of a west Suffolk market town take pride in telling visitors that it is the birthplace of the famous artist Thomas Gainsborough.

Catesby House in Sudbury as it is now.

Catesby House in Sudbury as it is now. - Credit: Archant

But it is only recently that it has become widely known that Sudbury was also the home of another renowned artist – the British naturalist Mark Catesby.

Born in 1683, Catesby was the first naturalist to record the flora and fauna of the New World and is well known throughout Europe and America.

His original artworks, which were bought by King George II after the Catesby’s, are kept in the Royal Collection at Windsor and have been shown in an exhibition of early wildlife art at the Queen‘s Gallery in Buckingham Palace.

Catesby, whose father was mayor of Sudbury six times, first went to America at the age of 29 and after two long expeditions returned to England with paintings of plants and animals he had studied. He devoted most of his life to writing, illustrating and publishing the first natural history of North America.

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Despite his English background, Catesby is more famous in the US than in Sudbury.

Earlier this year the American-based Catesby Commemorative Trust published The Curious Mister Catesby – a biography and appraisal of the historical and scientific significance of his work – and in May this year the book’s co-editor David Elliot visited Sudbury for the UK launch.

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During the trip, he visited a building in North Street described on a 1714 map as ‘Mr Catesby’s House’ where staff at Holmes & Hills solicitors – the business which currently occupies the site – were surprised to hear of its history.

It is believed to be part of the property Catesby sold to fund his first expedition to the New World. Rebecca Mason, head of the firm’s commercial team, said: “Since the discovery, the Sudbury office staff have appreciated the building more.

“The thought that Mark Catesby might have been running up and down the same stairs some 300 years ago is just amazing.”

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