June 2019 Meeting

At our meeting on Wednesday 12 June 2019, Barry Wall gave us a talk about the street scene in Sudbury in the 1730’s, as the schoolboy Thomas Gainsborough would have experienced it while living at the family home that is now Gainsborough’s House, on Gainsborough Street, and before he moved to London.

Barry also spoke about the presentation of the 2 volumes of Hugh Belsey’s books on Gainsborough to Sudbury Library the previous day, on behalf of the Sudbury History Society. He read the press release to us.

Chairman Graeme Pulham gave details of outings planned for this year – see the Outings page.

The annual “Summer Bash” on Wednesday 14 August will be at Shrubs Farm, Lamarsh as before. The cost is £3 and members are asked to sign up to bring an item of food.

May 2019 Meeting

A Talk by Hugh Belsey on Gainsborough, on  8th May 2019

A summary

Hugh Belsey was curator of the Gainsborough House  in the early 1980s for 23 years.  He described how he took over a house with hardly any paintings and how he managed to acquire Gainsborough works.  This was to make Gainsborough House a place of national importance.  Some pictures were loaned, others gifted, some were bought with help from the V&A and Artfund and some given in lieu of death duties.

He explained the difficulties of  trying to buy Gainsborough paintings when competing against other buyers at auction.  For example in 1988, the “Wooden Landscape with Cattle by a Pool” 1782 by Thomas Gainsborough, sold at Sotherby’s for £354,000, was bought by the County Council and gifted to the Gainsborough House to get round administration problems.  Other significant Gainsborough paintings were sadly lost to US buyers.  In 1989, Hugh Belsey was given a Canaletto painting which he sold in 1989 for £880,000 in order to buy more Gainsborough works.

Hugh recently published a two-volume book on Thomas Gainsborough: “The Portraits, Fancy Pictures and Copies after Old Masters”.  Barry presented these books, bought by the Sudbury History Society, for Hugh to sign and they will be donated to Sudbury Library.

Also at the meeting, details of the 2019 outings were given. See under “Outings”.

Sudbury’s Local List

In addition to the Grade 1 and 2 Listed Buildings, there are many other unlisted buildings in Sudbury which contribute to the unique interest and variety of the local townscape. A number of these buildings were identified in “Sudbury, Suffolk the unlisted heritage” written in 2002 David Burnett. They subsequently formed the basis of the Sudbury Local List, adopted by Babergh District Council in 2004.

The Local List was updated in 2018 and the revised list has been accepted by Babergh District Council. A street-by-street list, together with photographs, can be seen on the Sudbury Society’s website, at https://sudburysociety.org.uk/unlisted-buildings/ .

March 2019 Meeting

At our meeting on 13th March 2019, our chairman Barry Wall reminded us that the next meeting would be the AGM of the society, and that membership renewals were due.

He went on to mention a variety of items of current local interest, including

    • Sudbury on Show revealed a demand for evening or weekend meetings. A link with Sudbury Library Users Group was being explored.
    • No excavation took place at the former Walnuttree Hospital site.
    • The site of the former Labour Exchange in Weavers Lane, soon to be part of the Gainsborough House extension, lies on an old Saxon road.
    • Sudbury Town Council is requesting views on possible changes to Market Hill in Sudbury. Barry outlined its history from the fourteenth century, and urged members to submit their opinions.

February 2019 meeting

Sudbury History Society

A Talk by Richard Humphreys on 13th February 2019


“The Leaping Horse” by Constable

Richard Humphreys, art historian, curator and writer has recently published a book on Constable’s painting “The Leaping Horse”.  At today’s talk, he gave us a fascinating insight into Constable’s life and times and painting methods.

He told us about Constable’s life: he was a deeply religious, serious man and conservative in his views.  He used to pray for inspiration in front of his canvases.  He saw nature in a spiritual way.  Churches often feature in his pictures and he even painted some religious altarpieces.  At the time, pictures of landscapes were not so accepted as the art world was dominated by portrait painting and Constable struggled to find his niche.  He was encouraged to persevere and follow in the classical tradition of landscape painting (Claude Lorraine).  It took many years for him to be accepted as a full member of the Royal Academy. Constable made a big impact in France.  He was a big hit with French dealers and was given a Gold Medal at the Paris Salon.   Every year between 1819 and 1825, Constable submitted a large canvas, a so-called “six-footer”, to the Royal Academy for their annual exhibition.

Constable’s paintings were works of the imagination.  He often reworked his canvases to achieve the nostalgic effect he wanted.  Richard Humphreys’ talk was fascinating and has enabled us to look at Constable’s paintings in a new light.

The painting, and more information, can be seen at