The Minories, Colchester
Front view from Colchester High Street
|Location||Colchester, Essex, England|
The Minories is a Grade II listed building and gardens situated at the east end of High Street in Colchester, Essex, England, near Hollytrees, Gate House and Colchester Castle. It currently houses The Minories Galleries which are run by Colchester School of Art, part of Colchester Institute.
The house is believed to have been built in the Tudor period. In 1731 it was purchased by the baize manufacturer Isaac Boggis for £420. His son, Thomas Boggis, inherited the house, and employed an architect, probably John Alefounder (1732–1787) to remodel the building, turning parts of it into an elegant Georgian residence. The Boggis family lived in the house for almost 200 years. From 1821 to 1915 the building had several owners and tenants, one of whom was Dr. Becker, a general practitioner (GP) whose son, Harry Becker, lived there for a time while he learned his trade as a landscape painter and went on to become one of East Anglia's best known artists.
In 1915 Geoffrey Crawford Bensusan-Butt and his wife Dr. Ruth Crawford took over the lease, purchasing the property along with a portion of land that included the Gothic Folly, a summer house built in 1830. Crawford later had three exhibitions of his artwork shown at the Minories in 1962, 1964 and 1975. Dr. Ruth Crawford was the sister-in-law of the painter Lucien Pissarro, and was one of the first female GPs in Colchester. She used the front rooms of The Minories as her consulting rooms, and also opened Colchester's first infant nursery there. One of the Bensusan-Butt's three children was the English economist, David Bensusan-Butt.
The Victor Batte-Lay Trust
In 1956 Dr. Ruth, who had survived her husband, sold The Minories along with the garden to the Victor Batte-Lay Trust, named after the art collector who had been a hereditary freeman of the town. The trust was set up by Batte-Lay's window, Margaret, to purchase and endow a building in Colchester as a memorial to her husband. From 1963–74 R. A. Bevan was chair of the Victor Batte-Lay Trust. The Minories was sold on the strict condition that it would continue to be used for artistic purposes.
The Victor Batte-Lay Foundation has provided a public cultural and artistic centre for Colchester and North-East Essex. No. 73, the house next door to The Minories, was purchased and added in 1975 with funding from Eastern Arts and the support of local professionals. The Minories, run by the Trust as The Minories Art Gallery, presented work by Edward Bawden, Leon Underwood, Eric Ravilious, Harry Becker, John Bratby, John and Paul Nash, Lucien Pissarro, Cedric Morris, Christopher Wood, Bill Brandt, Maggi Hambling, Jacob Epstein and Mark Wallinger.
By the early 90's the Trust's resources were significantly reduced, and the gallery closed in 1992, leading to a period of uncertainty. It reopened in 1994 when Firstsite took on the lease and continued to pay some of the Trust's obligations.
In early 2008 Firstsite left The Minories and moved into Crouch Street while their new building was developed, and in June 2008 Colchester Institute took on the lease for the Minories. The site is currently home to The Minories Galleries, a contemporary art gallery run by Colchester School of Art which is open to the public and houses the Colchester School of Art's Postgraduate programmes and a café surrounded by a walled garden. The Minories is next door to Firstsite, Colchester’s contemporary art space, in the centre of St Botolph's Quarter.
Since being run by Colchester School of Art and Colchester Institute, The Minories has presented exhibitions by artists and designers including Joseph Robinson, Abram Games, Romek Marber, Keith Albarn (father of Blur frontman Damon) and Chris Meigh-Andrews.
The Friends of The Minories
The Friends of the Minories is an organisation which supports the gallery and assists in its funding. About four or five events occur each year, generally visits to local places of interest. The revenue from these fund-raising events goes into maintaining the garden and its 18th-century Gothic Folly. The garden and Folly are both registered with the Essex Gardens Trust.
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