The campaign to raise the funds to purchase Thomas Gainsborough’s birthplace began in 1956.
The campaign to purchase Gainsborough’s birthplace began in 1956. From the beginning, the house was created to be a centre for the arts, as well as a museum and monument, dedicated to one of Britain’s greatest 18th century artists, Thomas Gainsborough.
Interest was initially stimulated by three individuals: Michael Harvard, Aubrey Herbert and Sir Alfred Munnings. By October 1956 a Gainsborough’s House National Appeal Committee was formed, under the Chairmanship of the Mayor of Sudbury, Councillor Arthur Essex JP.
The committee brought together local businessmen and politicians, as well as those interested in art and history. Initially the President was The Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk; Vice-President was the artist Sir Alfred Munnings KCVC, PPRA, who lived at nearby Dedham.
Fund-raising included collection boxes in local hotels as well as in major galleries around the country. Artists were particularly supportive. Sir Alfred Munnings hoped to encourage others to make major donations, himself donating £1,500 from the proceeds of the sale of his painting of the Queen’s horse, Aureole in 1957.
The House was purchased on 20 January 1958 for £5,250. By September, Gainsborough’s House Society was formally established to run the museum as an independent charity.
Following the successful acquisition of the building, local companies and individuals also gave materials and their labour to help renovate the building and the garden.