On this day … 29 December 1883

The Preston Guardian reported that the town council had accepted the Newsham Art Collection, the gift of Richard Newsham, of No. 1, Winckley Square, who had died earlier in the month at the age of 85.

Richard Newsham.
Image source: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Newsham-308

Newsham’s father, also Richard, was a partner in John Horrocks’ cotton enterprise and also a partner in Preston’s first bank. Son Richard inherited a considerable sum on his father’s death and used it to fund his art collection. This resulted in a very substantial bequest that was to form almost the entire art collection that went on display at the Harris Museum, which opened a few years later.

The bequest was a bit of an embarrassment at first because it was so large (the catalogue stretches to more than sixty pages). The council had nowhere to put the paintings. It was a case of hang on, where the hell are we going to hang them?

The council had taken over the Preston Literary and Philosophical Institution’s museum in Cross Street and opened it as a public museum in 1880. But there was no room in there for the pictures.

As a temporary measure, part of the collection was put on display in the Town Hall in the Market Place. Not ideal. It was, recalled a future Director of the National Gallery, ‘crowded at this time into two or three small rooms in Preston Town Hall, which, with all its merit as a fine specimen of Gilbert-Scott-Gothic, was singularly ill-adapted for a picture-gallery’.

The collection had to wait ten years for the opening of the Harris Museum in 1893 to find a permanent, fitting home. Hopefully, many items from the collection will be on display when the Harris reopens.

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