Watts Gallery's Campaign to Save Limnerslease Receives Heritage Lottery Fund investment
Plans to save, conserve and transform public access to Limnerslease – the studio and house of the great Victorian artist George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817 – 1904) in the village of Compton, Surrey - received a boost, thanks to a £2.4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support Saving the Watts Studios, the first phase of the Limnerslease Project.
Since 1938, Limnerslease – the only remaining artist’s house and studio designed by Ernest George, celebrated Arts and Crafts architect and tutor to Lutyens - has been in private ownership. The property was divided and modernisation resulted in many of the original features being lost.
For the first time, both parts of Limnerslease are now being offered for sale, presenting the Watts Gallery Trust with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the extraordinary achievement and legacy of G.F. and his wife, the artist Mary Seton Watts.
The £5m project - which includes an endowment – will enable the Watts Gallery Trust to restore the East wing of Limnerslease. This will include the restoration and recreation of G.F. Watts’s studio to the way Watts last saw it, the creation of the Compton Gallery to tell the story of G.F. and Mary Seton Watts in Compton and the restoration of the Mary Seton Watts’s studio which will become the Mary Watts Gallery to recognise her contribution through a permanent exhibition which tells the history of the Grade 1 listed Watts Chapel nearby, a unique community art project instigated by Mary in which she involved 70 local people.
The studio wing of Limnerslease will also house a conservation studio for an annual fellow from City & Guilds of London Art School and the Compton Studios will meet the needs of the growing Art for All Learning programme. The project will create a centre of excellence for developing skills in conservation, art, craft and design and will offer six apprenticeships in heritage collections, learning, estate management and visitor services.
Saving the Watts Studios will contribute to Compton becoming a unique Artists’ Village, to exploring Victorian art, social history, craft and design and becoming a hub for an international network of artists’ houses and studios.
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, commented:
“This is a wonderful opportunity to show the full story of George and Mary Watts. The Watts Studios at Limnerslease were the backdrop to the couple’s professional and home life. By acquiring the property, with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the Trust will be able to put their achievements in context. The plans to recreate the Mary Watts Craft and Conservation studios and provide training for people to learn practical heritage skills make this conservation project particularly exciting.”
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