The history of Watts Gallery
Throughout his life, G F Watts had commissioned a number of leading architects to design buildings for him. However, he selected a relatively unknown architect to design his picture gallery.
Christopher Hatton Turnor (1873–1940) was living within a mile of Compton with his parents and was thrilled to receive a commission from such an established artist. Watts's choice of Turnor reflected both his and Mary's ethos of supporting Arts & Crafts in the local community.
The building was constructed using Surrey tiles, and its foundation stone — a beautiful terracotta block — was laid by Watts on his eighty-sixth birthday. He lived to see the gallery open for only three months, passing away on 1 July 1904.
Watts's death sent shockwaves throughout the art world and had a devastating impact on the gallery, which Mary closed so that the collection might form the core of a large travelling memorial exhibition. This allowed Mary the opportunity to expand the gallery, allowing for the display of more works, something that Watts himself had wished for before his death.