The Prince of Wales has become the patron of a campaign by the Watts Gallery Trust to acquire Limnerslease, the Arts-and-Crafts house and studio of the Victorian painter George Frederick Watts and his wife, Mary. The charity has launched an appeal to raise £9 million to acquire the property at Compton, Surrey, which has been placed on the market by its current owners.
The Watts Gallery reopened in June (Country Life, June 8), and the trust views the purchase as an opportunity to reunite the neighbouring house and studio with the gallery, establishing the complex as a centre of excellence for con-servation training and heritage volunteering, and for the study of Victorian art, craft and design. The watercolourist Alexander Creswell has been working in the studio this year-the first time it has been occupied by an artist since Watts died in 1904-and has an exhibition there (until October 23).
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Limnerslease was built in 1891-its architect, Ernest George,was the tutor of Edwin Luytens-and
it contains ceilings and fireplaces designed by Mary Watts, a notable designer in her own right, whose reputation has languished in the shadow of that of her eminent husband. Mark Bills, curator, believes acquisition of the house would mean a chance to tell her story for the first time.
‘As a leading figure of the Home Arts and Industries Association, she brought the Arts-and-Crafts philosophy to Compton, motivating the villagers and creating the extraordinary Watts Chapel.’ The trust has to raise an initial £1.5 million by the end of January if its bid is to succeed (www.wattsgallery.org.uk).