Paintings in the Town Hall

Description

A collection of the paintings in the Town Hall.

The paintings that comprise the bulk of the collection in the Main Hall, Annexe and Council Chamber mostly have an uncertain past. The only official information on record was given when the Berkshire Archaeological Society visited the Town in 1890, Mr E Frankum, the Clerk to the old Corporation stated that “it had never been ascertained how they got into the possession of the Corporation”.

His earliest recollection was that they hung at the entrance of the old Guildhall when the Guardians used to meet there. The paupers had to wait in the passage, and whilst waiting amused themselves by picking holes in the pictures; ultimately they were removed and placed over the witness-box in the Guildhall. When the old building was pulled down it was seen that some of the pictures were unquestionably of great value. They were restored and framed in 1859.

There are also stories that for a time some of the paintings ended up as scenery and cloths at the local theatre or in stage productions in the Town Hall itself. It is also reported that four may have come from the Hon. Miss Neville of Billingbear Park, about 1830 to 1832 and more from Alderman Thomas Creaker.

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A painting of a man holding a newspaper
Thought to be of John Walter I, this early 19th century picture could be either a member of the Walter family of Bearwood or one of the managers of The Times newspaper that the Walter family owned.

Prince George of Denmark (1653–1708), Baron Wokingham, KG
Another portrait of Baron Ockingham (husband of Queen Anne)

John Churchill (1650–1722), Duke of Marlborough, KG
A large picture, a full length standing figure, the size of life, in civilian costume advancing to the right. His close shaven face is seen in three quarters to the right, the eyes looking at the spectator, wears a flowing wig. His coat is of a plain…