The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Meetings and activities, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For more information on recent events and current programme, please email or contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434

Guided visit to Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury Saturday 10th June

Guided visit to Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury 

Saturday 10th June


Since our previous visit 11 years ago, the artist’s home has been transformed into the National Centre for Thomas Gainsborough.  Thanks to a Lottery Heritage grant, the new gallery and exhibition space opened in November 2022, on the site of the old Labour Exchange alongside the existing house and gardens.

There had been little investment since the Gainsborough’s House Society was formed to purchase the house in 1968, to refurbish and establish it as a centre for Gainsborough’s work. The vision was always to build upon the rich history of Gainsborough’s House. The striking new gallery is modern and accessible, celebrating Gainsborough; his followers, contemporaries and other Suffolk based artists like John Constable and Cedric Morris. There is also new gallery space for regular temporary exhibitions.

The museum holds 40 of Gainsborough’s paintings and over 4,000 prints & drawings, many gifted or on loan to the museum.  Not all can be shown at one time, so they rotate over time. The new Gainsborough exhibition space has silk wall coverings donated by Richard Humphries Weaving based in Sudbury. 

Our groups were given guided tours by expert volunteers. We were shown early works, portraits of his family and the wealthy sponsors who helped him launch his career, and his landscapes- a real passion since sketching the Suffolk countryside as a boy. Through the portraits, landscapes and sketches we were treated to the background information behind many of the paintings. These show his love of horses and landscapes, and how he used light and dark as backdrop to his portraits of both wealthy and poorer subjects. 


Gainsborough was born in 1727 to John Gainsborough, a wealthy Wool merchant and his wife Mary, the youngest of 9 children. He attended Sudbury Grammar School till he moved to London aged 13 to develop his artistic skills. Here he met Margaret Burr, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort and made an advantageous marriage. A settlement of £200 annuity on the couple enabled him to move in influential circles and gain rich sponsors for his work. Thomas returned to Sudbury in 1749 when his father died and his family bought the house, and later moved to Ipswich, London & Bath to further his career.  

We learnt about Gainsborough’s family including his daughters Margaret & Mary, his nephew Gainsborough Dupont who joined Gainsborough’s family as a boy and became his permanent assistant (and others who were murdered in London). 


We thanked our knowledgeable volunteer guides who shared their enthusiasm for Gainsborough's work with 24 History Society members. We all agreed that their background information and wealth of detail about the works was key to making the visit a great success. 

Then in perfect summer weather, we enjoyed refreshments in the beautiful garden, maintained by volunteers who exclusively cultivate plants available in Gainsborough’s lifetime, including a 400 years old Mulberry Tree. 

All of us really have a national treasure in Sudbury - an international centre for Thomas Gainsborough, and the largest gallery in Suffolk.  



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