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Babergh aids tourism expansion in Sudbury.

by nigelbennett on 5 May, 2014

Gainsborough House Museum looks set to expand. The expansion has been made possible with support from Babergh District Council to acquire an adjoining property.

Gainsborough Chambers in Weaver’s Lane, which consists of a car park, an old labour exchange and three garages, is adjacent to Gainsborough House and provides the ideal opportunity to expand. Given this unique position of the property the trustees needed to act quickly and without Babergh’s support the opportunity would have been lost. Since coming onto the market very recently, it had attracted serious interest from other buyers so Babergh stepped in to purchase the property in order to provide crucial additional time for Gainsborough House to fundraise for its acquisition. For Babergh to take this bold action it was made very clear at the outset it had to be on the firm basis that it was cost neutral for the council and council taxpayers. This has been achieved as Gainsborough House now rents the Chamber building and ancillary space from Babergh during this interim period which ensures full costs are covered and immediately provides additional space for Gainsborough House to utilise, the car parking will be a welcome addition to provide some disabled parking spaces.

This intervention is an interim measure until Gainsborough House has the full funds to purchase the premises from Babergh.

In buying the property, Babergh has given Gainsborough House the opportunity to achieve its potential as a nationally significant gallery and leading tourist attraction in East Anglia. Plans to create space for future exhibits, a café and visitor centre have already been drawn up and can be begin as soon as the funds have been raised.

Gainsborough’s House is the birthplace and childhood home of Thomas Gainsborough, one of the most significant figures in British Art. It is a very special place with a unique atmosphere set within the Suffolk landscape, a landscape that was of enormous significance to his art. Yet the House is in serious need of development so that it can survive into the future.

Mark Bills, Director of Gainsborough’s House confirmed “We are delighted with the swift action by Babergh District Council which helps us provide certainty to fund raise against this without the pressure of competition for the site. The acquisition and development of Gainsborough Chambers, car park and garages on Weaver’s Lane is crucial to the strategic plan for Gainsborough House to achieve sustainability and resilience. The plan is based on growth to allow enough space for income generation and to better deliver our mission. Although visitor numbers in the last year have increased to around 20,000, the House aspires to achieve double that number and draw a greater number of visitors to Sudbury and create a national gallery worthy of its mission and the artist whom it explores.”

“Gainsborough’s House is at a very exciting point in its history and has the possibility of embarking upon a major capital project to create a vibrant, innovative national centre that is sustainable and forward looking. It has a house and collections of international significance and the opportunity of being a great force for regeneration in Sudbury.”

To fulfil our mission Gainsborough’s House needs to be bold and confident about its future. This could be achieved through the development of a major capital project, which would create a national centre to attract loans from national collections and be the gateway to art in Suffolk. It would be an international draw, have facilities for nationally important exhibitions and attract significantly higher visitor numbers, being a local art and heritage resource for local communities, as well as having a Suffolk landscape viewing and activity gallery.

Gainsborough’s House needs now to begin to fundraise in order for this development to begin to happen. 

As Chair of the Sudbury Steering Group, I wholeheartedly support the growth of Gainsborough House and recognise the importance of the asset to Sudbury and the relationship with the existing businesses and community. I consider the proactive approach by the council has provided Gainsborough House with the security it needed to plan for the future to ensure this major heritage asset remains a tourism driver for Sudbury.

Also, the Chamber of Commerce have been aware of the importance and potential of Gainsborough’s House to Sudbury and its potential to add value to the town by both drawing visitors from the local area to what will become an increasing attraction situated in the heart of the town as well as drawing tourists and visitors to the town. They welcome and applaud the actions of Babergh District Council and the planning of Gainsborough’s House in allowing their vision to be communicated clearly and to prompt this action to safeguard this site for a key role in Sudbury’s future.


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