Limnerslease at Watts GalleryOriginal shot Studio Limnerslease, 1893
Fans of fine art and architecture alike can embrace their inner culture vultures this summer with the Tours of Limnerslease at Watts Gallery, says Katie Thompson
The studios, designed by Ernest George, were home to esteemed Victorian artists George and Mary Watts. Having fallen victim to modernisation in the 1930s, many of their original features were lost, but they are now due to undergo a massive restoration project, courtesy of the ‘Saving the Watts Studios’ campaign, the first stage of the Limnerslease Project.
In November 2012 the house and studios, located in Compton, gratefully received a first-round pass award from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The award marks a huge step for the Limnerslease Project and will pave the way for progression into the second stage of the Heritage Lottery Fund application process. The restoration project will enable the Watts Gallery Trust to restore the studio and display Mary Seton Watts’ works, including her construction of the Grade 1 listed Watts Chapel.
The project, which is set to cost £5million in total, is seeking £2.3million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to four outside lenders, the previously privately owned house and studios have been temporarily secured for two years so that the Watts Gallery Trust can raise the remainder of the funds. Asides from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Watts Gallery Trust has said that it is “seeking support from a wide variety of trusts, foundations and individuals.” The project relies heavily on the successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund however, not only for their financial contribution but also for the support of a number of other organisations, who have pledged their support based on a successful application.
Time is precious for the Watts Gallery Trust, who hope to start work on the house and studios in 2014/2015, depending on the outcome of the Heritage Lottery Fund application. Members of the public are also encouraged to donate via the Watts Gallery Trust website.
Further proceeds from the Tours of Limnerslease: An Artists’ Home and Studio will also help to fund the project. The tour will cover the partially restored domestic home of George and Mary Watts, as well as the un-restored studio spaces. The Watts Gallery Trust promises a ‘unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of Limnerslease before the restoration work begins.’ The Trust also hopes to be able to offer ‘hard-hat tours’ of the house and studio during its restoration, similar to the tours on offer during the Hope Project’s restoration of the Watts Gallery.
The tours will be running on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, offering a 19th century experience complete with the original artists’ furniture. Speaking about the tour, a spokesperson for the Watts Gallery Trust said, “we want to bring the public with us on the journey to save an important house and studio for the nation.”
For more information on the Watts Gallery Trust and to donate to the project, log on to wattsgallery.org.uk.