Chelmsford Museum was founded by Chelmsford Philosophical Society in 1835, and has been run by Chelmsford District (later Borough) Council, from early in the twentieth century. In 1930, the Museum moved to its present home in Oaklands House, an 1860s villa in its own park on the south of the town. An extension housing the Essex Regiment Museum was opened by HRH Princess Margaret in 1973.
Few pictures remain from the Museum’s nineteenth century collections. The rood screen panels from Latchingdon Church are a primary example. Otherwise, the first certain acquisition records for pictures now in the collection are from 1907. These are for a group of topographical watercolours of old buildings in the Chelmsford area by Alfred Bennett Bamford, a teacher at the School of Art. This sets the course for most of the Museum’s pictures: many views of the town and area, nearly all by Essex artists, and mostly on paper. Among the oils are the fine view of The Shire Hall, painted by Philip Reinagle in 1794 for its architect John Johnson; the finest of the portraits are probably two of Juliana Waltersdorff, mistress of Hylands House, painted by her Danish compatriot Jens Juel: Juliana Margaretta Waltersdorff (later Mrs Cornelius Kortright), c.1780s–c.1790 and Juliana, Wife of Cornelius Kortright, c.1800–1801 (after seven childbirths). Later in the nineteenth century, Ear Inspection in a Russian Hospital by Emily Shanks, painted in Moscow c.1890s, is possibly the only painting by this artist in an English public collection.
During the second half of the twentieth century, the Museum acquired work by Essex-based artists: John Aldridge, Maggi Hambling, Cedric Morris, John O’Connor and others. Lynton Harold Lamb, best known as an illustrator, lived close to Chelmsford. Collecting has been constrained by lack of space as well as of money, but at the time of writing the Council has agreed to extend Oaklands House to cope with modern requirements, probably in 2007–2008.
Anne Lutyens-Humfrey, Keeper of Art
Text source: PCF / Chelmsford Museums
This description was originally written for a catalogue.