Sewerby Hall is a Grade I listed early Georgian house, built for John Greame I between 1714 and 1720. In 1808 the central block was flanked by Regency bow-fronted wings and, after a further three building campaigns, this impressive house was finished. It is set within 50 acres of landscaped parkland with walled gardens, and overlooks the East Yorkshire Heritage coast just south of Flamborough Head. The Greame family sold the house to Bridlington Corporation in 1934 and the majority of their extensive collection of fine art, exquisite furniture and decorative art objects was sold separately in a sale lasting six days. None of these items were acquired by the Council.
The Hall was officially opened to the public in 1936 by the famous aviatrix Amy Johnson, and houses a unique collection of her memorabilia. An art gallery was established at the Hall in 1952, initially to accommodate the paintings purchased for the people of Bridlington by the Trevor Field Art Fund. The official opening ceremony was performed by Earl Swinton, brother of the last owner-occupier of Sewerby. Archaeological and historical displays were added later. From 1993, with the appointment of a Borough Museums Officer, Sewerby Hall benefited from the input of Lottery/European grants and the influx of professional staff. The Hall now operates as a museum of East Yorkshire history and archaeology, and hosts a rolling programme of fine art and historical exhibitions. There are currently four historic interiors furnished with fine pieces of furniture on loan, and it is the intention to reinstate Sewerby Hall’s status as one of East Yorkshire’s premier houses by restoring the service wing, bedrooms and dressing rooms, and re-presenting the country house.
In 1950, local architect Hugh Trevor Field donated £1,000 to Bridlington Town Council to form the basis of an art collection in Bridlington (based at Sewerby Hall). A number of purchases were made on a yearly basis, forming the core of the Collection. Trevor Field also left a further £4,000 in trust as a purchasefund. The Trustees continue to meet regularly and, advised by the Principal Museums Officer and the Curator, continue to select paintings (and sometimes other objects of artistic merit) to purchase for the collections at Sewerby Hall. The Trust has an impressive holding of works by local artists of note such as Walter Goodin, Harry Hudson Rodmell and Arthur John Trevor Briscoe.
Other areas of the art Collection have been built up over the years by donation, bequest and purchase. The fine art Collection now numbers some 1,000 works. It comprises eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century oil paintings, prints, drawings, watercolours and maps. The majority of works are local views (especially of Bridlington and Sewerby) and maritime art based around the East Yorkshire coast. A small collection of paintings by John Taylor Allerston relate to the ‘Great Gale’ of 10th February 1871. Allerston produced many variations on this theme and his depictions of vessels capture the nature of the sea in all its moods.
There are also portraits of several members of the Greame family and other locally important figures. Highlights include a full-length portrait by Godfried Schalcken of The Honourable Mary Lowther, first daughter of Viscount Lonsdale and Catherine Thynne. She is wearing a beautifully painted orange silk dress with a blue drape over her left shoulder. Other portraits includes painting by the Dutch artist Cornelius Janssens van Ceulen, once thought to be of Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), the wife of King Charles I. She is shown in a blue and white silk gown, with a gold chain and pearls. During the English Civil War, Henrietta Maria went to the continent to acquire arms for the Royalist cause. In 1643 she landed at Bridlington, intending to join the Royalist Army in the north at Newcastle. After being shelled by Parliamentarian artillery, she left town with a convoy of arms and ammunition. She stayed for one night at Boynton Hall (owned by a Parliamentarian) and supposedly ‘borrowed’ the family silver, leaving this portrait in exchange. Although the painting is of the right period, sadly the story is unlikely to be true. Recent research has suggested that the portrait is of Jane Carey, the wife of Lord Newburgh, Edward Barrett.
Also of interest is a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. This head and shoulders portrait of Nathanial Cholmley (1721–1791), Lord of the Manor, Whitby Abbey shows him wearing a white wig, dressed in a dark green jacket and waistcoat, both edged with gold.
Janice Smith, Curator
Text source: PCF / Sewerby Hall Museum and Art Gallery
This description was originally written for a catalogue.
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