Heritage Lottery Funding Secures Hogarth Manuscript

Rare artefact written by celebrated satirist on show at restored home

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A rare manuscript written by celebrated 18th century painter and satirist William Hogarth will be the star attraction of the artist’s restored home.

Both the purchase of the letter, which has never before been on public display, and the restoration of Hogarth’s Chiswick home, have been made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Hogarth’s House, which is owned by Hounslow Council, is to receive a £276,000 grant from the HLF which is also contributing £17,500 towards the letter’s purchase.

The three-page manuscript, written to Suffolk artist and architect John Joshua Kirby and dated 1754, will be the centrepiece of displays at Hogarth’s House and also at Gunnersbury Park Museum. At other times, because prolonged display could cause damage, it will be in the safekeeping of the Local Studies Library at Chiswick where it will remain accessible by appointment. However, a copy of the manuscript will always be on display at Hogarth’s House, where it was written, and there will also be a “virtual exhibition” on the internet with digital images of the letter.

Hogarth’s House is a Grade 1 listed building with a walled garden, a short walk from the grounds of Chiswick House and adjacent to the A4 Great West Road, one of the busiest routes into central London. Apart from the fact that motorists pass through the nearby Hogarth Roundabout the building’s presence goes largely unnoticed.

The house and garden is described by the HLF as a building of national and international significance. Hogarth used it as his weekend home from 1749 until his death in 1764. At the time it stood on the outskirts of the village of Chiswick, overlooking fields but within easy reach of London by road or river. Restoration work over the next year will repair and conserve the structure and the interior and open up more of the building for visitors. It will also enable more research to be undertaken on the history of the house.

Special exhibitions will be created to attract new audiences, including the theme ‘Hogarth and Children’ which acknowledges the artist’s involvement as one of the original governors of the Foundling Hospital in London, the UK’s first home for abandoned children. There will also be an exhibition about ‘Hogarth and Beer’, linking his famous Beer Street print to the nearby Fullers Brewery which was already well established in Hogarth’s time.

Councillor Paul Lynch, Hounslow Council's heritage champion, and lead member for children's services and education, spearheaded efforts to raise money for the letter’s purchase. A fundraising campaign was launched shortly before Christmas when the letter came up for sale. The money raised locally has been matched by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Commenting on the project Cllr Lynch said: "I am so grateful to everyone who gave so generously to help us achieve match-funding, and thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support. It means an exciting part of Hogarth's history will be put on display for future generations to appreciate and learn more about this great man."

He added: “I have great respect for Hogarth's achievement in setting up the Foundling Hospital to care for abandoned children. It is my intention that the House should have closer links with the Foundling Museum. I am also very keen that our social workers should take a pride in the origins of their profession within our borough."

Val Bott, who chairs the William Hogarth Trust, expressed her delight at the HLF’s support. She said: “The Trust has already assisted with summer exhibitions and the centenary celebrations at Hogarth’s House and knows that it has enormous potential. These grants will help enhance what it offers and attract new visitors to enjoy it”.

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London, Sue Bowers, said: “Hogarth’s House is a hidden gem that deserves to be better known. This project will do exactly that bringing about a step change in how the house is presented and enjoyed by a wide range of visitors. The purchase of the Hogarth-Kirby letter can only add to the historical interest.”

An event to celebrate both the award of funding to restore Hogarth's House, and the purchase of the letter is expected to take place in the summer.

June 25, 2008