The Fry Art Gallery Society was formed in 1985 to acquire paintings, prints, illustrations etc. principally by those 20th Century Artists who became known as “the Great Bardfield artists” as they all lived in or around this village in North West Essex.
It is an Accredited Museum with some 1,200 members. The Society's objects are the advancement of the education of the public in the arts by: (1) the promotion of educational and cultural activities in the premises at Bridge End Gardens Castle Street Saffron Walden Essex ("the Fry Art Gallery") and elsewhere including but not limited to exhibitions of oil paintings watercolours prints sculpture wallpapers weaving illustrated books ceramics and other works of art which are owned by our sister Charity The North West Essex Collection Trust or loaned to the Society; and (2) the preservation maintenance and use of the Fry Art Gallery for the purpose of displaying the Collection and other works of art.
The ownership of all the works of Art we have acquired over the years is vested in a sister Charity – The Northwest Essex Collection Trust Charity No. 1094429 with whom we share Trustees. We hold what is effectively the National Collection of works by what have become to known as the Bardfield Artists including Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, John Aldridge ,Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Rowntree, George Chapman and others.
In total we have some 1,500 pictures and 1,000 books or other ephemera, many acquired with assistance from ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund (who recently awarded us £199,000 from their Collecting Cultures Scheme).The Gallery is open – free of charge – to the Public where items from the permanent Collection are displayed each year in the Main Gallery; special Exhibitions are created each year and displayed in the second Gallery – most recently an Exhibition of work by Kenneth Rowntree (either of items borrowed from owners or from our own Collection), which has gone on to Pallant House, Chichester. Our annual Visitor numbers range between 7,000 and 10,000.
We have occupied the premises since 1985, but the Fry family trustee with whom we have worked for thirty years is now too frail to act and the trust is now managed by family members who have not had this intimate interest and contact. The Society has been offered the opportunity to purchase the Freehold of the Gallery Premises (currently held on a restrictive Lease from the Fry family) for £200,000. We have existing reserves of £100,000, and are appealing for the balance, we are currently half-way towards this target, but ideally we should like to raise the whole of the purchase price so that we can use our reserves to fund the much-needed building extension. The Fry family require completion of the purchase to take place by 31 December 2015.
Ownership of the property will enable the Society to embark on a sympathetic development programme by ZMMA partners (who are currently working at the V&A Museum. This work will be largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund – which (for legal reasons) would not have been possible under the terms of our existing lease. The storage, office and work space in the premises are very limited – the Collection store is at capacity – and expansion is a necessity.
While the Public will see no immediate benefit from the change of ownership, this will change dramatically once our expansion programme gets under way. The Gallery was erected in1856 to house the collection of Francis Gibson, a Quaker banker, and has been open to the public since then. It is not currently listed, but is an almost unique survivor of a nineteenth century gentleman's gallery.
For more information on how to get involved or donate to the fundraising efforts, please visit the website, call 01799 513779 (24hrs answerphone) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FRY ART GALLERY, Saffron Walden
regd. charity no. 295904