My Life – Page 21

The GLC Heritage Collection. It is not perhaps generally known that the Greater London Council, before its abolition, possessed a notable collection of portraits, as well as sculptures, objets d’art and many items of historic interest and importance to Londoners. Some of the pictures and sculptures were by famous 19th-20th century artists. How and why was this collection originally created, how was it preserved when the GLC was abolished, and how did the paintings and other artistic items find a home at the London Guildhall, the Supreme Court, the City of London and elsewhere?

The Paintings Dumped. One day when visiting the Members library at County Hall, I was shown to a room at the back where the book I was looking for could be found and discovered stack upon stack of portraits. I was appalled. I wondered what would happen to these if the GLC was abolished as it appeared to be very likely, so I thought I would photograph them and asked permission of the Chairman of the GLC Tony Banks.  He gave me permission, and I duly photographed them.  In getting his permission I found out that no one was officially responsible for them which is why they had been dumped in the library after having been moved from pillar to post around County Hall.


Detail from the painting by Jane Murphy now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

I begin to record the GLC Heritage Collection. Within days of the passing of the Local Government Act 1985 which abolished the GLC, I was asked by Tony Banks MP, the last chairman of the GLC, to prepare a catalogue of the works of art which were owned both by the GLC and the former Middlesex County Council which were housed at County Hall and the Middlesex Guildhall. As there had been no previous catalogue of these items, Banks’s prompt action during those last months of the GLC possibly saved the collection from disappearing or being dispersed.

According to Banks, Ken Livingstone had told him he couldn’t give a hang about the collection.

With the assistance of Peter Barrett, one of the GLC’s chief photographers, I set out to hunt down and catalogue what finally became known as the GLC Heritage Collection.  Banks sent a memo around saying that no room was to be closed to me and no cupboard locked that I wished to look into.  I was over the moon.

The Collection Catalogued. Eventually I found a collection of 89 portraits of former chairmen of the LCC/GLC and a number of group paintings and an important collection of paintings housed in the former Middlesex Guildhall, now the home of the Supreme Court.   I had catalogued more than 1000 items by the time I completed the task just days before the demise of the GLC. This enterprise ensured the identification and the safety of the collection and would, I like to feel, have pleased Captain George Swinton, who, back in 1907, realised the importance of commissioning artists of the highest calibre to provide a pictorial record of chairmen of the LCC.

Perhaps Swinton would not have been so pleased by the initial reaction of the Chairman of the London Residuary Body, Sir Arthur Godrey Taylor (1925-2014), who in his new-found role as art collector, described the portraits as ‘rubbish’ and declared that they should be given to the sitters’ relatives  or sold off. Fortunately, wiser counsel prevailed.

County Hall and the portraits, 1922. Searching through the records I found that during the move to the newly-opened County Hall in 1922, the LCC’s modest collection of 28 portraits of past Chairmen was brought to adorn its walls. It was reported on 28 November 1922 that:

 “As the Council is aware, these portraits have for a long time past been painted year by year by contemporary artists of eminence, who have in each case generously executed the work at practically a nominal fee, the cost being borne by private subscriptions from members of the Council. Each portrait, so painted, has been presented to the Chairman concerned after relinquishing his office and has been presented back by him to the Council. In this way (and otherwise in a few cases) the Council has had the good fortune to become possessed of a portrait of each Chairman of the Council who has carried out the duties of the office since the formation of the Council in 1889.”

 The Council asked the President of the Royal Academy Sir Frank Dicksee and a select group of Academicians to advise on the hanging of the pictures. This they duly did, suggesting the uniform re-framing of the portraits, in a type of frame they personally recommended.  By this time the collection contained works by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, RA (1836-1912) , George Clausen RA (1852-1944), The Hon. John Collier (1850-1934), Hubert von  Herkomer RA (1849-1914), William Henry Samuel Llewellyn RA (1858-1941), Ambrose Arthur McEvoy RA (1878-1927), William Newzam Preior Nicholson  (1872-1949), Sir William Quiller Orchardson, RA (1832-1910), William Orpen, RA (1878-1931), Glyn Watrren Philpot, RA (1884-1937), Edward John Poynter RA (1836-1919) and William Strang RA (1859-1921), and was therefore remarkably representative of leading contemporary portraiture.

George Sitwell Swinton (1859-1937). The high quality of the collection was chiefly due to the efforts of one man, Captain George Sitwell Swinton, who had been Chairman of the LCC for a period of 15 days in 1912. Born in Edinburgh, he was related to the famous Sitwell family through his mother, the daughter of Sir George Sitwell of Renishaw. Originally an Army officer, he resigned his commission and studied art under Hubert von Herkomer at Bushey, eventually taking up politics and becoming a member of the LCC for Holborn in 1901.

Shortly after being elected Chairman in 1912 he resigned in order to take up a new post in India as Chairman of the Planning Committee responsible for the creation of the new ‘Imperial Capital of Delhi’. He was duly fined £1 by the LCC in accordance with its Standing Order No.12 (2).

Four years before his suicide (he shot himself with his service revolver after suffering acute pain for a long period), he sent the Clerk of the LCC a note on ‘Portraits of the Chairmen of the London County Council – 12 June 1933.’  This is how he began his account of the creation of the collection of Chairmen’s portraits:

 “There are now hanging in the lobbies and rooms of the Council Hall 40 portraits of the men who have presided over the County Hall of London since it came into existence, and it may be useful, historically, to place on record some sort of account as to how this interesting collection originated and the lines on which it has grown so far, and will, we hope – continue to grow.

It began and has, with one unimportant exception, continued throughout, as a compliment to an acting Chairman, his brother councillors in grateful recognition of work well done, inviting him to have his portrait painted at their expense, and presented to him, but with a thoroughly understood arrangement that he should give it back to them in order that it may be hung on the walls of County Hall as a pleasant remembrance.”

The first thirteen portraits. (1889-1906). The first portrait in the collection is that of Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery , said by Swinton to be a good likeness, ‘after and touched by’ George Frederick Watts. Not, I think, one of his great works.

Watts, George Frederic, 1817-1904; Archibald Philip Primrose (1847-1929), 5th Earl of Rosebery, Prime Minister (1894-1895)

Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery  (1847-1929) by
George Frederic Watts (1817-1904)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Lord Rosebery also appears in the large group picture ‘The Meeting of the London County Council in the County Hall, Spring Gardens, 22 April 1890’ by Henry Jermyn Brooks.

Brooks, Henry Jamyn; The First Meeting of the London County Council in the County Hall Spring Gardens, 1889; City of London Corporation;

Brooks spent 18 months on the painting.  Members were asked to subscribe towards the cost, but they only raised 30 guineas. In view of this, Brooks presented the painting to the Council, and asked to be allowed to have engravings made so that he could recoup his costs. This was refused and he attempted to commit suicide.

The second chairman, Sir John Lubbock, 1st Lord Avebury, was painted by the Hon. John Collier (1850-1934). As MP for Maidstone he secured the adoption of the Bank Holidays Act, 1871 and the Act of Preservation of Ancient Buildings, 1882.

Collier, John, 1850-1934; John Lubbock (1834-1913), 1st Baron Avebury, Banker, Politician, Biologist and Archaeologist

Sir John Lubbock, 1st Lord Avebury (1834-1913)
by the Hon John Collier
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Collier also produced four other portraits of LCC chairmen, including an excellent penetrating one of his brother Robert Collier, Lord Monkswell, a former Secretary of State for War in 1895, Chairman of the Royal Commission on Health and Safety for Miners and author of the  novel ‘Kate Grenville’.

Collier, John, 1850-1934; Lord Monkswell (1845-1909), Politician

Robert Collier, Lord Monkswell (1845-1909) by the Hon. John Collier.
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Far and away the finest of these first portraits was George Clausen’s of Sir John Williams Benn (1850-1922), looking directly forward with an unquiet, faintly troubled gaze.

Sir John Williams Benn (1850-1922) by George Clausen (1852-1944)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Swinton begins his great project.  Swinton sums up the first thirteen portraits as ‘uncertain and not very exciting’ which was a little harsh, and considered the time had come ‘to make an attempt to put it on a safer footing’. Using his connections with the art world he managed to persuade the young William Orpen to paint the next two chairmen Sir Evan Spicer and Sir Henry Percy Harris for £100 apiece as a gift to London. These two early Orpens are indeed fine works and the portrait of Harris is probably one of the most valuable of the Chairmen’s portraits.

Orpen, William, 1878-1931; Sir Henry Percy Harris (1856-1941), Politician

Detail from the portrait of Sir Henry Percy Harris (1856-1941)
by Sir William Orpen (1878-1931).
It is hoped it has been cleaned since the photograph was taken
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection 

Swinton forwarded his correspondence with all his artist friends to the LCC and I was surprised to find that these, together with his short history of the portraits is now held in the bowels of the City Records Department whence they surely ought, at some time in the near future, be transferred to the Guildhall Art Gallery archives.

“The Assessors” by Joseph Finnemore. An architectural competition was held to select the best design for a new County Hall on the South Bank. One hundred and fifty-two architects, working singly or in collaboration, produced 99 different designs. In 1940 the daughters of the artist Joseph Finemore presented the Council with his watercolour group portrait of the assessors: Norman Shaw RA, architect, Sir Aston Webb, P.R.A., sculptor and W.E.Riley, the LCC’s Chief Architect in the act of judging the designs for County Hall.


A unique record, if a rather indifferent work of art, it was displayed in County Hall for many years and then disappeared. I finally found it in the sub-basement carpet store of County Hall minus its frame and covered in grime.  The London Residuary Body arranged for its restoration and framing.

An amended design for County Hall by Harold Wyllie
This design was approved by the LCC in 1908 but it was to be further amended. It is now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery but was formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection  

Swinton’s tale continues. “The success with the Orpens spurred us on to higher aims and we then went for the gloves. The doyen and perhaps the most honoured of our portrait painters living at that moment was Sir William Orchardson, RA.  Most fortunately I happened to know him personally.  He was a brother Scot, and when he first came south he had been helped by one of my relatives.  I was therefore encouraged to go to him and explain to him our situation, pointing out how our gallery had started, was growing and must continue to grow, and he we were tied financially ‘Would he’, I asked ‘give a present to London and paint us a picture for £100′.  He replied ‘Of course I will’ and the Pass was won.  I believe his portrait of Sir Richard Atkinson Robinson (1849-1928) was about his last completed work.

Sir Richard Atkinson Robinson (1849-1928)  by Sir William Quilter Orchardson (1832-1910)  now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery   formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Anyhow we had found the key to our difficult position. The next Herkomer, the man we approached [under whom Swinton had studied] replied ‘Of course I will do what Orchardson has done’, and thus started, for eighteen years, the formula ran, to one painter after another.”
von Herkomer, Hubert, 1849-1914; Sir Richard Melvill Beachcroft

Sir Richard Melville Beachcroft (1846-1926),  by Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914)  now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery  formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

And so followed portraits by Alma-Tadema, RA., who commanded astronomic prices, yet gifted this one to London for £100 the year before he died, and by Sir Edward Poynter, RA.

William Whitaker Thompson (1857-1920)
by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Poynter, Edward John, 1836-1919; Sir Edward White

Sir Edward White (1847-1914)
by Sir Edward John Poynter (1836-1919)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

The laying of the County Hall foundation stone. On Saturday, 9th March 1912, three days before Swinton was elected Chairman of the LCC, King George V and Queen Mary came to lay the foundation stone of County Hall. The ceremonial items used for the laying of the stone had been specially commissioned by the Council from Onslow E, Whiting and the students of the Council’s Central School of Arts and Crafts.

These items, consisting of a trowel, spirit level, mallet and plumb rule, made of silver, ebony, amethysts and opals, are extraordinary examples of the Arts and Crafts movement. Very theatrical they are too, the spirit in the spirit-level being encased in a silver edged pool and decorated with two large amethysts; gazing into the level (pool) with some amazement is a small silver putto with outstretched arms! The plumb-line is held up by the Goddess Diana with her crescent moon.  These ceremonial tools are described in the Survey of London Monograph 17. County Hall by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (pp.52-53) as ‘among the finest artefacts commissioned by the Council’. They must have been touched by the royals for all of one minute.  Shamefully they now sit in a packing case in the cellars of the City of London and presumably will remain there forever.









1912. Accident. I found in the records that a few weeks, after the laying of the foundation stone,  Mr.W.S.Hills, a materials inspector, fell from the County Hall scaffolding; he had served 20 years with the School Board for London and the LCC and his weekly wage was £3.3s. That was 3 shillings more than my mother was paid as a full time secretary in the 1950s.

1912 Swinton’s portrait. Swinton’s own portrait, a charcoal sketch by John Singer Sargent R.A., is dated 1912, the year of his brief chairmanship of the LCC, and is the only one of the Chairman’s portraits that is not an oil.


George Sitwell Swinton (1859-1937) by John Singer Sargent
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Swinton presented it to the Council in 1925. Swinton was on ‘intimate terms’ with Sargent, who had painted Mrs Swinton in 1896-7 (a painting now in the Art Institute of Chicago) and drawn her in 1906. Little did Swinton realise the treatment his portrait was to receive, During the war it was taken to the cellars and was finally discovered by John Jacob, the curator of Kenwood House (then owned by the GLC), with its glass broken and frame shattered. He removed it to Kenwood for safety.  I recovered it in 1986, and the LRB arranged for it to be reframed. Swinton had asked for his portrait to be placed above the 18th century ‘Bear and Beehive’ fireplace in County Hall by William Collins following a design by Francis Barlow. As an act of homage I arranged for the portrait to be hung above the fireplace for a short period, before it finally joined the other portraits for packing and storage during the last days of the GLC.

1913-1915. Artists to whom Swinton successfully appealed were Sir Samuel Henry William Llewellyn who had recently become a Royal Academician and would eventually become President; William Strang, William Nicholson and William Ouless RA.

Sir Cyril Stephen Cobb (1861-1938) by William Strang (1859-1921)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Coat of arms. The portrait of Cobb is rather stiff and self-conscious, imposed it is feared by Cobb wishing to have an important paper in his hand, though Strang was not averse to his sitters having such props. The one in question was a small painting of the coat-of-arms of the London County Council.  It is not clear from the papers whether Cobb helped design the coat-of-arms, but certainly it was his idea that the Council should have one and from the painting it does seem as though he had just put the finishing touches to it. After much debate the final coat-of-arms was granted to the Council on 14 August 1914, 35 years after the Council had been created and just fifteen days after war was declared. Cobb paid for the cost of applying for the coat of arms as a memento of his year of office.  It is therefore understandable that he wished to be depicted holding a painting of it.


The Lalique Chalice. Searching the GLC/LCC archives, I discovered that during this period, the Council was visited by representatives of the Conseil General de la Seine (City of Paris) who presented the then Chairman Sir Cyril Stephen Cobb (Strang’s sitter – above) with a magnificent and unique Lalique chalice displaying the arms and crests of the City of Paris and the London County Council and the date ‘6 Juin 1914’. Cobb took it home, but it was left in his will to the LCC and returned in 1938.


No one knew what had happened to it after that. I finally found it in a cupboard in the Chairman’s Dressing Room, totally unrecognisable and covered in black gunge; it had been used for years as a convenient receptacle for Brasso for when the brass in the Chairman’s office needed to be cleaned.  Fortunately, when washed, it proved to be in perfect condition. Imagine my excitement at finding it. Sadly, it now languishes in a box in the bowels of the City of London storerooms, never to be seen again, I despair.  Is there no one out there who is prepared to get the City of London to bring it out for display?

Malachite Vases. Into the possession of the Council in 1914 came a magnificent bequest from Henry Lorenzo Jephson (1844-1914) who sat as a Progressive Party member of the LCC from March 1901 until his death on 31 January 1914 representing Kensington North.  It consisted of two monumental malachite vases with ormolu handles in the form of masks which had been presented to Sir John Crampton by Czar Alexander II in 1861. Jephson was a nephew of Crampton. Black marble plinths were duly made for them and they were placed a the head of the ceremonial staircase at County Hall. Later in their history they were damaged by an intruder and were very poorly repaired.  The vases and plinths were last seen by me adorning the entrance to the Museum of London.


The Wrestlers. Alfred Fowell Buxton (1854-1952) Chairman of the LCC from 1916-1917) presented a pair of bronze statues of the Wrestlers of Herculaneum.  They were originally placed in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, but due to regular vandalism were removed to Holland Park.

1916-1928. Britton Riviere, Ambrose McEvoy, Glyn Philpot, Sir Walter Westley Russell, RA, (whose portrait was declared ‘a catastrophe’ by Swinton) and Richard Jack, RA, all succumbed to Swinton’s pleas.

McEvoy, Ambrose, 1878-1927; Robert Offley Asburton Crewe-Milnes (1858-1945), 2nd Baron Houghton, Marquess of Crewe

Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe  (1858-1945) by Ambrose Arthur McEvoy (1878-1927) now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery  formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

McEvoy presents Crewe-Milnes as a rather haunted sepulchral figure emerging out of a grey mist. It is one of the strangest works in the collection. What Lord Crewe made of it is not known.  He became Viceroy of Ireland and married Lord Rosebery’s daughter. He was also one time Secretary of State for India responsible for transferring the capital of India to Delhi and thus presumably appointed Swinton as Chairman of its Planning Committee. Philpot (below) produced one of his stylish portraits, a strong impressive face in a simple assured composition, truly one of his masterpieces.

Ronald Collet Norman (1873-1963) by Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937)  now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery   formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection


Laocoon. In 1926 Sir Henry Percy Harris (1856-1941) presented the Council with a bronze copy of the Vatican Laocoon. I found it in the cellars covered in dust.


Swinton’s tale continues. In 1927 Swinton decided to approach one of the most fashionable artists of the period, Sir John Lavery.  The following example, written on 22 March 1927 to Lavery, gives an idea of the sort of letter Swinton was now writing to his artists:

 “Today we have to have a portrait of Sir George Hopwood Hume, MP., Leader of the Council for seven years and Chairman last year, a most paintable person, wholly Scottish, but has lived in Russia and assimilated a Russian look, bearded, somewhat rugged – and on our walls we have no Lavery! Will you join the army of Benefactors of London and paint Hume’s portrait for the County Hall for £100. Of course you may be far too busy – but London will be the poorer”. Lavery duly complied.

Lavery, John, 1856-1941; Sir George Hopwood Hume (1866-1946)

Sir John Hopwood Hume (1866-1946)
by Sir John Lavery (1856-1941)

now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Whiting, Frederic, 1874-1962; Sir John Maria Gatti (1872-1929)

John Maria Gatti (1872-1929) by Frederic Whiting (1874-1962)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Gatti was a senior partner of J & R Gatti, proprietors of the Adelphi and Vaudeville Theatres in London. During his year as Chairman (1927-1928) he led a deputation from the Council to St James’s Palace to welcome His Majesty King Amanulla of Afghanistan.  His Majesty expressed his thanks and conferred on Gatti the Order of Astaukri-I-Dome. He died in 1960 in exile. Gatti also acquired the insignia of the 3rd Class Order of the Nile from King Faud of Egypt during his state visit in 1927. This and the Swinton remain my favourite portraits of the collection.

Swinton bows out. Swinton finally bowed out in 1929 after the chairman Sir Cecil Bingham Levita suggested to Swinton that, in future, the President of the Royal Academy should be invited to choose the painter each year for the Chairman’s portrait. But let Swinton tell the tale:  “Sir Cecil Levita had a happy inspiration when, after a preliminary discussion with Sir Frank Dicksee, President of the Royal Academy, who unfortunately died suddenly at that moment – he induced Sir William Llewellyn, who succeeded him as PRA and who had a generation earlier himself painted Lord Cheylsmore, to undertake the responsibility of selecting our painters and, in a way telling them off. It is to be hoped that the excellent arrangement so started will continue, with perhaps the result that from now on the British Portrait Painter who thinks he has made good, but has no specimen of his work hanging in County Hall, will feel almost aggrieved.”

Henry, George, 1858-1943; Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Cecil Bingham Levita (1867-1953), Chairman of the London County Council (1928)

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Cecil Bigham Levita (1867-1953)
by George Henry (1858-1943).
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Levita (Chairman 1928-9) served in the Matabele War, South Africa. He was made Commander of the Legion of Honour in 1929 and Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1930.

Arthur Lewis Leon (1855-1927) by Sir George Clausen (1852-1944). A stray portrait by Clausen fell into the collection.  It is not of a chairman but of an alderman of the LCC (1889-1907). I could not find out how the portrait finished up with the LCC/GLC. But I discovered it abandoned in the cellars. It’s a rather good portrait.

Clausen, George, 1852-1944; Arthur Lewis Leon (1855-1927)

Arthur Lewis Leon (1855-1927) by Sir George Clausen (1852-1944)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

1929-1937. I have covered the artists who were selected by the President of the RA. in some detail in my full history of the Heritage Collection.  Suffice it to say that many of the great society painters of the period did in fact oblige the Council, year after year. Here is one:

Greiffenhagen, Maurice, 1862-1931; Sir Robert Inigo Tasker (1868-1959), Politician

Sir Robert Inigo Tasker (1868-1959)
by Maurice Grieffenhagen (1862-1931)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Frank Hunt Loving Cup. A striking memento of a member of staff consists of a silver cup engraved on one side with a representation of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens and on the other side an inscription stating it was a presentation loving cup to Frank Hunt on his retirement from the chief officers of the LCC. Made in 1937 by the Central School of Arts and Crafts.


1938 – The civic silver collection.

Dodd, Francis, 1874-1949; Lord Snell of Plumstead (1865-1944), Politician and Compaigner

Henry, Lord Snell of Plumstead (1864-1944), painted by Francis Dodd RA (1874-1949), now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Lord Snell began the tradition of having the Council commission a piece of civic silver to commemorate a Chairman’s term of office. The first piece to be commissioned was a silver cigarette box, designed and executed by the Central School of Arts and Crafts and bearing the hallmark, London, 1936.


Over the years more than 50 separate pieces were commissioned from silversmiths such as Adrian Gerald Sallis Benney (1930-2008), Leslie Durbin (1913-2005), Eric Clements (b.1925), Arthur Robert Emerson, and Denis Quoid or commissioned from Mappin and Webb.  Some were modest commissions, like a set of silver and enamel menu holders from Mappin & Web.


The following pieces are by Arthur Robert Emerson who taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts 


Silver flower vase 1949


Chalice 1953 by Emerson 


Silver rose bowl designed by B.I. Wade
and made by Emerson, 1950


Silver Salver 1954

 Cigar Box 1963 by Emerson 


Pair of Silver Sugar Bowls by Emerson

Pair of Silver Candelabra, 1964 by Leslie Durbin


Silver Chalice 1961, by Reginald H. Hill and N.V.Bassant


Silver and Silver-gilt Salver 1968 by Denis Quaid


Silver Rose Bowl 1954 by Leslie Durbin


Some pieces of silver were spectacular like the London Bridges Rose Bowl, 1945 by Emerson, commissioned and presented to the Council by Labour councillor Reginald Pott.

This bowl had been commissioned to commemorate the opening of the new Waterloo Bridge in 1945 and features engravings of 11 London Bridges, with a twelfth panel showing County Hall. All now languish in the cellars of the City of London.

The Epstein Bronze. Pott had also, in 1942, presented the Council with a bronze head, by Sir Jacob Epstein, of Ivan Maisky, the Russian Ambassador to Britain. The bust was stolen during its time with the London Residuary Body and has never been recovered.


Mementoes. Spectacular mementos of their years of office that Chairmen presented to the Council included Sir Ernest Sanger’s gift of a George IV silver gilt ink-stand by John Law (dated 1829). The inkstand, once I had discovered it, decorated the desk of the Chairman of the Council. It consisted of an exquisitely-worked castle with battlemented tower ink-wells and a central pedestal surmounted by a lion couchant with its body formed from a large baroque pearl.


Another piece that became known as the Bazalgette Snuff Box had been presented to the Metropolitan Board of Works (predecessors of the LCC). Composed of four wooden compartments surmounted by a silver figure of Father Thames, this structure stands on four silver swans set on wheels. Made by S. Smith and  hallmarked London 1867, it was presented by the Contractors for the Main Drainage and Thames Embankment Works, whose famous engineer Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (1819 – 1891) constructed London’s drainage system. Again all lost to the world as it is also consigned to the cellars of the City of London.

The Bazalgette Snuff Box

Butler, Edwin Tranter, b.1841; Michael Faraday (1791-1867), Chemist and Physicist

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) by Edwin T. Butler
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Michael Faraday. Sometime after the war, the Council acquired a powerful portrait of  Michael Faraday with a curious history. In 1878, nine years after his death Mrs Sarah Faraday (1800–1879) commissioned a portrait of her husband from Edwin T. Butler, an amateur artist ‘of considerable local fame’ who had formerly been an ironmaster with a business in Moss Side, Glasgow. The portrait was based on photographs and details as to flesh colour, eyes and hair were supplied by Mrs Faraday. In 1908, Jane Barnard an adopted daughter of the Faradays, gave the portrait to the LCC Michael Faraday School. The school was bombed during the war and the painting was about the only thing saved from the burnt-out ruins.  It eventually found its way to County Hall. Mrs Faraday and many of his close friends considered it to be a remarkable likeness.

Cleopatra’a Needle. The Establishment Committee reported to the Council on 2 November 1948 that it had accepted from C.H.Mabey a collection of originals models, pictures and documents concerning the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle and Sphinxes. Some items from this collection were discovered in a safe in the Record Office at County Hall. These items are a small plaster model and a bronze model of one of he sphinxes which flank the base of Cleopatra’s Needle on the Victoria Embankment.  The sphinxes were sculpted by George Vulliamy. Are these his original models?

The LCC/GLC were responsible for the upkeep of Cleopatra’s Needle as well as many other public statues in London


Emma Jane Catherine Cobden-Unwin (1850-1947).  Mrs Cobden-Unwin was one of two women to be elected to the LCC in 1889 and fought valiantly for women’s rights and the right to vote. The painting was stolen in 1989.


Emma Jane Catherine Cobden-Unwin (1850-1947) 
by Emily Osborn (1834-after 1913)
stolen in 1989 but part of the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

1940-1949. In 1940 the Council obtained powers to enable it to acquire works of art from its public funds and thus to commission artists without having to rely on the generosity of its members. Sad to relate, the chosen artists, with a few exceptions, produced some rather indifferent portraits. It may have been this that led Council members deciding in 1949 that in future they  would not not leave the choice of artist to the President of the Royal Academy, as it was feared that, on occasion, his nomination might ‘prove embarrassing’ and the Council could get involved in commissioning an unsuitable artist. Henceforth a sub-committee of the Council would make the choice. Sir Walter Lamb, Secretary of the RA, was asked to approve the Council’s draft letter bringing to an end the nomination arrangement. Sir Walter thought the draft letter treated the ‘rather delicate matter with excellent tact and taste’ and the Academy formally accepted ‘without demur’ the Council’s decision to go it alone.
Once again, some of the foremost painters of the period – including Rodrigo Moynihan, William Dring, Henry Lamb, Peter Greenham, Michael Noakes and Edward Irvine Halliday (10) – made their contributions.

Moynihan, Rodrigo, 1910-1990; Dr Somerville Hastings (1878-1967)

Somerville Hastings (1878-1967) by Rodrigo Moynihan (1910-1990) now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery  formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Mrs Helen Caroline Bentwich (1892-1972)
by Henry Lamb (1885-1960)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Halliday, Edward Irvine, 1902-1984; Bernard Brooke-Partridge, Member of the Greater London Council

Bernard Brook-Partridge (b.1927)
by Edward Irving Halliday (1902-1984)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

William Roberts and Sir Sidney Barton. There were a few hiccups, however, as in the case of William Roberts. He was commissioned to paint Sir Sidney Barton, who gave him ten sittings and rejected the finished result.

Sidney James Barton (1909-1986)
by William Patrick Roberts (1895-1980)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

In the Greater London Records files there is a plaintive note from Roberts saying that he had delivered the Barton portrait to Room 151 at County Hall, as it was the room in which Barton had sat to him and he could find no one who would take the painting from him. he finished by saying, he hoped it would be framed. It was not framed but shunted from storeroom to storeroom and, somewhere along the way, a graffiti biro moustache was added. I rescued it from a basement storeroom, placed it in a spare frame and saved it from the scrap- heap for which it had obviously been destined.  A portrait by Leslie Robert Baxter was accepted. A six-piece silver tea service by Gerald Benny also commemorated Barton, who was made a Commander of the Legion of Honour by France, awarded the Order of Homayoun class III by the Shah of Iran and given the Grand Cross of the Order of Al Merito by Peru. Sidney James Barton by Leslie Robert Baxter (1893-1972) (below).

Sidney James Barton (1909–1986), Chairman of London County Council (1959–1960)

Festival Hall: gifts and acquisitions. High-quality acquisitions and gifts made by and to the LCC for the Festival Hall  included bronze heads of Yehudi Menuhin by Sir Charles Wheeler, Otto Klemperer and Rosalyn Turek  by Sir Jacob Epstein, Sir William Walton by Dame Elizabeth Frink, Ralph Vaughan Williams by David McFall RA, Dylan Thomas by Oloff de Wet, Sir Malcolm Sargent by William Narraway. There were also many paintings and drawings, including a drawing of Sir Arthur Bliss by Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) and thirteen drawings of musicians by William Dreifuss. All were transferred to the Arts Council.

1964 the Greater London Council. A vast painting by Alfred Reginald Thomson commemorates the first meeting of the new Greater London Council, held on 27 April 1964. His fee which was finally agreed by the Council, after a short haggle, was 2,500 guineas. Thomson considered the work would take him about twelve months and he made it clear that the 250 portraits would not be taken from photographs unless it was absolutely unavoidable.

Thomson, Alfred Reginald, 1894-1979; The First Meeting of the Greater London Council in the County Hall, 1964

The first meeting of the new Greater London Council,
held on 27 April 1964 by Alfred Reginald Thomson (1895-1979)

now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

1964, the Middlesex County Council. When Middlesex County Council was abolished, the Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square, now the quarters of the Supreme Court, came into the possession of the GLC. With the Guildhall came a collection of paintings which included portraits of Hugh Smithson Percy as Earl of Northumberland by  Joshua Reynolds  and as  Duke of Northumberland  by Thomas Gainsborough as well as works by Gainsborough Dupont (William Mainwaring), Nathaniel Hone (Sir John Fielding), Andreas van Rymsdyk after Pompeo Batoni  (2nd Duke of Northumberland), Hubert von Herkomer (Ralph Littler), John Collier (11th Duke of Bedford, William Regester and Sir Francis Morley), Ethel Mortlock (2nd Duke of Wellngton) and others. There was also an 18th century tapestry designed by E. Corsham with the Royal Coat of Arms and ciphers of George III, cleaned for the London Residuary Body in 1989-90 at the Castle Howard Conservation Centre. In 1977 the Middlesex Guildhall was compulsorily acquired by the Government for the Lord Chancellor’s Department for use as a courthouse though the paintings and other historic items remained the property of the GLC. However, in 1982, the GLC was told the Guildhall was to be refurbished and the Government would not accept responsibility for any property of the GLC which remained in the building. Consequently, in some considerable haste, as the GLC was given very little notice of the impenbding refurbishment, I arranged in January 1983, for John Jacob, Curator of Kenwood, to remove the more important pictures and the tapestry for safe-keeping at Kenwood and has to search around to find somewhere for the remainder of the collection.  I eventually arranged for them to be placed in storage at the Greater London Record Office in Clerkenwell. In 1985 the portraits at Clerkenwell were brought to County Hall for storage with the remainder of the Heritage Collection, until their fate was decided. They now adorn the walls of the Supreme Court.


Hugh Smithson Percy, Earl of Northumberland,
later 1st Duke of Northumberland (1712-1786) 

by Sir Joshua Reynolds


The magnificent rococo frame which adorns the Reynolds (above) and on which the LRB expended a considerable sum on restoring,


Hugh Smithson Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1712-1786) 
by Thomas Gainsborough (1724-1788)

Hugh Percy, Lord Warkworh,
later 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742-1817)
by Rymsdyke after Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787)


Sir John Fielding (d.1780) by Nathaniel Hone (1718-1784)


Sir Baptist Hicks (1551-1629), Viscount Campden by Paul van Somer (c.1577-1621)


William Mainwaring (1735-1821) by Gainsborough Dupont (1754-1797) 

The Wheeler nudes. The council owned English Electric House in the Aldwych which sported, on its façade, two nude male figures, twenty feet high, one holding aloft an eagle, the other a lion sculpted Power and Speed by Sir Charles Wheeler RA. They were designed specially for the building, when it was erected in the early 1960s. The building was sold in 1972 minus the sculptures as the new owners, so rumour at the time had it, did not care to have their entrance adorned with such absolute nudity. They were duly taken down and placed in store in the underground cellars of all that remained of the original Crystal Palace.  A report to the Historic Buildings Board of the Council on 14 September 1973 recommended that the statues be loaned together with a statue of Medelssohn (also in the same store) to Gerald Moore of the Heathfield Wild Life Park.  Moore later moved them to Devon and then donated the statues as part of his endowment of a new arts centre at his old school, Eltham College.  I understand it is possible to see them at the College by appointment at the school’s discretion.

Keys. I found a collection of historic keys, and as I doubt if their images have been published, here are some of them.




Key to the Old Horsemonger Lane Gaol, the County Gaol for Surrey, which was completed in 1798 and demolished in 1879





Key to Rotherhithe Tunnel 1908




Ceremonial key designed by Spinks for King Edward VII to open Kingsway and Aldwych

Coat of Arms for the GLC. The Council made a formal application to the College of Arms for the grant of a coat-of-arms. On 1st Sepember 1965 the Council obtained a Grant of Arms and a Grant of a Badge from the Royal College of Arms the latter being for ‘everyday use’. Strange to relate no one seems to have told the Council about the badge design, and it was clearly a surprise to Banks the Chairman and the Council members when they were informed of it existence when I discovered it. As far as is known the only, the only, reproduction of the ‘badge’ is on the document on which it was granted. On the other hand the coat-of-arms, which should only have been used for special civic purposes, was stuck, painted, printed, stitched or carved on every conceivable thing in County Hall.

Grant of GLC Coat of Arms    



Grant of GLC Badge

Badges of Office. In 1965 the General Purposes Committee gave approval to the provision of badges of office, for the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Council. Later that year they approved a design for the badges which had been submitted by dsthe Silversmithing Department of the Sir John Cass College, City of London. The finance committee agreed to the expenditure of the handsome sum of £250. However, instead of creating new badges the LCC badges were to be destroyed and ‘adapted’ for the new ones. This all added up to a wanton act of vandalism all for the paltry sum of £250. The chairman’s badge is described as made of 18ct gold, and enamel, with a total of 29 diamonds, four clusters of small pearls and a pendant pearl. The other are described as made of silver gilt and enamel with clusters of pearls and a pendant pearl.   All now in the cellars of the City of London.


The Lady Chairman’s Badge

1965-1981 – the GLC portraits. Among the more successful portraits produced during the GLC’s reign were those by Allan Gwynne-Jones (Herbert Ferguson), John Ward (Leslie Freeman), Ruskin Spear (Robert L. Vigars)

Gwynne-Jones, Allan, 1892-1982; Henry FergusonHerbert Ferguson by Allen Gwynne-Jones (1892-1982)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Leslie Freeman by John Stanton Ward (b.1917)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Spear, Ruskin, 1911-1990; Robert Lewis Vigars

Robert Lewis Vigars (b.1923) by Ruskin Spear (1911-1990)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

This was a bleak period for the portraits. In 1973 it was proposed to the Council that, as most of the portraits, with few exceptions, had been relegated to the basement store-rooms, they should be offered to the families of the sitters. J.F.Kerslake, the Deputy Keeper of the National Portrait Gallery was called in to look at the collection and took the view that, quite apart from the eminence of the individual sitters and the fact that several of the pictures were by artists of high repute, the portraits comprised a unique collection of considerable historical and artistic importance representing an unbroken succession of the Chairmen of the world’s major urban authority from 1889. It was decided that the portraits should be retained as a collection and displayed at County Hall. A few were hung on the walls but the majority continued to be shuffled from one storage room to another.

 Two years later, in 1975, it was proposed that a photographic portrait would be taken of the retiring Chairman of the Council (Lord Pitt – 1974-75) and the commissioning of a portrait in oils would be discontinued. Fortunately, the Council changed its mind, as ‘it felt in all the circumstances that it would be inappropriate for the collection of portraits of the Chairmen of the Council to be interrupted by one or two photographic portraits’.

Pitt chose to be painted by Halliday, and received an almost photographic likeness, the best Halliday in the collection.

Halliday, Edward Irvine, 1902-1984; David Thomas Pitt (1913-1994), Lord Pitt of Hampstead, Councillor, Chairman of the Greater London Council and Physician

Lord David Thomas Pitt of Hampstead (1913-1994)
by Edward Irvine Halliday (1902-1984)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

1982, the final years. Enter Maggi Hambling to set the place alight with her portrait of Sir Ashley Bramall (Chairman 1982-83).

Hambling, Maggi, b.1945; Sir Ernest Ashley Bramall (1916-1999), Leader of the Inner London Education Authority

Sir Ernest Ashley Bramall (b.1916) by Maggi Hambling (b.1943)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Swinton would certainly have been excited by Hambling’s bold, vigorous riot of colour; Bramall all twists and curves against a scarlet background with flickering shadows, very appropriate for someone who, during his term of office, was made a colourful Grand Officer of Orange Nassau.

June Yvonne Mendoza’s very penetrating observant portrait of Harvey Hinds is in soft, almost pastel, colours.

Mendoza, June, b.1945; Harvey William Hinds (1920-2000)

Harvey William Hinds (b.1921) by June Mendoza
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Then there is Illtyd Harrington’s portrait by W. Harry Holland (born Glasgow, 1941), an accomplished work with a rather studied, casual, almost romantic air about it.  The only openly gay Chairman recorded. The portrait was ready a few weeks before the GLC’s abolition and was hastily framed and presented to Harrington during the last days.

Illtyd Harrington (1931-2015) by W. Harry Holland (b.1941)
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

And so to the portrait of the GLC’s last chairman, Tony Banks MP, by Jane Murphy.

Murphy, Jane; Tony Banks (1943-2006), MP

Tony Banks (b.1945) by Jane Murphy
now in the collection of the City of London Guildhall Art Gallery
formerly in the GLC Heritage Collection

Banks is depicted standing on the terrace of the Festival Hall in the midst of a scene of apparent gaiety, with balloons, posters, a tee-shirt and a carrier bag informing us that the ‘GLC is Working for London’ and 24 people, two horses, two pigeons and photographs of Mrs Thatcher (front and back) invading the canvas. Those present include, Ken Livingstone, Labour Leader of the GLC, Frances Morrell, Labour Leader of the ILEA, Paul Boateng and Steven Benn. Over this scene of jollity presides the neat, calm, enigmatically smiling Banks.  The work is more akin to a poster making a political statement than a work of art, which in the circumstances in which it was painted is probably all it ever aspired to be.

There is a short version of the collection and its history and a longer version. Both of which can be found in separate volumes.

 There was a final adventure for the portraits before I arranged for them to be packed up. On Friday 14 February 1986, for the purpose of securing a photographic record for the Survey of London’s Monograph on County Hall, the cream of the paintings, some of which had been in store for a long time, many of them Swinton’s favourites, were returned to their original settings in County Hall. Thus, for the last time, Poynter, Orchardson, Lavery, Strang, McEvoy, Nicholson, Orpen, Alma-Tadema, Philpot and others returned to adorn the walls of County Hall for which they had been painted and gifted by generous artists, their sitters, and members of the Council and the ratepayers of London.

Sixty years earlier. On the night of 29 December 1940 the City of London Guildhall was bombed and the LCC Chairman Albert Emil Davies sent the following telegram to the Lord Mayor of London:

“I deeply regret to learn of further damage sustained by the City of London as the result of enemy-action last night. Particularly am I grieved to hear of the fate of the historic Guildhall. On behalf of the London County Council I offer sincerest sympathy.  London has lost a precious possession, the memory of which will outlast even the name of those who wrought its destruction.”

Davies promptly placed the Council Chamber at County Hall at the disposal of the City Corporation as a meeting place. Little did he or anyone realise that the County Hall art collection, including his own rather pensive portrait by Philip Connard would, sadly, finish up in the storerooms of the City of London.

Banks demands to have the catalogue. Just before the exit of the collection, Banks found out that I had been selected for employment by the London Residuary Body.  He regarded this as a rank betrayal by me of his trust and demanded that I was to immediately hand over the catalogue of the collection to his safe keeping as he ‘had not commissioned the creation of the catalogue for the benefit of the London Residuary Body’.   I had thought this might happen and had, unbeknown to him, created a duplicate catalogue. The whole point of the catalogue was to record the collection so that it should be preserved by the LRB who would be forced to recognise it as part of the heritage of the govenance of London.

The final exit from County Hall. During the last days of the GLC, I gathered together thousands of pounds’ worth of paintings, silver, glass, prints, seals and sculptures for Christie’s to make a valuation, and I then watched them being packed and sent into storage for transfer to the GLC’s successor, the London Residuary Body. I checked everything into its box and watched the vans leave for their security depot in Wapping, tidied up my files, completed the last pages of the catalogue and returned to my office.  A few days later I began work with the London Residuary Body.

Banks and ‘the family silver’. A select group of paintings and items of silver and jewelled badges of office had been extracted from the collection and displayed in the Chairman’s room in County Hall during the last days of the GLC, making the room look like Aladdin’s Cave. Most items had been in store for many, many years but suddenly were being used to show what a great artistic treasure had been accumulated by the GLC and LCC.  These items had been omitted from the packing and in agreement with the LRB were left to adorn the Chairman’s office until midnight of the last day of the GLC. Shortly after midnight, when Banks had removed himself from the building, the incoming staff of the LRB entered the Chairman’s office ready to pack the choice contents of the room including his bejewelled chairman’s badge of office, and take them into safe storage.  They found the room empty. Unbeknown to the LRB staff and indeed anyone else, Banks had removed the items from his office and apparently ‘stored’ them together with a copy of my catalogue (so it was later discovered) in the vaults of Newham Town Hall. Banks considered he held them in trust for a future London wide authority.  After many months of heated correspondence between the LRB and Banks, the LRB instructed that a writ be issued and served for the recovery of the items and one was duly issued on 31 October 1986. It was never however served. The story broke in the Evening Standard on 6 November and was followed by extensive coverage in the media.  On 19th November 1986 the matter was raised during Question Time in the House of Commons. Nicholas Ridley, the Environment Secretary, at one point stated that Banks had been accused of stealing the ‘family silver’ The Speaker considered that the words should have been ‘taking care of’. Dr Cunningham, the Shadow Environment Secretary pressed the Speaker to invite Ridley to respond in the terms of the lead he had given.  Ridley: ‘I do withdraw the allegation of stealing and substitute your suggested form  of words of taking care of the family silver, just as someone took care of my silver two years ago, but he has not returned it yet’. Banks duly returned the items and they were packed and stored away with the rest of the collection.

The London Residuary Body. The LRB decided that its personnel department should be responsible for seeking a home for the collection. Some letters were received by the Chairman from sitters’ relatives wishing to acquire or borrow portraits in the Collection. It was rumoured that the Chairman was viewing these requests with considerable favour. It was also a misfortune that the staff responsible for the collection considered it a cumbersome nuisance. Meanwhile the collection was returned from its safe storage to the quickly emptying County Hall and placed in rooms which proved to be very unsafe storage. Eventually it was decided to divide the collection into its various components, all the uninscribed civic table silver which did not have some historic significance being sold, along with the crested Wedgwood porcelain used for special civic occasions. Fortunately I had catalogued one piece from each part of the service.


The Chairman acquired a complete service for his own personal use, and was known to use it at dinner parties at his home.  A wag from the LRB compared this to the actions of some hunters who mount on their walls the heads of game they have shot!  During the collection’s careless sojourn in County Hall, many pieces were stolen including the Epstein bust of Ivan Maisky, which I had found in the cellars covered in cobwebs and grime. It has always been displayed in pride of place in the room of one of the Council Members. When Christopher Chataway took over the room as Leader of the Education Committee of the Inner London Education Authority, he personally removed the bust from his room and placed it on the ground in the corridor outside; it was consigned to the cellars.   I understand it was eventually rescued by Illtyd Harrington but nevertheless I rescued it from the GLC’s cellars.

The London Residuary Body and the portraits. The Chairmen’s portraits were offered by the LRB as a single collection to the Museum of London, and the National Portrait Gallery. Both acknowledged the importance of the collection, stressed they considered it should not be broken up and declined to accept it. I alerted the V&A (then run by Dr Roy Strong) and in due course a small group of us from the LRB attended to Sir Roy in his rather theatrical study at the V&A, armed with my many volumed illustrated catalogue. He flicked through it and said he would alert his various departments and request them to make offers for various items, he was particularly interested in the modern silver. Weeks, months passed, no response. Then Sir Godfrey happened to be invited to a Guildhall banquet, and who should be sitting next to him but Sir Roy Strong.  Of course Sir Godfrey wished to speak about the Heritage Collection and the V&A’s lack of response. He never got a chance to speak to Sir Roy who apparently studiously ignored him throughout the banquet. I presume he was totally unaware of who Sir Godfrey was.   Sir Godfrey however felt he had been treated extremely discourteously by his dinner companion, as indeed he clearly had, and stormed into the office the following morning vowing that there was no way he would ever allow Sir Roy Strong and the V&A to have a single piece from the collection. Thus dooming some very important items to the City of London’s storerooms. Fortunately, as regards the paintings, the cavalry came riding over the hill to the rescue in the shape of Vivien Knight who, on behalf of the City of London, wrote to the LRB in 1987 to offer a home in the Guildhall Art Gallery for the portraits, sculptures and the other paintings held in the GLC Heritage Collection. Sadly, to my knowledge, only a very few have ever been put on display at the Guildhall Art Gallery and all languish, and will no doubt continue to languish in permanent storage. It always surprises me that the City of London with its important collections (over 1600 oil paintings alone) should house them in such a limited space.  Surely it is time that the City built a suitable and appropriate gallery for the display of its collections.  For instance I was appalled to find one day that access was closed because of some civic event taking place, what a way to run a public art gallery.

The Middlesex Guildhall Collection. When, eventually the Middlesex Guildhall had been refurbished and was about to be re-opened it was realised to the Government’s horror that the walls were bare.  As they had washed their hands of responsibility for the collection and demanded that all the paintings be removed before refurbishment they had only themselves to blame. A hasty request was made to the London Residuary Body for the return of MCC/GLC’s collection. However there was some legal snag, in that such property could not be transferred to a Government Department. So they discovered a shadow recipient and in 1990, Chris Patten, Secretary of State for the Environment, made an Order transferring the collection to Harrow Borough Council on the understanding that it would remain on the walls of the Middlesex Guildhall and that public access to view the paintings would be allowed. The paintings now adorn the walls of the Supreme Court which took over the old Middlesex Guildhall and I understand they can be viewed during guided tours of the Court.

The portraits finally find a new home. An almost unique Statutory Instrument called the London Residuary Body (Transfer of Property etc.) Order 1990 was signed by Chris Patten. Unique  by virtue of the fact that there can be few, if any, statutory instruments passed through the parliamentary process which transfer a  collection of paintings from one body to another. And so to the City of London they went and were shot into their cellars presumably never to see the light of day again.  Swinton would have wept.

The fate of the collection. As far as I am aware only the occasional portrait from the collection has been displayed to the public. The silver and the Lalique chalice languish to this day in the cellars of the City of London storerooms. The LRB presented me with a set of photographs of what was left of the collection after the sales of part of it, but in fact I had already photographed a large part of the collection myself, but it was a kind gesture.   I did write to Boris Johnson then Mayor of London to ask whether some of the collection could be shown off in City Hall, as being part of the history of London’s governance.   Not surprisingly I was rebuffed.



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