About an hour and a half or a bit more from Charing Cross tube station, or from Victoria in London.
The Hon J. G. Beaney, a native of Canterbury, went off to settle in Australia. But when he died, he left a bequest to his old home town, and the Museum building was put up in 1899 as a very beautiful, medieval style building with mosaics, carved wood, terracotta girls above the two main windows, and various other accoutrements and decorations. Much of the interior is the library, but what space remains holds a worthy local collection of pictures.
T. S. Cooper, one of the two great Victorian cow painters (the other was William Ward), was a native of Canterbury, and here are several large and small works by him, showing cow portraits, cows by water, cows standing in water, and also sheep and goats, as well as two portraits of him. To my mind, the picture of running goats is the best of the group. Anyway, a good chance to see a range of his oeuvre.
Among several views of Canterbury Cathedral from Canterbury Meadows are representative works by Thomas George Cooper (first son of T. S. Cooper) and William Sidney Cooper, great-nephew. Among other local views we may note a story book treatment of the Canterbury Pilgrims subject by Paul Hardy, and a processional version by Thomas Stothard. There is a Murder of Thomas Beckett in small sketchy oils by George Richmond, and a late 18th Century version by Opie.
There are a few Norwich School works here - by John Crome, Alfred Stannard, and James Stark - the latter's Eel Traps is particularly interesting. Also to note are a small landscape by Adrian Stokes, and a convalescent bedroom scene called The Awakening by E. J. Gregory.
The Oxenden family appears in various portraits in the collection - including a strong, characterful portrait of William Oxenden Hammond by Frank Holl, and a finely robed Margaret Oxenden by Thomas Hudson. Also among the portraits are a striking work by John Jackson, and a Little Girl at the Door by the obscure Australia-born but English-reared Harriet Hallhed, a product of the T. S. Cooper College of Art. The collection includes a variety of other 16th-20th Century work, and we can pick out the 16th Century portrait of Chaucer, and the collection of pictures and illustrations by the 20th Century local artist John Ward.
There are a few sculptures on show. These include two impressive Epstein portraits, a bust by Canterbury-born Henry Weekes, and also his Luna, as an ascending girl in delicate drapery with a shield as the moon, in the best possible taste. The Regimental Museum occupying a room of the Gallery has two metal table centre-pieces with sculpted figures. There also are some engravings and a few pictures, including a good Troopship Euphrates by T. S. Robins, more of a ship and sky picture rather than a sea picture.
A few words on the Cathedral's 19th century works, though most going to see the Cathedral will not be looking for Victorian efforts. Among the recumbent effigies are Archbishop Tait (d.1882) by J. E. Boehm, with a soft face looking old and tired, and nicely worked folds in the cloth on his arms. Nearby is Edward Parry, Archdeacon d. 1889, a highly worked marble effort with nice figures round the base, by James Forsyth. On the wall in that area are a reclining Greek style woman in good early 19th Century pattern, by George Nelson from a sketch by M. L. Watson, 1848, and the East Kent Regiment memorial for the Punjab campaign, by T. Rudge of Clapham Common, after 1898.
On the other side of the Cathedral, another work by James Forsyth, this time a plaque, commemorates James George Beaney (1828-91), who we have already met through his bequest for the Museum. We have a portrait, a desert death scene, and small saints, all in marble. Also here are another work by Henry Weekes - a portrait bust in Roman garb of Lt. Col. Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales, d. 1849. Nearby are a recumbent William Grant Broughton by J. C. Lough, 1855, the Afghanistan monument (1842) with two soldiers in front of small sphinxes for the Eastern touch by Denman of Regent Street, a nicely draped grieving girl over a funereal urn for C. C. Taylor by Hinchliffe of Hampstead, and a monument to the 16th Queen's Lancers at Sutlej showing soldiers in the desert by Edward Richardson (1848). Falling at the beginning of the 19th Century is the Lieut. Col. John Stuart (1808), melodramatic and with a comforting Britannia. Drifting forward into the 20th Century is the grim bronze to Archbishop Randall Davidson (d 1928), and a collection of bleak 14 Stations of the Cross medallions by Andor Meszaros, dated between 1942 and 1970. Best is the 1942 one showing Pontius Pilate. Among some good glass, we must remark on the very glowing colours of the modern panels by Erwin Bossanyi.
Of the medieval work, entirely outside the scope of these pages, note the Legend of St Eustace wall painting (c. 1480), most busy with buildings, beasts, people and ships all in the picture. Among the tombs are paired effigies of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre, and also the Tomb of the Black Prince in bronze, a rather blank and conventional effigy, impersonal, though with good details, e.g. the pointy shoes and knuckle dusters. Compare with the much more expressive stone William Courtenay, Archbishop 1381-96, next tomb along, where even the little angel is a personality. There are a range of other recumbent Archbishops from the 13th Century onwards, and various 16th Century memorials on the walls. To pick out one not to miss, the James Hales Memorial has a kneeling woman and man, typical 16th Century style, and behind, a galleon with guns and a sea burial, reflecting Hales's death on the Portuguese expedition of 1589. Entirely excellent and with a painted scene also. And finally, in the Crypt, do see the pillars with apparently 11th Century carving in Celtic and Saxon styles, with good imagery of dragons, demons and a certain amount of biting.
Top of page
Victorian art in Britain // Cathedrals and churches