County Hall circa 1908 (SHC Ref: CC56/9/1)

County Hall circa 1908 (SHC Ref: CC56/9/1)

“County Hall in Penrhyn Road, Kingston-upon-Thames is a fine 1893 Portland stone construction of a scale which lends itself to the display of many full-length portraits, typical of nineteenth and early twentieth-century commemoration of county dignitaries. Often gifts or works raised by public subscription, the paintings reflect the warmth in which local worthies were held, at a time when individuals who held office usually came from a relatively small number of families and were gentlemen of means who had the leisure time to represent the people of Surrey. These men (and apart from royalty there are no paintings of women in the Collection) were often in post for decades and had huge influence over the development of services in the county, directly affecting people’s lives.

Edward Hugh Leycester Penrhyn,  First Chairman of Surrey County  Council (1889-1893), painted by  Herman Herkomer (1863-1935)  in 1889

Edward Hugh Leycester Penrhyn, First Chairman of Surrey County Council (1889-1893), painted by Herman Herkomer (1863-1935) in 1889

An excellent example is the portrait by the American artist Herman Herkomer of Edward Hugh Leycester Penrhyn, the first Chairman of the County Council. Although he served the usual three-year term, he had already led the county as Chairman of Quarter Sessions since 1862, so he gave a continuity to Surrey’s government. As well as being remembered in the road name, he appears in this delightful relaxed portrait as an approachable and lively man.

The Right Honourable James Chuter Ede, CH, JP, DL,  painted by Michael Noakes  (b. 1933) in 1961

The Right Honourable James Chuter Ede, CH, JP, DL,
painted by Michael Noakes (b. 1933) in 1961

Of the later paintings, Michael Noakes’ three-quarter length portrait The Right Honourable James Chuter Ede, painted in 1961, is worthy of note. James Chuter Ede of Epsom was an active member of the council (1914-1949), as well as being a Labour MP and Home Secretary (1945-1951). Remembered for his love for education, he was greatly involved in the 1944 Education Act. Noakes, the internationally famous portrait painter, was educated in Surrey at Reigate School of Art.

The earliest painting in the County Collection is probably that of Sir Richard Onslow, 1st Lord Onslow (1654-1717). A rather pinched face in a heavy wig, painted in the manner of Sir Godfrey Kneller, depicts one of the more contentious Speakers of the House of Commons, known for his lack of neutrality and pedantic demeanour. Quite a contrast from the other sitters!

The County Council is delighted that through the Public Catalogue Foundation a wider audience will be able to share our fondness for these local treasures.”

Originally written by Maggie Vaughan-Lewis, County Archivist, as an introduction to the Surrey County Council section of The Public Catalogue Foundation book “Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Surrey” (copies are available in various libraries across the county and at Surrey History Centre). Read more about The Public Catalogue Foundation.

The following oil paintings are housed at County Hall in Kingston, Surrey. Click on an image to see a larger version.

To make arrangements to view the painting please call the County Hall contact centre on 03456 009 009.

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