It is interesting to read that comments by BBC broadcaster Fiona Bruce have apparently helped to boost visitor numbers at Gainsborough’s House during August, but I would suggest that the current exhibition of watercolours by 18th century naturalist and artist Mark Catesby has played a part too.
In the first half of August, national, regional and local papers gave a generous amount of space to the exhibition and biography of Catesby, who spent his boyhood in Sudbury as the son of a 16th century mayor.
Three centuries ago, he sold property here to finance an expedition to the American colonies where he painted birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and insects together with trees, shrubs and flowers.
This led to him writing, illustrating and publishing the first natural history of America. In 2010, a first edition was sold at auction for more than £240,000.
New research has confirmed the location of one of the Catesby’s properties in North Street. Once a large imposing private house, now part of it is occupied by Iceland and the rest is an empty shop.
A visit to Gainsborough’s House before October 12 would be a rare chance to see a selection of Catesby’s vibrant paintings and learn more about the man who is a cultural hero in the US.