Artist’s birthday celebrated in style in town

TOM'S BIG DAY: Supporters dressed in 18th century costume, join in the celebrations for Thomas  Gainsborough's birthday.
TOM'S BIG DAY: Supporters dressed in 18th century costume, join in the celebrations for Thomas Gainsborough's birthday.

Despite it being more than two centuries since the death of Sudbury’s most famous son, celebrations to mark the birthday of Thomas Gainsborough still went off in style.

The statute of the famous portrait painter, born 286 years ago, was surrounded by well-wishers on Saturday with many dressed in 18th century costume to ensure the artist would not have felt out of place at the party.

Organised by Gainsborough’s House and the Sudbury Society, a variety of events took place in honour of Gainsborough, including the May Market.

His statue on Sudbury Market Hill – unveiled 100 years ago this year – was decorated with a flowered garland for the day.

“It was a really good day and along with the market, the garland, which we have been putting on the statue since 2004, has become quite a tradition,” said Rosemary Woodward, from Gainsborough’s House.

“There were lots of stalls and we had nearly 500 people come through the doors at Gainsborough’s House, who we hope will come back again.”

Anne Grimshaw, from the Sudbury Society, helped organise the celebrations – including a town crier and trumpeter playing a fanfare – with Sally Freer.

Mrs Grimshaw said it was vital the occasion of Gainsborough’s birth was marked.

“He is an internationally and nationally known artist and we need to celebrate that as much as possible in the town,” she said.

“I think the garlanding in particular is a novel idea and it certainly brings Gainsborough to people’s attention.”

Mrs Grimshaw added that the fact that Gainsborough, the youngest son of a weaver, was born in Sudbury meant he would always have a special place in the heart of the town.

“His birthday celebrations are unique to Sudbury,” she said.

“I think lots of residents will have known what was going on and most people stopped what they were doing and watched.

“It is not something you see every day and it added a colourful bonus for visitors.”

The May Market is the first in a series of Gainsborough-themed celebrations to take place in Sudbury this year, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary since Gainsborough’s statue was first unveiled.

Mrs Woodward said she hoped the grand re-enactment of the statue unveiling ceremony, to take place on June 10, would capture people’s imagination.

“People can dress up in 1913 costume if they like, and it would be great if the townspeople came out in their thousands like they did 100 years ago,” she said.