Landmark year for Gainsborough statue sparks massive celebrations

The crowd held its breath as history was repeated in Sudbury this week with the unveiling of Gainsborough’s statue.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the national monument to portrait artist Thomas Gainsborough first being revealed, a re-enactment of the ceremony was staged on Market Hill on Monday.

Around 350 people gathered in the town centre for the event, which was organised by Gainsborough’s House museum, and saw a number of people dressed in costume.

“It is wonderful that after 100 years,” said Mark Bills, executive director of Gainsborough’s House.

“The statue is still here and it says something about the importance of Gainsborough in this town.

“He is a much-loved and admired man and artist, as well as being a great genius of British art.

“Many people come to Sudbury because of Gainsborough and today is about this wonderful statue and the inspiration it remains to us all.”

Actors filled the roles of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise, who performed the official ceremony in 1913, and sculptor Bertram Mackennal.

But as a century ago, when HRH Princess Louise was unable to unveil the statue’s canvas after her rope snapped, the same struggle resurfaced and it took numerous attempts during a tense few seconds to finally pull the covering free.

Cheers greeted the sight of the monument and Sudbury mayor Adrian Osborne spoke of the great privilege of playing a part in the “auspicious occasion”.

Paul Carrington, from Belle Vue Road, who stood watching the ceremony, said he had enjoyed the tradition of the event.

“I am interested in local history and this was a unique opportunity,” he said.

Julia Sanderson, from Sudbury, said it was only right that the history of the town was celebrated.

“This is a lovely town and history plays a big part in it,” she said.

In a surprise twist to the original ceremony, dozens of women dressed as suffragettes emerged from St Peter’s with banners shouting “votes for women”, before they draped a flag around Gainsborough’s statue and were rounded up by 

Events then continued into the afternoon at St Peter’s and Gainsborough’s House.