The Minories Galleries
74 High Street
Essex CO1 1UE
Colchester is becoming well-known as a Cultural Centre. Two of its best known art galleries, The Minories and Firstsite, are centrally located at the east end of High Street, near the Hollytrees Museum and Colchester Castle.
The Minories Galleries is an 18th century listed Georgian building and walled garden containing a 19th-century Gothic Folly. The Victor Batte-Lay Foundation, over the years assisted by the 'Friends of The Minories' support group, have ensured the building be used to the benefit of the local arts community.
This continues and now Colchester School of Art provides contemporary art and design in one of Colchester’s most distinctive buildings. As well as studios for the MA students, the site also houses public galleries, conference facilities and a tea room.
Since being run by Colchester School of Art and the Colchester Institute, The Minories has presented exhibitions by a number of well-known artists and designers.
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In 1731 the house was purchased by cloth manufacturer, Isaac Boggis. His son Thomas had the house remodelled as an elegant Georgian residence. The Boggis family lived there for almost 200 years.
From 1821 to 1915 the building had several owners and tenants, one of whom was Dr. Becker, a general practitioner (GP) whose son, Harry Becker, lived there for a time while he learned his trade as a landscape painter and went on to become one of East Anglia's best known artists.
In 1915 Geoffrey Crawford Bensusan-Butt and his wife Dr. Ruth Crawford took over the lease, purchasing the property along with a portion of land that included the Gothic Folly, a summer house built in 1830. Crawford later had three exhibitions of his artwork shown at the Minories in 1962, 1964 and 1975. Dr. Ruth Crawford was the sister-in-law of the painter Lucien Pissarro.
In 1956 Dr. Ruth, who had survived her husband, sold The Minories along with the garden to the Victor Batte-Lay Trust, named after the art collector who had been a hereditary freeman of the town. The Victor Batte-Lay Trust has provided a public cultural and artistic centre for Colchester
and North-East Essex ever since.
The trust was set up by Batte-Lay's widow, Margaret, to purchase and endow a building in Colchester
as a memorial to her husband. In 1974 The Minories was sold on the strict condition that it would continue to be used for artistic purposes.
The Trust’s Collection has been shared among the other Museums in the town and in the 1970s The Trust developed a policy of acquiring work by 20th century artists preferably with strong regional links. Works acquired during this period varied in style but the strength of the collection lay in its possession of prints by several British modernists most notably, John Nash, Paul Nash and Blair Hughes-Stanton as well as 14 figure drawings by Camille Pissaro.
No. 73, the house next door to The Minories, was purchased and added in 1975 with funding from Eastern Arts and the support of local professionals. This housed the Firstsite
In the early 1980s, the team at The Minories was the recipient of a sizeable amount of funding from charitable organisations and Friends of The Minories which led to the setting up of an official purchasing policy. The collection expanded again through new purchases, most significantly the team established a sculpture collection.
Change in Financial Circumstances
By the mid-1980s the collection faced a sudden change in funding circumstances. In order to stay afloat, several works were sold off and those acquired by Colchester Borough Council stayed in the local area.
At present, the Victor Batte-Lay art collection consists of 135 acquisitions by renowned British and international artists. They are not on permanent display but a selection can be viewed in temporary exhibitions at Colchester’s Firstsite and on loan in regional and national institutions.
Unfortunately the Trust over-extended itself and ran out of funds, causing the gallery’s closure in 1992, leading to a period of uncertainty. It reopened in 1994 when Firstsite took on the lease and continued to pay some of the Trust's obligations.
In 2008 the Colchester Institute took on the lease and Colchester Art School now runs the gallery, ensuring its continued operation.
The Friends of The Minories
The Friends of the Minories is an organisation which supports the gallery and assists in its funding. The revenue raised goes into maintaining the garden and its 19th-century Gothic Folly. The garden and Folly are both registered with the Essex Gardens Trust.
Plan Your Visit
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Monday - Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00 hours.
Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Baby-change facilities; toilets; gift shop; Batte-Lay tear-room and walled garden.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1206 712 437
The Galleries are in the centre of St Botolph's Quarter, just 5 minutes walk from Colchester Town train station and the pedestrian shopping centre, and 30 seconds walk from Castle Park.
If coming from either Colchester Bus Station or Colchester Town Station follow Queen St towards the Castle Park. Before you get to the Park you will see a signpost pointing to the side entrance to the Minories. If coming from the High St please follow the road to the end. The Minories is on the right hand side just past the Castle Park.
Google Maps - The Minories Galleries