What is a Cornish artist's picture doing in Ipswich Town Hall?

Barry West

Barry West with the painting "Forging the Anchor" in Ipswich Town Hall. - Credit: Barry West

A Cornish art enthusiast has made a pilgrimage to the other side of the country to see a work by one of his home county's best-known artists that has been on the wall of Ipswich Town Hall for more than a century.

"Forging the Anchor" was painted by Stanhope Forbes in 1892. Although Irish by birth, he moved to Cornwall as a young man and was the guiding light of the Newlyn School of Artists who worked near Penzance. 

Forging the Anchor

Forging the Anchor is on show at Ipswich Town Hall - it can be seen on the stairs to the first floor. - Credit: Ipswich Council

The painting shows a group of Cornishmen forging an anchor - and local historians have tracked down those in the picture.

Barry West has studied the Newlyn Group and is helping to arrange an exhibition in Newlyn's Anchor Studio over the next few weeks. He has already tracked down the anchor in the painting which now has pride of place at the studio's entrance.

Until now he had never seen the original picture - but after he found out it was on the main staircase at Ipswich Town Hall he made the trip across the country to see it.

He was shown the painting by deputy mayor John Cook - and revealed it had arrived here about 21 years after it was painted.

He said: "It seems Ipswich bought the painting for £525 in 1913 using funds from the Felix Thornley Cobbold charity. That's interesting because shortly after it was painted it was sold for between a thousand and 1,200 guineas - so it had come down in price!"

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Mr West has already tracked down the anchor in the painting which now has pride of place outside the entrance to the Anchor Studio in Newlyn where the local artists worked.

Newlyn studio

Barry West with the original anchor outside the studio at Newlyn in Cornwall. - Credit: Barry West

Forbes lived in Newlyn most of his life and died there at the age of 90 in 1947.

Mr West was also shown a letter at the Ipswich Museum that had been sent by a Methodist Minister who had seen the painting in 1981. At the time the minister was 73 - and he said that of the young men in the picture were his uncles and his grandfather was in the background.