Actress Penelope Keith shares her love of Watts Gallery
PUBLISHED: 22:30 24 May 2011 | UPDATED: 09:41 16 May 2014
As Watts Gallery reopens its doors after its multimillion pound refurbishment, actress Penelope Keith shares what she most loves about the Compton gallery
"Watts Gallery had always been one of those places of which I was aware but remained outside of my circuit. I used to see the signs off the A3, and sometimes saw the Watts Chapel glowing red in the evening sun, but I had never crossed the threshold.
When I did, I was in awe. I had no idea that here in Surrey, there was a collection of such richness and a story of such depth. That one man with his devoted second wife, could leave us so much – a chapel, a pottery, a gallery and even his home across the road – makes Compton a unique artist’s village and Watts one of the most important artists and philanthropists of the 19th century.
I have been delighted to support Watts Gallery in its recent efforts to save the collection and the building. It was exciting to become the 750th friend in the gallery’s ambitious campaign to recruit 2010 friends by 2010 (come on all you who have not joined, make sure it is 2011 by the end of 2011!).
I have also much enjoyed presiding over the annual friends’ tea party reading directly from Mary Watts’ diary and discovering a remarkable sense of humour in the author.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Watts story is how even today his work, ideas and art are inspiring a new generation.
The big issues project, part of the Watts Gallery art for all learning and outreach programme, which is taking the collection to excluded groups such as women prisoners, young offenders, reformed drug users and homeless, is having a life transforming impact.
The work with schools is providing a vital and fresh insight in to understanding the 19th century and the Watts Gallery study centre houses one of the finest collections of Victorian photographs, books and archives.
Is there any wonder then, that as a keen advocate of the Surrey Hills, I should be championing this unique national gallery in the heart of a village, which nestles in a hollow of the Surrey Hills on the Pilgrim’s Way.
What could be better than art of excellence in a perfect Arts and Crafts building surrounded by nature of true beauty.
Now that sounds like a perfect afternoon for me and hopefully, for you too."
- Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Compton, Guildford, Surrey GU3 1DQ: 01483 810235.