How the Burton at Bideford’s collection came about.
In the 1940s, Thomas Burton, a wealthy local businessman, and Hubert Coop, a successful watercolour painter, came together to create the Burton Art Gallery. In October 1949, Hubert Coop explained their intentions in a letter to the Bideford Gazette;
“It’s a happy chance that two old townsmen have come together to make a last effort to leave the town richer than they found it. The gallery should be a peaceful haven where one may have a quiet look at beautiful things; a gallery for the enjoyment, education and good of all, old and young, inhabitants and visitors, – everyone- and as far as one can tell, of lasting credit to the living and those to come.”
Thomas Burton originally planned the Burton as a memorial to his only daughter, Mary Meredith, who sadly died of cancer in 1949. Mary E. Meredith (1904-1949) went to West Bank School, a small all-girls school in Bideford. On leaving school, she continued to study art at the Bideford School of Art, where she learned to draw portraits very well. Once married, she continued to work as an amateur artist, collecting antiques and china. She was elected to the Westward Ho! Art Society committee in the 1930s, serving on the committee during the 1930s until she became ill.
On October 31st, 1951, the Meredith Englefield Art Gallery was opened, and its collection was established. Thomas Burton died in 1959, and in his memory the name was changed to the Burton Art Gallery.
The Burton at Bideford’s collection has continued to grow. Alongside work by Hubert Coop, Colin Hunter, Bertram Prance and other prominent early 20th century artists, the collection now holds pieces by contemporary artists like John Maltby, Connor Coulston and Freya Gabie.