Welcome to the web site for Stonehouse History Group
- promoting interest in the History of Stonehouse & the locality.
A Commemorative Blue Plaque to Stanley Spencer is now at The White Hart Inn Leonard Stanley
Stanley Spencer was one of the greatest British artists of the first part of the twentieth century and is recognised around the world for his unique contribution to art. He spent two years in Leonard Stanley where he painted many of his great paintings, one of which was called “The Wool Shop” inspired by a trip to the Wool shop in Stonehouse. The appeal to install a plaque in Stanley’s Memory was successful and the unveiling ceremony was on Saturday 15th October 2011 by Carolyn Leder, the curator of The Spencer Gallery, Cookham.
WHY DID STANLEY SPENCER COME TO LEONARD STANLEY?
Leonard Stanley is rich in its historical legacy. Nestling underneath the wooded Cotswold escarpment, the Norman church, the monastic Priory Farm and the surrounding dwellings, including The White Hart Inn, complete a picture of timelessness and tranquillity. It was these qualities that attracted Stanley Spencer to Leonard Stanley. The White Hart Inn became a safe refuge from his traumatic divorce with Hilda and a disastrous second marriage to Patricia Preece in 1937; somewhere he could recuperate and renew his passion for his art.
In 1939, one of his friends and mentors Sir William Rothenstein, Principal of The Royal College of Art 1920-1935 who had a large farmhouse at Iles Green, Far Oakridge, Stroud suggested that he go on a painting holiday with his friends Daphne and George Charlton. The White Hart Inn was recommended and they took two rooms overlooking the church. The holiday extended to a two year stay and during this time Stanley developed a passionate love affair with Daphne whilst George was away during the week teaching at the Slade School of Art which had been evacuated to Oxford.
Sir William Rothenstein’s son, Sir John Rothenstein, became Director of The Tate 1938 – 1964, hence the large collection of Spencer’s works in the Tate. Sir William Rothenstein was an accomplished artist and one of his works The Storm is in Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.
WHAT DID STANLEY SPENCER PAINT WHILST HE WAS AT THE WHITE HART?
Stanley Spencer was one of the greatest British artists of the first part of the twentieth century and is recognised around the world for his unique contribution to art. Although Cookham was his “spiritual heaven” and the source of much inspiration, he developed a real warmth and affection for Leonard Stanley, no doubt in part due to his love affair with Daphne. He was happy here from Sept 1939 until May 1941 when he left to go back to Epsom to be nearer his first wife, the love of his life, Hilda.
Spencer created many important works of art in his room above the bar in The White Hart Inn in Leonard Stanley with his room doubling up as his studio. it also had a piano and visitors could be entertained with his fluent playing. During his time here he did an unusually large amount of work, drawings that filled many scrapbooks and twenty three paintings, probably the most important of which were ‘Us in Gloucestershire’ and ‘The Wool Shop.’
Here are just a few of the important works which he completed during his stay:
Village Gossips - Cheltenham Art Gallery
On The Tiger Rug - Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection
Burners at Lithgow Shipbuilding Yard, Port Glasgow, (19 ft triptych) - Imperial War Museum
Welders at Lithgow Shipbuilding Yard, Port Glasgow, (19 ft triptych) - Imperial War Museum, London
NB Spencer had to split Burners and Welders into 3 because of the size of his room in The White Hart – all these commissioned by The War Artist's Advisory Committee
Priory Farm Leonard Stanley - Barings Bank
Daphne Charlton - Tate Gallery
Priory Farm Pond Leonard Stanley - Tate Gallery
Pullin’s Farm - private collection
The Woolshop, Stonehouse - private collection
Landscape, Gloucestershire also called View from Leonard Stanley - private collection
Cottage Garden, Leonard Stanley - private collection
The Alder Tree Gloucestershire - private collection
Old Tannery Mills, Leonard Stanley - Birmingham Art Gallery now on loan to Downing St
Sketches for The Resurrection with the Raising of Jairus’s Daughter - completed painting in Southampton Gallery
Scrapbook Drawings - a large collection of sketches started in Leonard Stanley – Spencer Gallery Cookham
NB Sketchbooks bought at Leonard Stanley Post Office and in Stonehouse.
In his many jottings from the time Stanley describes a visit to a knitting wool shop one day in nearby Stonehouse as the inspiration for the painting ‘The Wool Shop’ Spencer's friend Daphne is shown choosing some wool with Spencer, who appears doubly subservient in the painting as both shop assistant and assistant to the shopper.
Stonehouse History Group made a donation towards the cost of the plaque, which cost almost £1000.
Stroud News and Journal article.
We think the wool shop was in Regent street but there may have been one in Queens road at the time of Stanley’s visit.
Article by Peter Hill
Peter Hill a former BBC correspondent and art historian interviewed many people in the village who remembered Stanley being there when they were children and recorded their reminiscences. He has woven their memories into the story of this colourful war time episode and worked in some rarely seen drawings made in sketchbooks which Spencer bought in a shop in Stonehouse.