Stanley Spencer was one of the greatest British artists of the twentieth century and is recognised around the world for his contribution to art. The artist lived at the White Hart pub in Leonard Stanley from 1939 to 1941 and used many scenes from the local area in his paintings of country life, one of which, “The Wool Shop”, was inspired by the wool shop at the top of Regent Street in Stonehouse.
A commemorative Blue Plaque to Stanley Spencer is at The White Hart Inn Leonard Stanley. The unveiling ceremony was on Saturday 15th October 2011 by Carolyn Leder, the curator of The Spencer Gallery, Cookham.
In 2000, Peter Hill, a former BBC correspondent, interviewed a number of local residents about their memories of Spencer. in 2014, he wrote an article about the artist’s time in Leonard Stanley and the pictures that he painted while living there.
In 2015 he visited Stonehouse History Group to talk about his work. He used extracts of his recordings to great effect in his talk, as well as showing the paintings inspired by the local landscape. He invited members of the audience to share their memories of the people and places featured in the paintings. One person recognised his childhood home at Severn Waters and could recall the old landlord featured in “Village Life”.
Stonehouse resident Patricia Batt, who lived in Cookham during the 1930s, could remember when Stanley Spencer lived in Cookham. She worked at the Odney Club where he was a member. She used to see him with his “lady” who lived at one end of the village while his wife lived at the other end. Pat remembered him doing a painting of a magnolia tree in the grounds of the Club; she said that she believed he had done paintings inside Cookham Church – people thought that because he painted angels in the church it was outrageous. He always wore an army coat and a trilby hat and pebble-lensed glasses and wandered about the village with his painting equipment in an old pram.