The Friends of St. Anne’s Church, Kew Raising funds to restore the tomb of Thomas Gainsborough Gainsborough Vs Reynolds!

Thomas Gainsborough is buried in the churchyard of St. Anne’s Church in Kew. He died on August 2nd 1788 and his tomb, on the South side of the church, is now in a state of neglect, with cracked broken stonework and rusting railings. The tomb was last restored in 1924 and is again in need of conservation work and The Friends of St. Anne’s Church, aware of the importance of this monument to the artistic genius of Thomas Gainsborough, have pledged a substantial sum towards the restoration work.

Why is he buried in a small churchyard in Kew? After all, Sir Joshua Reynolds was buried with great pomp in St. Paul’s Cathedral following his death in 1792. Apparently Gainsborough’s wishes were that he was to be buried near his lifelong friend, artist, architect, antiquarian and Royal tutor, Joshua Kirby (1716 – 1774). He had given instructions to this effect and that ‘a stone without arms or ornament might be placed over him, inscribed with his bare name…’. These details were published in the press shortly after his death.

In 1797, the artist’s nephew and studio assistant, Gainsborough Dupont, was interred with Gainsborough, followed a year later by the artist’s wife, Margaret.

The initial simple gravestone was later replaced with the present larger monument. The capstone inscribed, ‘restored and enclosed as a tribute of respect by E.M. Ward RA September 1865’, as the work was paid for and organised by the history painter Edward Matthew Ward (1826 – 1879).

Alan Read, a registered London Tourist Guide, will be giving an illustrated talk described as ‘a fairly light scamper through the celebrities who sat for Gainsborough and Reynolds and a comparison of their styles and approaches’. This will be at The Parish Church of St. Anne on Kew Green, on Saturday 2nd April at 8pm and tickets can be purchased in advance at £8 by telephone 8942 2801 or at the door on the day for £10. The price will include a glass of wine and the opportunity to ask questions of Alan Read.

Contributions towards the cost of this important restoration work can be sent to:- The Treasurer, The Friends of St. Anne’s Church, Kew, C/O The Parish Office, St. Anne’s Church, Kew Green, Richmond, TW9 3AA. Cheques can be made payable to ‘The Friends of St. Anne’s Church, Kew’.

Based on information supplied by David Barker.