Museum Highlight

Herbert Beecroft

This Museum Highlight was painted in 1899 and the view remains fairly unchanged. The Hospitium and many of Reading’s buildings are still as popular as ever with artists, capturing Reading’s great variety. [Highlighted: Feb 2021]

The Hospitium from St Lawrence’s Church yard, 1892, new part of Reading College
by Herbert Beecroft (1864-1951)

24cm x 30cm
Date: 1899

RGA member 1933–1934
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1931.57.1

The building that once was Reading Abbey’s Hospitium of St John the Baptist, a “guest house” or dormitory for visiting pilgrims, is today tucked away behind the Town Hall and surrounding office blocks. This watercolour from 1899 shows the view across St Lawrence’s Churchyard. Founded in 1189 by Abbot Hugh II a much larger building stood on this site. The section that still remains was rebuilt in the 15th century and used as a grammar school for boys. In the walls of flint and limestone, you can see traces of stonework presumably salvaged from the dissolved Abbey ruins. Over time the building has seen many uses, mostly as various places of education, and is currently home to a nursery. When this watercolour was painted the building was being used by University College, Reading as an extension to its ever-growing Science and Art departments.

The Reading Museum has several works by the artist Herbert Beecroft from the late 19th century, many like this showing views of Reading streets and buildings.

Lawrence Herbert Beecroft was born in Reading in 1864, the son of Joseph John Beecroft (1838-1906) an artist and printer, they lived in 1881 at 24 Market Place, Reading. Herbert Beecroft, as he was to be known, later set up as a portrait painter and caricaturist entertainer in his hometown and also in London before emigrating to Australia in 1905 in his early 40s. There he did similar works but also produced religious paintings.

He had already been living in Australia for many years when he is surprisingly listed as a member of the Reading Guild of Artists. In 1933 he exhibited three miniatures of the Australian landscape and a work called ‘Bail Up’ and in 1934 he exhibited ‘The Lord Turned and Looked upon Peter – and Peter Remembered’. It is unknown through whom the connection with the RGA was made.

The National Museum of Australia has several of his Australian landscapes in its collection. He is described as a 20th-century Sydney painter, miniaturist, and postcard artist.

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