The Watts Gallery Artists’ Village

The Watts Gallery is a national art gallery in the heart of a village in Surrey, dedicated to the eminent Victorian artist G.F. Watts OM RA (1817-1904). With its newly renovated Gallery and significant social programmes it invokes the philosophy of George Frederick and Mary Seton Watts, who believed in providing ‘art for all’.

The Hazelhurst Trust has supported the Hope Appeal and subsequently contributed to Big Issues, a programme working with prisoners and young offenders. In November 2011 we helped to organise and fund a Symposium on Arts and Philanthropy entitled ‘Lessons from the Past’ held at the Gallery. In May 2012, together with Watts Gallery, we held a similar event in London hosted by The Bulldog Trust at 2 Temple Place.

G F Watts house, Limnerslease

G F Watts house, Limnerslease

In 2011 Watts Gallery Trustees were presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save Limnerslease and the Great Studio for the nation. Limnerslease was the country residence of George Frederick Watts and his wife, Mary Seaton Watts, attached to which is the artist’s Great Studio.  The house and studio were designed by the Arts & Crafts architect Ernest George and lie next to the Watts Gallery on the Pilgrims’ Way in Compton, south of Guildford. The Hazelhurst Trust stepped in to acquire the Great Studio to give the Gallery the time to raise the funds to acquire the property and is now supporting the Watts Gallery’s campaign to ‘Save The Studios’.

Watts’ Gallery’s Director Perdita Hunt led an ‘extreme fundraising’ effort in swimming the Solent to raise funds for the Save the Studios appeal. She was joined by Helen Bowcock and they completed their swim in good conditions on 6th October 2012 and raised around £15,000.

In 2015 we commissioned the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Surrey University to undertake an economic impact assessment of Watts Gallery. The report revealed that the Artists’ Village contributed £7.7m per year of economic impact in the local community. More information about the report can be found here. This report has led to a greater appreciation of the value of Watts Gallery and increased support from both Guildford Borough Council and Surrey County Council. The report can be downloaded from our Reports page.

In February 2016 the Studios of George and Mary Watts were opened after a £4.6m restoration. Together with the house, Limnerslease, it is rapidly becoming a place of learning and community offering apprenticeships, a fellowship in conservation, workshops and activities. It also provides a centre to promote the contribution and collection of Mary Seton Watts and give interpretation and history of the Cemetery Chapel. The house will offer a place for ideas, retreat and innovation for contemporary artists. Above all it will be a centre for exploring Victorian art, social history and the Arts & Crafts Movement.

In 2016, Helen Bowcock researched and published a report into the Social Impact of Watts Gallery. It examined the wide range of people in the community and in the criminal justice system that are affected by the social outreach projects of Watts Gallery Artists’ Village. The social programs were a significant factor in the decision by Arts Council England to include the Gallery as a National Portfolio organisation for four years from April 2018. The report can be downloaded here.