Things to do in Colchester North

The Minories

An art gallery and charity right in the centre of Colchester city, a few steps away from Firstsite. The onsite vegan café offers coffee and vegan treats throughout the lunch period. Open Thursday – Sunday

Colchester born Clarence Victor Batte-Lay was an avid collector of paintings and furniture. After the death of his wife in 1955, the VBLF was established with the instruction that ‘An ancient building of antiquarian or archaeological interest’ be bought in her late husband’s memory, to house and exhibit his collection ‘for the benefit and advantage of the inhabitants of Colchester’.

74 High Street has long been an essential part of any visit to the town center, and in the warmer months it’s secluded garden is a particular delight. To discover its peace and calm for the first time is a memory that certainly seems to remain in many visitors’ hearts. Inside, in the galleries and reception rooms, elegant spaces can be found ideal for quiet, visual contemplation.

The building now known as the Minories was acquired in 1731 by Isaac Boggis with wealth from the woollen bays or baize making trade. The Tudor mansion was remodelled as an elegant Georgian residence for his son, Thomas Boggis, in 1776. It started to be called “The Minories” in the 1870s, when it became fashionable to give buildings names. From 1884 to 1902 the house was leased by Dr Charles Otto Gustavus Becker, father of the artist Harry Becker who was raised in the Minories. In 1915 Geoffrey Crawford Bensusan-Butt and his wife, Dr Ruth, took the lease, and in 1923 they purchased the property from the Boggis-Rolfe family. Ruth was sister-in-law to Lucien Pisssarro, son of Camille, and the Pissarro family visited regularly. She was a GP, a founder member of the Socialist medical Association and for 35 years a Borough Councillor and Alderman. After her retirement she sold the Minories to the Victor Batte-Lay Trust (which later became the Foundation) in 1956. Since then the building has been run as a Gallery directly by the Victor Batte-Lay Foundation, and has also hosted tenants including Firstsite and Colchester Institute.

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