The Watts Gallery

The Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, designed for the artist G. F. Watts by Christopher Hatton Turnor (1873-1940), and opened in 1904 to provide proper display space for Watts's work when he and his wife left their Kensington home and came to live permanently in Surrey. It also provided hostel accommodation for the apprentice potters whom Watts's second wife Mary (née Fraser-Tyler) gathered there. The main gallery and the sculpture gallery were both added in 1906, the latter housing the huge models for Watts's Physical Energy and Tennyson. Rendered concrete, with redbrick additions, and Surrey tiling. Photograph above by Robert Morgan; text and other photographs by the author. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Left: Another view of the exterior, showing its extent. Right: One end of the gallery. The listing text reads: "Central gallery enclosed by half H-shaped portion with gable ends to south, L-shaped ranges to ends — connected to main range by two arched loggias. Two storeys to ends and one storey to centre." Some brick additions are clearly visible here.

Left to right: (a) The main gallery. (b) Part of the model for Physical Energy in the sculpture gallery. (c) Casts of Tennyson's head, also in the sculpture gallery. There is still very miuch the feel of a sculpture workshop here.

Turnor was at that time a follower of Lutyens, and the stout rendered concrete walls of the original part are reminiscent of Voysey. Hence Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner's rather dismissive description of the gallery as "a weak blend of Voysey and Lutyens" (171). Though longer than a house, and quite differently arranged inside, the Grade II* listed building does echo, generally, the kinds of homes built for the artists and writers resident in Surrey in the late nineteenth and and early twentieth centuries — designed not only by those two architects (see Voysey's Lowicks, for example), but also by Charles Harrison Townsend, who had been at work for some years now in Blackheath village, only a short distance away. But most visitors would see the "long, low, rambling building" of the Watts Gallery as having its own "rustic charm." as well as "a substantial feeling of the Arts and Crafts movement" (Grayer 30). It is certainly picturesque, with its courtyard, porch doorways and interesting roofline; and it fits well into the surrounding countryside. It has very recently been reopened after a thorough restoration (see The Watts Gallery).

Related Material

A Sample of Watts's Works in the Gallery


Listing Text: The Watts Gallery. British Listed Buildings." Web. 8 August 2011.

Nairn, Ian, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Surrey. The Buildings of England Series. 2nd ed., rev. by Bridget Cherry. London: Penguin, 1971.

Grayer, Susan. "The Gallery Building." The Watts Gallery Compton: A Visitor's Guide. By Hillary Underwood and Richard Jefferies.Compton: The Watts Gallery, 2004. 30-31.

The Watts Gallery. The Watts Gallery's own website. Web. 8 August 2011.

Last modified 14 August 2011