Monday, 16 December 2019

Village’s oil portrait of war hero restored while on loan

Village’s oil portrait of war hero restored while on loan

A FRAMED oil portrait of Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris which once hung at Goring village hall has been restored by its new custodians.

The painting was permanently loaned to the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly two years ago by the hall’s trustees, who feared it was deteriorating but they didn’t have the expertise to preserve it.

The club paid to have it cleaned by specialists who also mended a small tear in the canvas.

Now the painting has been hung in the club’s Lancaster Room alongside other memorabilia honouring Bomber Command, the squadron that was led by Sir Arthur, who lived in Goring.

The club held a small ceremony to mark the occasion which was attended by hall trustees including chairman Bernard Novell, past chairman Alan Matthews and their partners.

The guests were given a tour of the building by Flt Lt Ian Melia, a trustee of the club.

The portrait was painted in 1942 by David Rolt at Ferry House in Ferry Lane, where Sir Arthur lived, and depicts him studying plans at his desk by lamp light.

It was gifted to the community by his daughter Jacqueline Assheton on his death in 1984.

The painting was displayed at various locations around the hall, including above the bar in the Bellême Room, and then put into storage about a decade ago before the start of a hall refurbishment programme which is now nearing its conclusion.

Hall committee member Bill Jackson, of Gatehampton Road, offered it to the RAF Club as his daughter Alice Harrison is an intelligence officer for the RAF and has served in conflicts in the Middle East.

The club gladly accepted as it had very little memorabilia about Bomber Command or Sir Arthur, who oversaw a series of decisive air raids on German cities during the Second World War, including Dresden in 1945.

The portrait still belongs to the hall committee and a plaque has been placed beside it thanking the village for the loan.

Mr Novell said: “This was a great opportunity for our trustees to see it hanging in its new home and to cement the relationship that we enjoy with the club.

“We have a signed agreement saying that it belongs to us, which is important, but it will be well looked after. The improvements aren’t immediately obvious to the untrained eye, although it does look a bit shinier.

“Just as importantly, in the long term we have the security of knowing that it’s in a safe place with people who can care for it.”

Meanwhile, the hall refurbishment should be completed by the end of the year.

The trustees are overseeing the final improvements to the main hall, which include new lighting and doors, a sound system with an induction loop for hearing aid users and a reinforced stage which can accommodate more people.

The programme started in 2010 with the installation of new toilets and was followed a few years later by the opening of a new garden room. Other work has included the restoration of the rooftop clock and the provision of wi-fi internet access.

Volunteers, contractors and those who have funded the work will be invited to celebrate and tour the building at the committee’s annual meeting in February.

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