SIR JAMES THORNHILL Renowned son of Melcombe Regis
Saturday, 16 June 2018 wasNational Civic Day, a national celebration of Civic Pride. This annual event is instituted by Civic Voice, the national association of Civic Societies.
This year Weymouth Civic Society chose to showcase the renowned artist Sir James Thornhill (1674 – 1734), one of our most famous sons, as their contribution to this National event. Born in Melcombe Regis in what is now the White Hart public house, Thornhill was Sergeant Painter to King George I, and was the first English artist to challenge the domination of foreign painters at court. He was also the first English painter to be knighted.
He is most famous for his paintings of the ceiling of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and of the Chapel and Great Hall of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich. He also worked at Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth and Hampton Court. His legacy to our town is the painting of the Last Supper behind the altar in St Mary’s church.
As a citizen of Melcombe Regis he served as Member of Parliament 1722-1734 and was granted the Freedom of the Borough.
His story and a record of his many works was displayed at St Mary’s Church and in New Bond Street outside the White Hart on Civic Day.
I am writing to you to share with you research that has been published by Historic England showing that the number of full-time equivalent historic environment specialists providing advice to local authorities in England has fallen by 36% since 2006.
I wanted to share it with you as I think the conclusion is simple; less staff providing advice to local authorities is threatening the future of our historic environment. As we celebrate 50 years of Conservation Areas, this is wrong.
With conservation staff numbers being so hard hit by cuts, we have to ask how councils are coping with their duties to manage the historic environment. Many will say they have the advice from consultants and private sector. We do not believe that is suitable. The activities of conservation officers are most effective when they are embedded in the local planning authority, rather than being seen as an add-on. A 36% decreased is unacceptable.
Will you support Civic Voice's Big Conservation Conversation to help us continue to make the case for the importance of the historic environment.
Vice President of “Civic Voice”, our National Civic Organisation and publisher.
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