Finding the original painting of the planned 1898 Guildhall

The trail goes cold…

I received the email below from the Royal Academy:

Dear Antony,

We do not have the design for a new Guildhall  by Belcher in our collection. It was shown by him at the annual Royal Academy exhibition of 1898 (cat no 1734). Works of art shown at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition are either sold during the exhibition or returned to the artist. Sadly, we are unable to keep track of these works of art once they have left our galleries. The work was not illustrated in the catalogue of that year.

It might be worth trying the RIBA and their drawing collection.


Royal Academy Library Collections Department

I’m going to try the RIBA to see if they say anything – though interestingly, in a followup email the Royal Academy state it wasn’t a painting as I first thought.

According to our records, I confirm that the work  by John Belcher called ‘New Guildhall, Cambridge’ #1734 was an architectural drawing (and not a painting) and it was exhibited in the 1898 Royal Academy annual exhibition.

Unfortunately, this work is not in part of our collection and I was unable to locate it for you.

For a sketch, it’s ***really well done***.


To give you an idea of what Belcher’s design would have looked like in colour, have a look at Colchester town hall which he designed around the same time as Cambridge, but which was built.


My quest continues…

[UPDATED 0n 21 Jan 2017 to add]:

I received the email below yesterday. Looks like I’m waiting till late February till I can get going again.

Thank you for your email, which has been forwarded to the RIBA Drawings Collection.

We have a John Belcher drawing that is on our online catalogue as follows:

  • [Collection of drawings]
  • Belcher, John, 1841-1913
  • Personal name  Belcher, John, 1841-1913
  • Title      [Collection of drawings]
  • Contents           Cambridge: Guildhall, front elevation [PB187/24]

Unfortunately, at the present time, there are V&A collection storage moves and upgrades taking place in the V&A stores. As a result, the RIBA store containing the RIBA Drawings Collection is inaccessible at the moment so I am not able to check the original drawing to see whether it is the same image in your attachment.

You are, of course, welcome to visit the RIBA Study Rooms to carry out research.  Normally items held in the RIBA Drawings & archives collections can be accessed in the RIBA Study Rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The RIBA Drawings Collection is inaccessible until the end of February 2017.   If you would like to come and visit us in March, please email us to arrange an appointment:



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