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What about its history?

The Tudor house, one of the largest in Colchester and situated at the east end of the long High Street near the Castle, was bought by Isaac Boggis, a successful bay maker, for £420 in 1731.

After some difficult trading years the house passed to his son, Thomas, also a merchant. He rebuilt and modernised parts of The Minories turning it into an elegant Georgian residence. The architect chosen for the remodelling was probably John Alefounder (1732-1787).

After long occupancy of the house by the Boggis family, some of whom still live in the area, The Minories then, from 1821 to 1915, had several owners and tenants. One of those tenants was a German refugee, Dr. Becker, a GP in Colchester. His son, Harry, lived for a time with him, learning his trade as a painter of the countryside; he then became one of East Anglia's most renowned artists.

In 1915 Geoffrey Bensusan-Butt bought the entire property for his wife, Ruth, one of the first female GPs, and their three children. ‘Dr. Ruth’, sister-in-law of Lucien Pissaro, the painter, had her consulting rooms in the front part of The Minories and also opened the town’s first infant nursery there. A well-known and influential person in the Borough!

Eventually she sold the house and garden and the Gothic Folly (acquired in 1923 from East Hill House next door) to the Victor Batte-Lay Trust in 1956. She continued to live there in the ground floor flat – now the Garden Café – until her death in 1958.

With the purchase of the Minories, the Batte-Lay trustees fulfilled Mrs. Batte-Lay's wish that 'a suitable building should be endowed and used for the benefit of the people of the Borough and surrounding area, and, in particular, for those having an artistic and antiquarian interest in the Borough'. Thus a private Trust, answerable to the Charity Commissioners, has provided a public cultural and artistic centre for Colchester and North-East Essex for well over 45 years.

The house next door, No 73, was purchased and added in 1975 with backing from local professionals and Eastern Arts. The Minories, run by the Trust, continued to show a rich variety of work by regional, national and international artists, sculptors and crafts people such as Edward Bawden, Leon Underwood, Eric Ravilious, Harry Becker, John Bratby, John and Paul Nash, Lucien Pissaro, Cedric Morris, Christopher Wood, Bill Brandt, Maggi Hambling, Jacob Epstein and Valerie Thornton. Mark Wallinger held one of his very first exhibitions in August 1983 at the Minories.

By the early 90's the Trust's resources were rapidly dwindling: the gallery finally closed in 1992 while discussion raged about its future. In 1994 the Minories reopened using public money from Essex County Council, Colchester Borough Council and East of England Arts with a talented young director, Kath Wood, from the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol.

In June 2008 the Minories was taken over by Colchester Institute and its Department of Art, Design and Media. The Department provides exciting postgraduate courses validated by the University of Essex. The first floor is now used as a studio, seminar and lecture space, complemented by galleries, shop and café on the ground floor.

Do join The Friends in their worthwhile support for a historic building of architectural interest and cultural value in the 21st century... We need you!