George William Andrewes

In the Mayor’s Parlour, in Sudbury Town Hall, hangs a portrait of a former Sudbury mayor, George William Andrewes. Born in 1803, at Henny Rectory, he was the grandson of the squire of Bulmer. He probably had the distinction of being Sudbury’s youngest and oldest mayor. He was mayor of Sudbury seven times – on the first occasion in 1837 when Queen Victoria ascended the throne and on the last occasion in 1887 when she was celebrating her Jubilee.

The story behind the portrait: (Based on an article reported in ‘The Suffolk and Essex Free Press’, October 12th, 1892, page 5)

Sudbury Town Hall

A very grand Reception was held at the Town Hall in Sudbury on October 11th, 1892. The weather was all that could be desired and the night was beautifully clear and fine. All the great and the good were invited – the members of the Corporation, the Justices, Town officials and the most important residents together with representatives of the country gentry and the local M.P., Sir William Cuthbert Quilter.

Sir William Cuthbert Quilter

The Town Hall was rather in need of refurbishment as it was some time since the walls had been painted but no expense had been spared to hide the rather gloomy aspects of the interior. As fresh carriages drove up to the Town Hall and new guests appeared, they must have felt themselves transferred to some entirely different place.

A covered approach and ante-room had been built over the pavement round which were arranged shrubs. A powerful gas lamp lit up the entrance hall and the doors were draped with heavy crimson curtains. Near the bottom of the grand staircase was a fine palm and on the opposite side was a splendid yucca aloifolia; plants and shrubs were placed at every advantage and a large mirror had been placed beyond the staircase in order to make the hall appear larger.

The Court Room, on the left, had been divided into two cloakrooms for the ladies and gentlemen whilst the Committee Room on the right had been transformed from its usual dull state into an elegant drawing room with pictured walls where the Mayor and Mayoress, Mr and Mrs Bevan, received their guests.

The upstairs rooms of the Town Hall were even more attractive and inviting; a small retiring room had been transformed into a boudoir whilst the Mayor’s Parlour was being used as a supper room. The brilliantly lit Assembly Room with its large chandelier, draperies, mirrors and banks and rows of plants which decorated the platform, the orchestra, the fireplaces and brackets resembled a scene from fairyland when the dancing began.

The Reception was held in order to honour Sir George Murray Humphry as he presented two portraits to the Town – one of himself and the other, of his life-long friend George William Andrewes. Both portraits had been painted by Katharine Maude Humphry, niece of Sir George.

The portraits were large – 8 feet by 4 feet – and had massive gilt frames. The likeness and resemblance of George William Andrewes’ portrait was quite striking. His face had a serious but pleasant expression with a smile lurking around the lips. He was wearing a black suit and the Mayor’s purple furred gown with his chain of office decorated with enamelled medallions and miniature maces. One arm held a roll of paper and his arm rested on a carved oak cabinet.

Unfortunately, by 1892, George William Andrewes’ work in Sudbury was over and he was too frail to attend the Reception. As he lay in his bed, in Friars Street a short distance from the Town Hall, he may have heard some of the music and laughter from what was described as one of the more important events in the history of the Borough. He was losing his sight and, within a year or so, would become oblivious of those who looked after him. (He had lost mobility in 1884.) When he died in October, 1894 the entire town came to a standstill.