Paintings by celebrated local artist Christopher Williams removed from Maesteg Town Hall for restoration
The work is part of a wider project to upgrade and renovate the hall, equipping it to serve the community for many more years to come. The Christopher Williams paintings have hung in the hall for many years. Two of the paintings were donated by Williams, and presented to the Hall by his son Gwyn, in 1934. The other four were donated to the Hall by Christopher widow.
Christopher Williams was described by David Lloyd George as “one of the most gifted artists Wales has produced”. The son of a doctor, he was expected to follow his father’s career, but after a visit to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1892 he resolved to become a painter. He went on to study at Neath’s Technical Institute, The Royal College of Art and The Royal Academy Schools.
A member of the Royal Society of British Artists, he undertook numerous commissions for key figures of his day. In 1911 King George V commissioned him to paint the investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales at Caernarfon castle. Other key works include his painting of the Welsh Charge at Mametz Wood, which hangs in the National Museum of Wales, and three paintings of characters from the Mabinogion, two of which are in Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea and one of which is in Newport Museum and Art Gallery.
The six paintings in Maesteg Town Hall include portraits of the artist’s father and son, and a powerful biblical-themed painting titled The Remorse of Judas. Having been taken down for restoration, they are now in the hands of conservator Rachel Howells.
“They’ll come back to my conservation studio and we’ll check them all over and then reframe them with glazings and backings in order to preserve the paintings for the future,” she said. “With one of the paintings, Now I’m the Judge, Gwyn Williams, the Artist’s Son, I had to stabilise the cracks and the flaking, lifting paint to make sure that the painting could then travel safely without those flakes of paint dropping off and potentially being lost forever.”
Maesteg Town Hall is run by Awen Cultural Trust, which was established in 2015 as a charitable organisation with objectives to enhance cultural opportunities in Bridgend and the wider region. It is currently carrying out a £7m redevelopment of Maesteg Town Hall in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council, due for completion by Spring 2021, when the paintings will be returned.
Awen Cultural Trust received funding towards restoration of the paintings from The Pilgrim Trust, which provides funding for preserving the fabric of architecturally or historically important buildings, or projects working to preserve historically significant artefacts or documents.
“This is a momentous milestone in the history of Maesteg Town Hall,” said Richard Hughes, Awen Cultural Trust CEO. “These are very significant paintings and part of the heritage and story of Maesteg Town Hall.
“Maesteg Town Hall is at the heart of the Llynfi Valley and of Maesteg. Miners dedicated a day’s wages to the building of this hall in 1881. With the work that is now underway, we are going to be looking after the hall, preserving its heritage and its historical features but also creating some new, functional spaces that will really bring the hall to life for future generations.”