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Benton End, Hadliegh

The East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing was opened by Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines at Dedham in April 1937 and held their first exhibition at Benton End in December the same year. Within a year they had sixty students including Lucian Freud, Maggi Hambling and Joan Warburton. In 1939 the building at Dedham, together with several of Morris's paintings, was destroyed by fire to the conspicuous delight of Alfred Munnings. By the end of the year the school was re-established at Benton End, Hadleigh. Benton End was a rambling 'Suffolk Pink' farmhouse on the outskirts of Hadleigh, set in 3 or 4 acres (1.6 ha) of orchard. Dating from the 16th century, the house is reputed to have been designed by Sir Peter Cheyney and is thought to have been built in the 1520s. The first documented inhabitant was Robert Rolfe, a cloth merchant and 'chief inhabitant' of Hadleigh. Morris's housekeeper was Millie Hayes (Millie Gomersall). Benton End afforded space for Morris, Lett-Haines and many of their students to live as well as work at the school which contributed to the communal atmosphere and encouraged its laissez-faire but inspiring approach to learning. Jon Lys Turner's biography of the illustrator Richard Chopping and his partner Dennis Wirth-Miller, both alumni of the East Anglian School, characterises it as 'a place for the free exchange of artistic ideas and techniques'. The school was anti-hierarchical as well as anti-patriarchal, with little in the way of structure or rules, and provided a setting for sexual as well as artistic liberation.' While Morris focused on the students' work, Lett-Haines oversaw the school's administration as well as cooking two meals a day and thanks to Morris' work in the vegetable garden and Lett-Haines' enthusiasm for cooking, the community at Benton End did not experience hardships on the scale of wartime London. Through the 1940s and 1950s Benton End became the centre of a diverse community of twentieth-century artists, writers, and horticulturalists. Friends and visitors included the painters John Nash and Francis Bacon and the writers Ronald Blythe and Stephen Spender. Blythe described the atmosphere of Benton End as 'robust and coarse, and exquisite and tentative all at once'. In 2018 the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust acquired the house, with the aim of restoring Morris' garden and establishing the house as an education centre in art and horticulture, as well as a memorial to Morris. In 2021 the house was gifted to the Garden Museum, London and leased to the newly formed the Benton End House and Garden Trust for restoration of the garden and an inclusive centre for art and gardening. The students were given a 'nom de plume' by Lett Haines.

Students yet to be uncovered who exhibited at their first exhibition at the school premises at Dedham in October-November 1937.
Ralph Banbury
Henry F. 'Bambrough' Belton (15 February 1925-) a service manager in Radio/T.V. who emigrated, with his wife and two daughters, to Australia in 1960.
Sidney Clover
Miss Betty Haycock
Mrs Hellyer - her portrait was painted by Frances Hodgkins
Mrs Kirkaldy
Others 1942
Jack Beckett
Ellis Carpenter
Maurice Hines
Ted Lilley
Ronnie Spraggons
Trevor White

Works by This Artist