The hidden histories of the Barking and Dagenham Fanshawe family portraits

Fanshawe exhibition at Valence House

Fanshawe exhibition at Valence House - Credit: Archant

»It has been 150 years since the last Fanshawe family lived in the borough, but on Saturday their centuries-long ties here were celebrated in an art exhibition at Valence House.

Simon Fanshawe, a broadcaster and writer, was born in Wiltshire and now lives in Brighton but, as a direct descendant of the high-status Barking and Dagenham family, he was invited to guest curate the show.


He selected six of the 50 or so portraits that Valence House has within its archives as part of Your Paintings, a nationwide campaign launched by the BBC to uncover oil paintings held across the nation.

Simon told the Post about the stories he uncovered while working on the project.

“There is a married couple, Ann and Richard Fanshawe who lived during the 17th century. They were royalists and he was a supporter of King Charles II. He wrote a lot of poetry, and his wife also wrote. I got the impression of quite an equal couple which I liked,” he said.

Simon also discovered that the picture of Ann that he has always had in his own house wasn’t the only one.

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“I was so miffed,” he joked. “It seems they would get a couple of copies of portraits just as we do with photographs.”

Another painting, of Sir Richard Fanshawe, was by William Dobson, a court painter who is heralded as one of the first great painters, but whose talents were washed away by alcohol abuse.

The portrait recently appeared in a BBC documentary on the 17th century painter called The Lost Genius of British Art: William Dobson.

The Fanshawe exhibition will run for the next year and more than 130 of the museum’s works can now be viewed online on the Your Paintings website