Portrait of Dagenham viscountess enjoys £15k makeover

Sarah, Viscountess Castleton

The portrait of Sarah, Viscountess Castleton, has been restored. - Credit: Valence House Museum

A portrait of a viscountess is set to go on display following a £15,000 makeover.

The painting of Sarah, Viscountess Castleton, dates back to about 1675 and forms part of the Fanshawe collection at Valence House Museum in Dagenham.

After scooping £14,847 from the Art Fund and £800 from the Valence Volunteers group, the painting by artist John Riley has been restored.

Cllr Saima Ashraf, deputy leader and cabinet member for community leadership and engagement, said: "The Fanshawe portraits are an important part of our heritage in the borough.

"To secure funding to preserve one of these great works of art and to document the process highlights the wonderful work that goes on in our heritage services team.

"With this restoration, we have an opportunity to celebrate our past whilst looking forward with pride. I can’t wait for Valence House to reopen so this work can be displayed for us all to enjoy."

Tate conservator Rica Jones visited Valence House Museum in 2018 to discuss a prospective loan of another Fanshawe portrait.

Most Read

It was at that time Rica expressed concern about the condition of the Viscountess Castleton portrait, which prompted Valence House to seek funding to carry out the conservation work.

Conservators Plowden & Smith Ltd were chosen to complete the job which included scientific analysis of the portrait, removing discoloured varnish and overpaint, filling and retouching, cleaning and restoring the frame to give the portrait a new lease of life.

The oil painting was most likely painted to mark Sarah's third marriage to George Sanderson, 5th Viscount Castleton.

Sarah, who was born in 1642 and died in 1717, was the daughter of Sir John Evelyn of West Dean, Wiltshire, and cousin to the famous diarist John Evelyn.

At the age of 22 she married her second husband, Thomas, 2nd Viscount Fanshawe. The couple had four children, only two of whom lived beyond their first birthday.

Their only son, named Evelyn in honour of Sarah's family and the first of many Fanshawe men to carry the name, became the 3rd Viscount Fanshawe at the age of five.

After her husband's death, Sarah campaigned for her son's right to succeed to the post of Remembrancer upon reaching adulthood, which was secured by Royal warrant in 1675.

Had Evelyn lived beyond his 18th birthday he would have become the sixth member of the Fanshawe family to hold the post.

After a second widowhood of just nine months, Sarah married George, fifth Viscount Castleton, on February 17 1674. She is buried in St Martin's in the Fields in London.

Her portrait is one of 73 pieces in Valence House's Fanshawe collection. Along with the conservation, the museum commissioned filmmaker Claw Collective to document the process.

The Fanshawes were key players in local, national and international history, having a close connection with the monarchy during the English Civil War.

Sir Thomas, 2nd Viscount Fanshawe, was imprisoned for his services to the Royalist cause.

Following the restoration in 1660, he was released from prison and made a Knight of the Bath during the coronation of King Charles II. He became MP for Hertford in 1661.

He was Remembrancer to the king and in 1666 became deputy-lieutenant of the county of Hertford.

During the Great Fire of London he was directed to bring the militia together.

This involved stamping out disturbances, sending 200 soldiers to Bishopsgate with carts, pickaxes and food for 48 hours and finding supplies for the city.

The Fanshawes were Lords of the Manor of Barking from 1628 to 1857 and owned a number of manor houses, including Valence House.

The collection of Fanshawe portraits includes works by some of the leading painters of the 17th century: Cornelius Johnson, Sir Peter Lely, Mary Beale and William Dobson.