John Passmore Edwards


Whitechapel Art Gallery



In 1881, Canon Samuel Augustus Barnett, vicar of St Jude's Whitechapel, and his wife Henrietta, had organised an art exhibition at St Jude's School House, Commercial Rd. They saw art as a teacher and believed that art 'would educate people so that they might realise the extent and meaning of the past, the beauty of nature, and the substance of hope'. This free exhibition proved very popular, attracting 10 000 visitors and became an annual event. The Barnetts were persuaded of the need for a permanent exhibition space in the East End and when land adjacent to the new Free Library became available Barnett purchased it for a site for an art gallery, with a donation of £6000 from Passmore Edwards himself. Passmore Edwards promised a further £2500 but this was withdrawn when Barnett
refused to call the building the Passmore Edwards Gallery. Edgar Speyer stepped in to make up the shortfall, along with A F Yarrow and Lord Iveagh.
The choice of site is significant, both facilities being seen as providing the means for the social advancement of the working classes and giving a respectable, and sober, form of recreation.
The Barnetts commissioned the Arts and Crafts architect Charles Harrison Townsend, who had previously designed the Bishpgate Institute, to design the gallery, a narrow terra cotta clad building with an asymmetrical double doorway under a massive keyed arch and a pair of squat towers. In the centre is a dark painted blank section, originally intended to hold a mosaic panel by Walter Crane representing "The Sphere and Message of Art". Passmore Edwards's withdrawal of funds lead to the cancellation of the commission.
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Acknowledgement of contributions and  copyright
© Dean Evans 2004
July 23, 2007
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Passmore Edwards buildings in Devon and Cornwall
Hospitals and Homes in London and the south east  Counties
Libraries and Art Galleries in London and South East Counties
Miscellaneous gifts and donations
Passmore Edwards autobiography,,  A few footprints.