Net gain for art collection gem

Jane Wright and four-year-old son Jack admire The New Curate by Percy Robert Craft at the Fylde Gallery in Lytham
Jane Wright and four-year-old son Jack admire The New Curate by Percy Robert Craft at the Fylde Gallery in Lytham

Fylde art lovers have been served a real ace by British tennis’s leading official after a chance appeal.

The Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection are aiming to restore a number of prized artworks and among those in most urgent need of attention is The New Curate by Percy Robert Craft.

The painting, last exhibited at the Fylde Gallery at Booth’s store in Lytham in January, is more than 100 years old and needs more than £4,000 spending on it.

Because it features a tennis scene, the Friends wrote to the Lawn Tennis Association – the governing body of British Tennis – on the off-chance to ask if officials would be interested in sponsoring its conservation.

And to the delight of the Friends, LTA president Peter Bretherton – who happens to be an art lover and a Lancastrian – wrote back to say he would be willing to personally fund the work.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Friends chairman Margaret Race. “When we had our last exhibition, The New Curate was hung to show how damaged and dirty it was. People were drawn to it because Heather Davis, curator of the collection and in charge of its conservation, had cleaned small areas to show how beautiful it would be.

“We received some donations, for which we were very grateful, but the work is so urgent that we thought sponsorship might be the answer.

“We had no idea about the president’s roots and never imagined that we could received the reply that we did. We are so grateful to Mr Bretherton.”

Born and raised in New Longton, Mr Bretherton took over as LTA president in 2010.

He said: “I have cherished memories of the local Booth’s representative cycling to check our grocery order every week at our home. Fifty years later, after a lifetime of playing tennis for Lancashire and collecting art, everything came together when I saw the The New Curate housed in the Booth’s Gallery. Nostalgic probably, but also a way of saying thank you to my home county and its artists.”

In return for Mr Bretherton’s generosity, a plaque will be attached to the frame acknowledging his contribution and he will be able to hang the picture in a place of his choosing – likely to be the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton – for six months.