News Column

Industrious family star in Cambridge exhibition

September 1, 2014

Maev Kennedy

Generations of Cambridge dons and students can have been only dimly aware of the Leach dynasty, even as they sat under highly decorated ceilings, ate lavish college dinners or sloped off to a pub marked by a lively painted sign - all the work of the same industrious family of cooks, craft workers and publicans.

The family members come out of the shadows in a charmingly awkward

19th-century painting by Richard Hopkins Leach, which shows the artist, best known for his pub signs, looking respectable in stiff collar and tie. One son, Frederick - said to be responsible for the

better-painted face of his father - would found a business with a pounds 300 loan and work with the designer William Morris on projects including a staircase for St James's Palace, and important buildings in Cambridge. By 1871 Frederick was a "painter: designer and art worker employing 28 men, 2 women and 6 boys on painted decorations, stained glass and making furniture".

The painting is on loan to an exhibition at the Museum of Cambridge, which is appropriately housed in a former pub, and one of a series of events featuring the Leach family in the Open Cambridge weekend from 12 to 14 September, including a walking tour of surviving work by the family.

Curator Tamsin Wimhurst has traced the family in Cambridge back to 1675, when Barnett and Margaret Leach lived in the now demolished Archers' inn. Their grandson, Barnett III, became the master cook at Trinity College in 1770, and did well enough to buy himself a pair of silver shoe buckles, still treasured by his family and also on display.

His son, also Barnett, was the college cook and a bacon dealer, and ran the Pickerel Inn, which survives to this day.


Portrait of the Leach family, 1849, by Richard Hopkins Leach (far right) Photograph: Marek Rajchert

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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