O S T E S S E Y

People and Events through the Centuries
1878-1959  Sir Alfred Munnings  K.C.V.O
Artist, Past President of the Royal Academy
"O friend how very lovely are the things,
the English things you helped us to perceive"
- on his grave in the crypt of St.Paul's Cathedral

Alfred Munnings was born in Mendham, Suffolk on  8th October 1878.  He was the second of  three sons of John Munnings a miller .
His childhood was the  typical country life of a  prosperous middle-class family in the late 19th century.  He had much contact with horses in his fathers business and rode a pony as a small child. He first had drawing lesons at the vicarage from the rector's daughter at the age of eight or nine.  Naturally he often drew and painted horses .  With his brothers he was first educated at home by governesses and later at Redenhall Grammar School and Framlingham College.  As a child "having done nothing but paint" he was placed at the age of 15 he as an apprentice lithographic artist to Page Bros & Co. of Norwich.  In his apprenticeship he did much work for A.J.Caley & Co , Chocolate Manufacturers with designs for  chocolate boxes and posters. He lived with an aunt in Norwich and attended the Norwich School of Art.  Cycling with a friend into the Norfolk countryside in the 1890's he found much to paint .

" Ringland and Costessey on the west side of Norwich, are situated in one of the loveliest districts of all the pleasant country surrounding that old city.  Although only six to eight miles away, with little perceptible variation, their serenity was unbroken, their peace continuous and unalloyed, the inhabitants living on in the same unaltered ways of life, toiling toiling and resting, their quetitude as yet undisturbed by motor horn or sound of tractor.................the valley of the Wensum often lead me through Costessey, Ringland, Lenwade, Attlebridge and Felthorpe, or other obscure dreamland hamlets to seek and find paradise on a bicycle.  Passing from water -meadows to uplands and on to bracken-grown common lands and dark belts of woodlands, this country on the west side of Norwich always lured and tempted me along road and lane, in and out of deep shadows cast by many a hedge-row oak, by farm or village church.   "

   At the end of his apprenticeship he declined a salary of five pounds a week from Page Brothers and elected to seek his way as a professional artist.   Recognition of Munnings' artistic abilities came early and in 1899, at the age of 21, he  had two paintings accepted for exhibition in The Royal Academy.  He achieved the distinction of having paintings hung each year for the next 50 years, until 1948.  He was elected President of the Academy in 1944 and was knighted in 1945. In his artistic career he was as much at home in the gypsy camp as he was in the country seats of the aristocracy.  His paintings usually included horses;  all sorts of horses, from half wild ponies and working horses  to Derby winners.  He was  the artist of the horse-fair, the racecourse and the hunt meeting.
He painted at Royal Ascot, at Epsom on Derby Day and the Grand National at Aintree.  He was commissioned by  King George V, King Edward VIII,  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II  and Lord Derby, among many aristocratic patrons.
    His autobiography shows he had a great affection for one of his favourite haunts of his early days as an artist - Ringland Hills and the village of Costessey.

    ( 1) To Costessey on horseback in the spring of 1908.

  (2) Munnings and Jimmy Drake the  gypsy horse dealer of Costessey.

   (3) Painting on Ringland Hills and in Costessey in 1910.

  (4) Revisiting Costessey in 1947.


  Return to.......... Tom Barley's "COSTESSEY" Page.

Part Two.   Costessey from 1555 to present day

 Quotation from 'An Artist's Life' by Sir Alred Munnings K.C.V.O.
Museum Press Ltd.  1950