Having undergone considerable conservation it is now on display as part of a small exhibition in The Royal Gallery in the House of Lord's. The exhibition was opened by Lord Falkland, the House of Lords Works of Art Committee Chairman, on 3rd March 2010.
Lord Falkland, commented;
“This is a most generous donation and I am particularly grateful to Louth Town Council. Strafford was a man of outstanding ability, although he was ultimately unsuccessful, and his trial in Westminster Hall was one of the most momentous events of the 17th Century. My Committee was unanimous in agreeing that this painting would be a highly suitable and valued addition to our Works of Art Collection, which documents the key figures and events over centuries of Parliamentary history. It is a great tribute to the team of conservators that they have managed to return this painting to its original colours, and future generations will be able, once again, to appreciate Thomas Woolnoth’s dramatic reconstruction as he originally intended.”
The painting by Thomas Alfred Woolnoth (1785-1857) is believed to date from around 1844. Principally a portrait painter and engraver, Woolnoth was admired for his plates which reproduced the work of Correggio and Van Dyck and also served as an Engraver in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. This painting is an unusual departure for the artist as one of only two known history paintings by him. The other being the smaller work: “The Separation of Sir Thomas More and His Family”.
The notorious trial of Strafford took place in Westminster Hall between 22 March and 13 April 1641. Accused of high treason he was beheaded on Tower Hill on 12 May. Woolnoth intended to create a dramatic and historically correct painting and includes the key characters from the trial including King Charles I, John Pym as the key prosecution and a 10 year old Prince of Wales (the future King Charles ii).
Purchased by antiquarian and art collector, John Lewis Fytche (1816 – 1902) the painting was displayed in his home, Thorpe Hall, near Louth in Lincolnshire. Fytche, a cousin of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was a country gentleman who held the position of High Sherriff of Lincolnshire in 1865. However, in 1885 he was declared bankrupt and Thorpe Hall was sold and its contents were auctioned. Woolnoth’s painting was sold to William Ludlam Mason, the principal auctioneer and Mayor of Louth, and after some restoration he gave it as a gift to the Borough of Louth to mark his year as Mayor.
When in 2007 Louth Town Council was considering de-accessioning the painting, Sir Patrick Cormack FSA MP was approached. He suggested the Parliamentary Art Collection at the Palace of Westminster as a suitable home for this highly significant history painting.
The exhibition runs for one month from 3rd March 2010 and can be viewed as part of the line of Route tour.