Council questioned about William Salter painting

Insurance worries aired.

Honiton Town Council has been put on the spot over its support for the sale of the William Salter painting.

Eminent artist Mr Salter, the son of a former Honiton town crier, gifted The Entombment of Christ to the town when St Paul’s Church was built in the 1830s.

It is now in need of restoration and could be sold - because the church is struggling to meet running costs.

Resident Barbara Bartlett is among those keen to see the painting restored and re-hung in the church.

In a letter to the town council, which has said it will not oppose a plan to sell the painting, she asked why the artwork has been left propped against a wall in the church since being taken down to be valued and posed questions over insurance.

Councillor Roy Coombs said he believed the painting was gifted to the town and that the church was merely its custodian.

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It all boils down to how the wording of William Salter’s letter, written when he gifted his work, said Cllr Coombs. It was a matter of interpretation as to whether he was giving it to the church or the town.

“I would suggest the church is only a steward and it should be a matter for the people of Honiton, not the church, over what happens to it,” he said.

It was recorded at the time of the donation that the painting was an “offering to my native town”.

But mayor Vernon Whitlock said the council had already decided the fate of the painting was a matter for St Paul’s Church and that it would not object to its sale.

The Midweek Herald has offered to fund-raise to pay for the painting’s restoration.

Readers were concerned to note last week that a church spokesperson had declined the offer - before the fate of the painting has been officially decided by the Parochial Church Council.