Portrait of Honiton's famous suffragette gets permanent hanging place
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 July 2017 | UPDATED: 08:40 17 July 2017
A huge painting of Honiton's famous suffragette and First Citizen Juanita Maxwell Phillips will finally be shown in all of its glory.
A huge painting of Honiton’s famous suffragette and First Citizen Juanita Maxwell Phillips will finally be shown in all of its glory. On Monday night, town councillors voted in favour of hanging the work, painted by John Lavery, in the Liz Tirard Room at the Beehive, where it holds it monthly meetings.
The artwork, which Cllr Caroline Kolek told members was worth ‘at least £24,000’, was initially going to be hung in the stairwell at the Beehive, but that idea was scrapped on the advice of a fire officer.
Councillors debated the decision to hang the portrait in the Liz Tirard Room, with several asking if it should be placed behind glass for its own protection.
They also discussed fears that the painting would not be high enough on the wall, meaning it could be susceptible to being touched by visitors to the Beehive and the various groups which use the room.
However, Cllr Kolek said: “She was put behind glass before because the original painting was quite seriously damaged.”
She added that a ‘bodge-job’ to fix the painting damaged it further - prompting glass to be put over it.
“Now, it has been restored by experts,” Cllr Kolek told the meeting.
“I do share the concern that it’s not quite high enough... This painting is worth at least £24,000 and it is artwork of national importance.
“However, she is Juanita Maxwell Phillips. She needs to hang in a prominent place.”
Town mayor Cllr John Zarczynski said groups which use the room would have to be conscious of the painting’s position in the room.
An official unveiling ceremony will now be organised.
For almost a century the artwork hung in the town council offices.
But over the years it has deteriorated and been damaged, and since 2014 was left propped against a wall after the council moved to the Beehive.
While she was mayor, Cllr Kolek launched a fund to restore the portrait with the work being undertaken by Honiton artist and restorer Pauline Selhurst.
Previously speaking to the Herald, Honiton-based historian Tony Simpson said: “We believe the portrait dates from the 1920s when Mrs Phillips began serving as Borough Mayor, which she did 11 times until 1945.
“She became the only female freeman in the history of Honiton Borough and also served as the first female councillor on Devon County Council from 1931 until her death in 1966.”