2 The art gallery in High Street
The success of what were to become the Club's annual exhibitions prompted the first Secretary, Edward Packard, to follow up a suggestion made by Sidney Colvin in a lecture at the Temperance Hall in 1877 that the Club should establish a permanent art gallery and picture collection for Ipswich. The gallery was to be designed and devoted to the needs of the Club and its exhibitions. In those days these included its shows of Old Masters as well as eminent contemporary artists. The previously used Lecture Hall was thought unsuitable on the grounds of lighting and general facilities. But in 1878 the first picture was bought for the collection and a building fund started. A lease on land next to Ipswich's new museum in High Street was purchased and the gallery opened in 1880 with the sixth annual exhibition of member's work. The "picture gallery" was designed by the architect of the museum to be sympathetic with the style of its neighbour and although now no longer used for pictures it has recently been integrated successfully into the larger building.
The cost of getting it built, estimated at £1000, turned out to be nearer £1200 thereby creating a liability that took years to clear. The most original of the Club's attempts to do so, and raise money for improvements, took place in 1892. "Ye Burgh of Ipswiche in Olden Time and Fancy Faire" was held in the Public Hall and lasted for five days in October. There were stalls and a programme of recreations, concerts and dancing with a number of "Tableaux Vivants". The takings from the five days amounted to £600. The printed programme sported, for possibly the first time, the Ipswich Fine Art Club logo which is still in use. Additions and improvements were made to the Gallery to provide a Committee room which was also used as a reading room with art books and periodicals. This was regularly used by members until 1915.
In 1911, the year of the coronation of King George V, another major effort was made to raise funds. A grand Elizabethan Costume Ball was held in Christchurch Mansion. Supper was served in the house and on the lawns. Fourteen prominent townsmen between them contributed the sum of £140 and together with the profits from the ball these moneys enabled the Club to settle the remaining debt on its building.
1914 saw the outbreak of the Great War. Soldiers were billeted in the Gallery in 1915/16 and then it was leased for industrial workshop use requiring the Annual Exhibition to be relocated and then suspended for two years. Meanwhile, the picture collection was sold in aid of the Mayor's Fund for the Wounded and was only restarted in 1981. The Gallery remained in the Club's possession until 1934 when the lease was surrendered to Ipswich Corporation. A survey had shown a considerable amount of repair work was necessary and the Club could not afford it. Exhibitions continued there until 1975 but the Club no longer had its "own home".