Plea for general portrait to hang in public view

A retired Banbury man who appeared on Antiques Roadshow with a painting of the general involved in setting fire to the White House has been left stunned that Parliament is not interested in it.

Keith Smith, 66, came across the rare Richard Buckner painting of Victorian general Sir George De Lacy Evans – who was also a radical MP for 30 years – in an antiques shop in Sussex in 2012 and bought it for £450.

The following year the retired Kraft productions manager met with Philip Mould on the show who confirmed it was indeed the general and valued the portrait at about £10-12,000 after restoration.

Mr Smith had the painting restored by Lady Poppy Cooksey and then offered it firstly to the House of Commons but also to the National Army Museum and the National Portrait Gallery; which has the only other verified painting of Sir George.

But the answer was ‘no’ across the board.

Mr Smith said: “After a six-month wait and numerous requests for an answer from the Commons I was informed of the rejection in December last year.

“Other than they were not interested, I have never received an answer as to why.”

With the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington coming up on August 24, Mr Smith is keen to make people aware of the war hero, who also served in the Battle of Waterloo and the Crimean War among others.

Mr Smith eventually got an offer for the portrait from a public institution in the United States. When hearing about the offer London author Hugh Small bought the painting from Mr Smith to ensure it stayed in the country. Coincidentally the portrait now hangs a few hundred yards from where Sir George lived.

Mr Smith said: “Both the new owner and myself would have loved this prominent 19th Century soldier and reforming politician to have been acquired by a public institution for the nation; the Houses of Parliament have in my view treated Sir George with contempt.”