Community News

Gainsborough Heritage Centre

6th February 2019
Gainsborough Heritage Centre

Gainsborough Heritage Centre is launching new temporary exhibitions over the course of the year to celebrate Ping’s 60th anniversary in the town as well as Eminox’s 40 years in business. Visit the informative research library and enjoy investigating the wealth of resources at your fingertips, from local historical newspaper articles to photographs and historic maps of the town and you might even spot yourself!

The Centre has a new painting on display of a local banker and entrepreneur from the 18th century by artist Mr Dennis, a ship’s painter by trade. The painting shows Mr Joseph Hornby, who was once an influential figure in the town of Gainsborough, as an eccentric looking gentleman standing in a landscape comprising a lake, hills and trees. Holding a stick and wearing a battered top hat decorated with foliage and a clay pipe, his shirt unbuttoned and one stocking tumbled to his ankle, his appearance was that of a vagrant.

Joseph was baptised in Gainsborough Parish Church in November 1729. His father, also Joseph, was a mercer. According to local resident Charles Marham (interviewed by the Gainsborough News in March 1894), Joseph was always a curious creature: “I can just remember old Joe Hornby. William and Joe Hornby were bankers. Joe was always eccentric. He was once dining at a gentlemen’s house in the days of his prosperity, when a plum pudding was put on the table, Joe was known to be very fond of plum pudding, but on this occasion the company was amazed when he took out of his check a quid of tabacco, laid it upon the pudding, and exclaimed ‘Pudding, thou art mine.’ He spoke the truth, for after Joe had marked the pudding for himself, no-one else wanted any. Some big bank failures in London brought about his downfall, and I have seen old Joe Hornby sitting on a doorstep eating a raw red herring.”

Further research revealed the existence of three similar portraits from the one located at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, also unsigned and undated held in the Gainsborough Old Hall’s collections. The Gainsborough Heritage Centre have also acquired a further example, and also hold a 19th century postcard version of one of the portraits in the Old Hall’s collections. This, along with several published 19th century accounts of his life in local history books, suggests ‘Old Joe’ was a well-known and popular character, even many years after his death.

Joseph, who had once lived in a grand house in the Market Place, was cared for by an elderly lady who was once his cook in more prosperous times. He died in July 1811 and was buried in the Parish Church in the town where he was so celebrated.

The painting of Joseph Hornby is on permanent display at the Gainsborough Heritage Centre and can be viewed at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life and the Gainsborough Old Hall. If you would like to find out more about this story then please visit the Heritage Centre collections, or view the Lincolnshire County Council’s online cultural collections database Lincs to the Past that can be accessed at

If you would like to join and become a member of the Heritage Association to help raise essential funds for maintenance and running costs, then you will receive a quarterly newsletter and discounts in the Centre’s shop and tea room. Membership costs are £15.00, running from January to December and there is also an opportunity to become a life member of the Association for only £100.

Would you like to volunteer this year and help lend a hand and support your local Heritage Centre? There are several roles available and each volunteer is required to be flexible, gaining experience in running a thriving tea room, talking to visitors about the displays, researching and helping with fundraising events and much more. Don’t forget to check out the Centre’s social media, website and other publications for the latest information.

The ‘Telephone Exchange,’ themed tea room highlights the history of the building and is situated on the ground floor. It serves a lovely range of refreshments including Twining’s tea, Kenco coffee, hot chocolate, Fentiman’s fizzy drinks, spring water, Ribena and a wonderful choice of cakes. Hot drinks include a complimentary packet of biscuits.

The Centre and tea room are open every Tuesday and Saturday, from 10.00am to 4.00pm, and Sunday from 11.00am to 4.00pm. Last admission is at 3.30pm. Entry is free, donations welcome. Please contact the Heritage Centre if you would like to arrange a group visit.

Further details can be obtained about the Heritage Centre by visiting or by emailing or call 01427 610526.