News story

Public to enjoy £10m worth of treasures saved from export

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

National treasures worth just over £10 million have been saved from export in the past year.

The goods, including rare Thomas Hardy typescripts, a set of historical watercolours of the 1839 Eglinton Tournament, a Welsh landscape by William Dyce and the archives of political radical Thomas Walker will remain in public collections across the UK.

The 56th annual report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, published today, highlights thirteen outstanding cultural objects and works of art which came before the Committee between 1 May 2009 and 30 April 2010, with six saved for the nation instead of being exported abroad.

The Reviewing Committee, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), made recommendations to the Culture Minister, who placed temporary export bars on the objects of outstanding significance, giving museums, galleries, libraries and private individuals in the UK time to raise the necessary funds to purchase them.  The objects encompass a diverse range of fields, including fine and decorative art, manuscripts, photography, theatre, politics, and religion.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “It is fantastic that these important pieces of our cultural heritage have been saved so that the British public may continue to enjoy them. It is particularly satisfying that this process has meant that work such as the William Dyce painting and the collection of Thomas Hardy typescripts will now remain in local areas with which they have a strong association.”

Andrew Motion, Chairman of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council said: “I am delighted that these important objects of artistic, historical and cultural significance have been saved for everyone to enjoy. This scheme has proved to be a highly effective way of ensuring the country’s finest cultural treasures cannot leave our islands before there has been a careful consideration of their value to the nation, and an effort to rally UK-based buyers to keep the most significant items here.”

The items that have been acquired by institutions and individuals in the United Kingdom are:

  • The Eglinton Tournament: watercolours purchased for Dean Castle in Kilmarnock by East Ayrshire Council for £85,100.47, including £30,100 from The Art Fund, £20,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £20,000 from the Barcapel Foundation, and £15,000 from the National Fund for Acquisitions.

  • A painting by William Dyce: Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting, purchased by Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales for £557,218 including, £166,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £166,000 from The Art Fund and £225,218 from Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, including many private donors.

  • A collection of Thomas Hardy typescripts purchased by Dorset County Museum for £50,000, including £17,000 from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, £5,000 from Dorset County Council, £3,000 from the University of Exeter, £1,000 from the Edwards Fund, £1,000 from the Thomas Hardy Society, £3,000 from the New Hardy Players, and £28,000 from private donations and fundraising.

  • A photograph by Roger Fenton: Pasha and Bayadere, purchased by the National Media Museum for £108,506, including £49,000 from The Art Fund and £59,506 from their own funds.

  • The Thomas Walker Archive purchased by the British Library for £93,600 from their own funds.

  • A painting by Domenichino: Saint John the Evangelist, purchased by an anonymous individual under the ‘Ridley Rules’ for £9,225,250.

The Reviewing Committee and DCMS were pleased to note significant grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Fund for Acquisitions, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund, and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, as well as many generous charitable and private donations which made many of these purchases possible.

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Notes to Editors

  1. The Committee’s annual report was published today, together with the fifth annual report to Parliament by the Culture Secretary on the operation of the export controls on objects of cultural interest. Copies of the report are available from DCMS website.

  2. Media enquiries on the operation and casework arising from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest and the export licensing system should go to Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) Senior Media Relations Adviser, Sunita Sharma, on 020 7273 8299, email:

  3. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by MLA, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.

  4. Private Offers (“Ridley Rules”) - In May 1990 Nicholas Ridley, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, announced that in considering whether or not to grant an export licence for heritage items he proposed thenceforth to take account of an offer to buy the object during the deferral period from any source, whether public or private. In 1997 following consultation the policy was varied so that such private offers could only be taken into account by the Secretary of State if they were accompanied by undertakings guaranteeing reasonable public access, satisfactory conservation and security arrangements and retention of the object for a minimum period. This remains the policy today as set out in paras. 56 - 59 of MLA’s Procedures and guidance for exporters of works of art 2010 Issue 1.

  5. Matching funds could not be raised for seven items found to be of outstanding significance:  A carved ivory Oliphant, a rock-crystal ewer, a painting by Cornelis van Haarlem, a painting by Samuel Palmer, a drawing by Raphael, and a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.

  6. The MLA is a government agency - leading strategically, we promote best practice in museums, libraries and archives, to inspire innovative, integrated and sustainable services for all.

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