Originally known simply as The Friends, it was formed in 1896 when a local resident and close friend of Lord Leighton, Mrs Barrington, sought to preserve his legacy and make it available to the broader public. In 1969 this association was formalised and Sir John Betjeman invited to become its first President.
From the beginning, the Friends of Leighton House (FLH) have worked closely with the Victorian Society and other organisations to promote the rich heritage of the Museum and raise awareness about the life and work of Frederic, Lord Leighton. The Friend’s support also extends to Leighton House’s sister Museum, 18 Stafford Terrace.
Today FLH has an active and engaged group of supporters and organises regular events for its members including exclusive trips to art galleries and museums in London and beyond, and previews of exhibitions at Leighton House.
In addition to being a thriving membership community, FLH provides significant financial support to Leighton House with the key aims of:
-Preserving the collections and interiors for the enjoyment of visitors now and in the future
-Providing learning activities for a diverse audience, including those from areas of least advantage within the borough
-Supporting the Museum’s ambitious exhibition programme
-Helping return objects to the house that were sold following Leighton’s death in 1896, and working to acquire pieces by Leighton and his contemporaries to enhance the collection
Notable recent achievements include the exhibition Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity in 2017, and A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón collection at Leighton House Museum in 2014 both of which received support from the FLH and brought over 60,000 visitors to the museum. FLH also helped the Museum acquire Capella Palatina, Palermo by Leighton in 2015.
Currently the Friends are focused on fundraising towards the Museum’s £7.8 million capital project, Hidden Gem to National Treasure: Opening up Leighton House. This project will be transformative for the Museum, providing disabled access, a new drawings gallery and enhanced visitor facilities. Over the past two years the Friends have raised £1.9 million towards the project. Building work is due to begin at the Museum in Autumn 2019.