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Watford Museum opened on 14 March 1981, in the former Benskins Brewery mansion at 194, Lower High Street.

At its inception Watford Museum already had a considerable collection of paintings, most of which where held by Watford Library.


These were largely donated by private collectors or local artists and their families, the first and most significant of these being a bequest in 1930 by Edward Thomas Burr, a long time resident of Watford. This consisted of 47 oil paintings, many of North European origin with the emphasis on the Dutch and Flemish schools. Among the artists represented are Adam Francios van der Meulen, Klases Moleneart, Pieter Neeffs the Elder and Adriaen van Ostade.

Six monumental works were given to Watford Library in 1967 from the collection of Major Armand D Blackley, a Watford magistrate and one time director of London-based James Bourlet and Sons Ltd, shopper and restorer of paintings. His bequest included paintings by Sir Peter Lely; George Chalmers follower of Gaspard Dughet; Studio of Jean Nattier and the self portrait attributed to Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-le Brun. Almost identical to the painting in the Uffizi, the Vigee le Brun depicts the artists working at her easel painting a portrait of Marie Antoinette.

More recently the museum acquired the outstanding collecting of fourteenth century portraits of the Essex family, a bequest made during the early 1990s by the late lady Essex. Theses are on permanent display in Watford Museum's Cassiobury gallery, named after Cassiobury House, the Watford seat of the Earls of Essex. They span a period from 1590-1830 and capture not only the Essex family but the changing styles in the field of portrait painting. The earliest painting in this collection is that of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex of the 6th Creation (1566-1601) by studio of Marcus Gheeraerts. The portrait is of particular interest in that Devereux was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth 1st until his secret marriage to Frances Walsingham and his subsequent attempt to overthrow the Queen's councillors led to his impeachment for treason and later his death by beheading on Tower Hill.

Portraits of Arthur Capel, 1st Earl of Essex (1631-1683) and Lady Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Essex (1636-1717) painted by Sir Peter Lely reflect the style of Sir Anthony Van Dyck and the sumptuous portraiture fashionable in the 17th Century. Dating from the early 1700s are the portraits of Lady Mary Bentinck (1697-1726), wife of Algernon, 2nd Earl of Essex and Lady Jane Hyde (c.1694-1724), 1st wife of William, 3rd Earl of Essex attributed to Godfrey Kneller.

Also hanging in the Cassiobury Gallery, Adele by Edward Hughes was given to the Borough of Watford by Lady Peake, daughter of the sitter and was probably painted in 1893, the year of Adele's marriage to George Devereaux de Vere Capell who was soon to become 7th Earl of Essex.

The collection is still being added to, and one of the most recent additions is that of A View of Cassiobury by John Wootton, bought with a grant from the National Art Collection Fund and generous donations by the people of Watford. It depicts Cassiobury House and the estate, set in a vast landscape with the 4th Earl of Essex, his family and servants in the foreground.

The oil paintings held at Watford Museum form part of a superb collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures that enhance the local and social history collections and reflect both the Urban and Rural landscapes of Watford.

While we transition to the new museum at Town Hall, the fine art collection will be unavailable to view in person until we relaunch in Autumn 2025. 

Alexander S.

The Market in Genoa

Allen, Reginald B

Winter sunshine

Allen, Reginald B

December Day, sunset from Oxkey Park

Allen, Reginald B

Building the flyover near St Albans

Allen, Reginald B

Rear view of Ballard's

Audley, M

Henry Williams (1825-1893)

Bailey, Edward Frederick

Golden eagle

Baker, Thomas

A donkey in a landscape

Baker, Thomas

Stoneleigh deer park

Baker, Thomas

Extensive landscape with cows

Baker, Thomas

Rearing calves

Batoni, Pompeo (after)

William Anne Holles, 4th Earl of Essex (1732-1799)

Bird, Edward

Three men conversing

Blinks, Thomas

Little mare with docked tail eating hay with three dogs at her feet

Breanski, Alfred Fontville de

Village scene, Cleve Prior, Worcestershire

Breenburgh, Bartholomeus

Ruins at Tivoli near Rome

Bruhl, Louis Burleigh

St Michael's Mount

Chalmers, George

Mr Robinson

Chintreuil, Antoine

Landscape from the area of Pont-de-Vaux

Cole, G

Cassiobury Park gates, Watford

Cole, G

The Mill in Cassiobury Park

Coques, Gonzales

The Pipe Smoker

Coques, Gonzales

Portrait of a lady

Dalynmple Smith, H S

Wheelwright Shop (after Canaletto)

Daniell, William (attributed to)


Dughet, Gaspard (attributed to)

Classical landscape (possibly Tivoli)

Engelen, Piet van

Chicks chasing a butterfly

Fadelle, Clare

Winter evening

Fadelle, Clare

Portrait of a man

Fadelle, Clare

Portrait of a young woman

Fadelle, Clare

Mrs Joan Dodwell

Fadelle, Clare

Raymond Barber

Farmer, Edward

Palladian Bridge, The Grove, Watford

Farmer, Edward

Near Lady Capel's Wharf

Farmer, Edward

Appassionata, The Grove

Farmer, Edward

Watford and Bushey hills

Fidler, Harry

Wind in the trees

Flemish School

The Israelites crossing the Red Sea

Gabain, Ethel

At a sunny window

Geeraerts, Marcus the younger

Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex of the 6th Creation (1566-1601)

Gill, Edmund Ward

Waterfall near Pont-y-Mynach, South Wales

Gower, Francis

Private Worlds II

Gower, Francis

Private Worlds III

Gryef, Adriaen de

Landscape with sportsman, hunting dogs and dead game

H Foxen

Bridge in Cassiobury Park

Hales, Gordon

Late afternoon shoppers

Hales, Gordon

Refurbishment of the Banker Public House

Hales, Gordon

At the bottom of Downing Street

Hales, Gordon

Market Street, Watford

Hales, Gordon

The Sailmakers Loft

Hales, Gordon

The Thames at Pickle Herring

Hales, Gordon

Sheehan's forge, Red Lion Yard, Watford

Hales, Gordon

Whistler's Reach

Hales, Gordon

Through the narrows

Hales, Gordon

Thames, sailing barge

Hales, Gordon

Watford High Street

Hales, Gordon

Cornhill to Bank, London

Hales, Gordon

Leadenhall Market, London

Hales, Gordon

The Free School, London

Hales, Gordon

MacMiller Foundry, Cassiobury Mill

Harcourt, George

Portrait of a young girl

Harcourt, George

Lady with a mandolin

Harcourt, George

The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Henry Herbert, Lord Hemingford (1869-1947)

Herig, George Edwards

Sunset on the Adriatic

Herkomer, Herman

Dr Alfred Thomas Brett (1828-1896)

Herkomer, Herman

Portrait of a man (thought to be Joseph Clemson Benskin)

Herring, Benjamin Sr

John Knowles

Herring, John Frederick II

Ducks and ducklings in a landscape

Hill, Robert W

Coastal scene (probably the east coast of England)

Hinsley, Philip J

Nineveh I

Hinsley, Philip J

Nineveh II

Hubbard, Eric Hesketh


Hubbard, Eric Hesketh

Unloading timber

Hughes, Edward

Adele, 2nd wife of the 7th Earl of Essex

Inger, Alan

Port Isaac, Cornwall

Italian School

Man sowing

Jarvis, Sarah T

Ernest Jones

Johnson, A

Cassiobury House

Keyser, Thomas de (follower of)

A gentleman with a glove

Knapton, George

William, 3rd Earl of Essex (c.1697-1748)

Kneller, Godfrey (after)

Lady Jane Hyde, 1st wife of William, 3rd Earl of Essex (c.1694-1724)

Kneller, Godfrey (studio of)

Lady Jane Hyde, 1st wife of William, 3rd Earl of Essex (c.1694-1724)

Kneller, Godfrey (studio of)

Lady Mary Bentinck, wife of Algernon, 2nd Earl of Essex (1679-1726)

Kobell, Jan II

A bull in a landscape

Landon, Jesse

Cassiobury Park

Lanen, Jasper van der

Landscape with peasants and cart

Lauri, Filippo (attributed to)

Pan and Syrinx

Lawrence, Thomas (follower of)

George Capel Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex (1757-1839)

Leemputten, Jef Louis van

Viking warriors charging

Lely, Peter

Lady Elizabeth Percy, wife of Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex (1636-1717)

Lely, Peter (attributed to)

Portrait of an unknown man

Lely, Peter (circle of)

Arthur Capel, 1st Earl of Essex of the 7th creation (1631-1683)

Lely, Peter (circle of)

Arthur Capel, 1st Earl of Essex

Lewis, John Rodney Lloyd

Whitehall Valley

Lodge, Francis Graham

Calvi, Corsica

Lodge, Francis Graham

No.3 scrap yard, Bushey viaduct, Watford

Lyon, Jon

Nautical abstract

Macbeth, Alistair M

Mellieha, Malta

Mann, Joshua Hargrave Sams

Head of a girl, eyes looking up

Manton, George Grenville

Alderman Ralph Alfred Thorpe, JP d.1929

Manton, George Grenville

William Tucker

Manton, George Grenville

Edward John Slinn

Manton, George Grenville

George Herbert Hyde Villers, 6th Earl of Clarendon (1877-1955)

Masser, H

Cassiobury Park gates, Watford

Masser, H

Loch Craven, Scotland

Meulen, Adam Frans van der

A battle scene

Michel G

The Mill, Cassiobury Park

Michel, G

Cassiobury Park gates, Watford

Mohr, Johann Georg Paul

Cathedral of St Clement, Aarhus, Jutland

Molenaer, Klaes

Landscape on coast with watchtower

Morland, George

Sow and piglets in a sty

Mostyn, Thomas Edwin

Landscape with a bridge

Nattier, Jean-Marc (school of)

Portrait of a lady in a grey dress

Neeffs, Peter the elder (studio of)

Interior of a church

Opie, John

The Cornish Girl

Ostade, Adriaen van (attributed to)

Peasant brawl

Peppercorn, Arthur Douglas

Hay cart in a landscape

Pickersgill, Henry William

Portrait of a woman (thought to be Miss Chester)

Pope, Ronald

Cubist Portrait

Reynolds, Joshua (studio of)

Frances Hanbury Williams, Countess of Essex, 1st wife of William Anne Holles, 4th Earl of Essex (1735-1759)

Rosa, Salvator (follower of)

Rocky cavern

Ruisdael, Jacob van (follower of)

Autumnal landscape


View of the Grand Canal, Venice (after Canaletto)

Sadee, Philip Lodewijk Jacob Frederi

Return from the boats

Seemann, Enoch the younger

Lady Anne Capel, daughter of Arthur, 1st Earl of Essex (1674-1752)

Soldi, Andrea (attributed to)

Lady Elizabeth Russell, 2nd wife of William, 3rd Earl of Essex (1704-1784)

Somerville, Howard


Southworth, Norah

Summer greenery

Stanfield, Clarkson

Boats at sea

Staveren, Jan Adriaensz. van

Portrait of an old woman

Stone G


Teasdale, Percy Morton


Thomas, W

The Lodge, Cassiobury Park

Toorenvliet, Jacob

The Poulterer

Traies, William

View of the River Teign

Unknown artist

The Baptist Chapel, Watford

Unknown artist

Swiss Cottage, Watford

Unknown artist

Cottage by a road with a pond in the foreground

Unknown artist

Cottage by a river with a punt in the foreground

Verboom, Adriaen Hendricksz

Landscape with fisherman

Vickers, Charles

Cassiobury Park Gates, Watford

Vickers, Charles

Cassiobury Park Gates, Watford

Vickers, Charles

The Mill, Cassiobury Park

Vickers, Charles

Shepherd's Lodge, Rickmansworth Road

Vigee-LeBrun, Elisabeth Louise

The Artist at Work (self portrait)

Vonck, Jan

Dead Game

Waterhouse, J

The Recital

Webb, James

A Coastal Scene

Weddup, Valerie

Still Life (kippers on a newspaper)

Willetts, P P

Near Aldenham

Williams, Hugh (attributed to)

Alpine Scene

Wilson, John James II

Horley, Surrey

Wilson, Richard (follower of)

A Classical Scene

Wissing, Willem (after)

Lady Elizabeth Percy, Widow of Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex (1636-1717)

Wisseng, Willem (after)

Algernon Capel, 2nd Earl of Essex

Withers, Henry Brett

Solitude, Oxhey Lane

Withers, Henry Brett

The Lime Kilns (summer)

Wood, J

Cassiobury Mill

Wootton, John

A view of Cassiobury Park

Wtawael, Joachim Anthonisz

The Holy Family


Cassiobury Park Gates, Watford

Young, J

A Boy, from 'Servants' (after William Hogarth)

Zoffany, Johann (after)

Portrait of a Lady

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