Skip to content

Peter Boughton, Keeper of Art at the Grosvenor Museum, has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for his contribution to the visual arts in Chester for over 35 years.

Peter has a degree in History from the University of Hull, a postgraduate diploma in the History of Art from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and has held a Visiting Fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art, Yale University. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and an Associate of the Museums Association. His field of interest is the visual arts of the West from Late Gothic to the present day, with a particular passion for the Baroque and Rococo. 

One of Peter’s most consistent priorities has been the development of the Grosvenor Museum’s collection and he has acquired 1,590 works of art since 1990. He has   more than doubled the number of paintings, including many of the finest in the collection, among them works by the studio of Quinten Metsys, Robert Peake, Jacob van Oost the Elder, John Rathbone, John Frederick Herring Senior, Philip de László, Charles Ginner, Carl Laubin, and Tom Wood’s great Portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester.  His purchases include fine sculptures by Alexander Munro, Lord Ronald Gower and Michael Sandle, and major pieces of silver by John Roos and Matthew Boulton. He has developed the collection of historic works on paper, most notably with extensive holdings of etchings by George Cuitt and William Monk.  He has created a collection of modern and contemporary art ex novo, particularly strong in prints, including works by John Piper, Patrick Heron, Eduardo Paolozzi, David Hockney, Barry Flanagan, John Davies, Cornelia Parker, Ian Davenport, Richard Woods and Helen Marten. He has developed the topographic collection into a remarkably comprehensive visual record of Chester’s unique architectural heritage, strengthened it by an imaginative programme of contemporary commissions, and extended it to the rest of Cheshire. In addition to acquisitions, he created a new art store and has hugely improved the collection through conservation, framing, documentation and research. Peter believes that the purpose of the collection is to document and celebrate creativity, to encourage learning and reflection, to delight the eye and fire the imagination. His aim in developing the collection has been to create an ever richer and more rewarding visitor experience through both permanent displays and temporary exhibitions. 

Peter has curated 10 permanent displays at the Grosvenor Museum. He created eight period rooms in No.20 Castle Street (a 17th and 18th-century house attached to the Museum), with pictures, furniture and other decorative arts illustrating changing fashions in domestic interiors. He also created the Silver Gallery, showing the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Chester hallmarked silver. Peter’s aim has been to show as much as possible of the Museum collections in a way that makes visual and intellectual sense to visitors.  

Peter has curated 124 exhibitions and the celebration of Chester’s wonderful townscape has been a consistent theme, with shows such as Picturesque Chester: The City in Art and John Douglas: Chester’s Greatest Victorian Architect. He has also produced 47 publications and exhibition catalogues, collection handlists, articles, book reviews and brief notices ranging across fine art and its collecting and display, silver, historic interiors, furniture and architecture. The aim of Peter’s publications has been to share his knowledge and love of the visual arts and to make a lasting contribution to public understanding and enjoyment.

Peter has also contributed directly to the University, giving many lectures and acting as an external examiner. 

Peter has answered thousands of enquiries, given hundreds of lectures and gallery tours, and shares his professional expertise beyond the Museum and the University. Formerly a Council member of the Chester Civic Trust, a member of the Chester Conservation Area Advisory Panel and an expert adviser to the Art Fund, he is currently a trustee of the Beecroft Bequest, an expert adviser to Arts Council   England’s Acceptance in Lieu Panel, consultant on art and silver to the Chester Diocesan Advisory Committee, and a member of the Chester Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee and the Art Fund Cheshire Fundraising Committee.  

Peter said: “This great honour is the crowning achievement of my career as Keeper of Art at the Grosvenor Museum, during which I have striven to create an ever-richer and more rewarding visitor experience and to make a lasting contribution to public understanding and enjoyment. Having worked in partnership with the University for 20 years, this award also represents the culmination of a relationship which has massively enriched the Museum’s public programme, through the academic quality and breadth of vision brought by the University. This, in turn, has helped the University to share its knowledge with the wider world.”

Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: “Peter has worked in partnership with the University of Chester for 20 years, collaborating with staff from the departments of Art and Design, History and Archaeology, Modern Languages, Performing Arts, and the Faculty of Education and Children’s Services. The Grosvenor Museum has hosted 11 exhibitions of work by University lecturers and eight exhibitions guest-curated by them, together with contributions from the University to further exhibitions, many lectures given by University staff, and workshops and conferences led by them.

“Peter has made a huge contribution to the arts in Chester, which the University has been privileged to support. It is a real honour to recognise his work in this way and we thank him for everything he has done for the city.”

Share this content