October is Black History Month – a great opportunity to shine a light on black residents of Norwich and Norfolk. Here, are two paintings linked to Norwich and Norfolk that do just that…

Cotton of Norwich

We discovered ‘Cotton’ of Norwich via Peter Brathwaite who included them in an amazing project that began in lockdown. Peter reworked black portraiture using everyday objects – always very creatively – for the #gettymuseumchallenge / #gettychallenge. This has since led to exhibitions and a book, but for us, it educated us a little more about the history – and the black history – of Norwich and Norfolk.

This is a painting by John Dempsey: ‘Cotton’ of Norwich (c.1823), reworked with a recycling bin and West African print in Peter’s basket. ‘Cotton’ was a black resident of Norwich who sold thread, ribbons and cotton in the streets of Norwich during the 1820s. Other than that, very little is known about him.

John Church Dempsey (c. 1802-1877) was an English a