A TURNER painting worth nearly £3.5 million will go on display at Colchester Castle next year after museum operators secured funds to bring it back into public hands.

The early landscape by the esteemed artist JWM Turner was bought following a campaign by Norwich Museums Service and Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service.

An overseas buyer had originally snapped up the item at Sotheby’s auctioneers last year, but an urgent bid to keep it in the UK was launched.

As the painting was at risk of leaving the country, the Government placed an export bar allowing time for a UK museum to raise the necessary funds.

The two museum services matched the price after obtaining £2.1 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with the rest made up by the Art Fund charity and private donors.

Although the painting, called Walton Bridges, is a scene of the Thames in Surrey, museum operators were keen to get the painting because there are no Turners in East of England collections.

The painting is on display in Norwich Castle Museum but will move onto Colchester next September.

Curators and designers are now working on its display in Colchester.

The masterpiece was painted by Turner in 1806 close to his house on the River Thames and is thought to be the first undertaken by Turner in the open air.

Julie Young, Colchester Council’s councillor responsible for culture, said: “This is a beautiful landscape painting by one of this country’s favourite painters and I am delighted it will be on show at Colchester Castle next year.

“This is the first time a major painting by Turner has gone on display in Colchester.”

Philip Wise, heritage manager for Colchester Museums and who is leading on bringing the Turner to Colchester, said: “Turner, like his contemporary John Constable, preferred to work outside rather than in a studio.

“In the case of Walton Bridges we have to imagine Turner in a small boat sketching the river scene in front of him.

“It’s a truly remarkable piece of work and I’m thrilled to be involved in bringing it to Colchester.”