Gruesome murders to mythical beasts: The Nationís historic church wallpaintings
brought to life on new online resource
- Churches Conservation Trust launches new interactive guide to some of the nation’s finest church wallpaintings, from astonishing 12th century survival stories to dazzling Victorian jewel-like interiors.
- Launched in November 2011.
- New resource unlocks the hidden secrets and meaning of ancient wallpaintings.
- Twenty-four churches captured across 18 counties provide a chance to discover the hidden treasures on your doorstep. Thirty-six more churches to come.
- IMAGES: http://bit.ly/tzs457
From grisly Medieval depictions of the brutal murder of Thomas Becket the intricate and jewel-like decoration of the whole of a Victorian church interior, historic churches contain a wealth of fascinating, surprising and irreplaceable wallpaintings which reflect almost 1,000 years of British history.
In November the Churches Conservation Trust – the national charity protecting historic churches at risk – will launch a brand new online resource providing an interactive guide to just some of the fine wallpaintings in its care: www.visitchurches.org.uk/wallpaintings [Website live from 9 November].
The CCT’s unique online resource will cover the entire history of wallpaintings, from the first brushstroke in the 12th century to dazzling 19th century examples. Wallpaintings were created to educate, inspire, fear and motivate congregations – many of who where illiterate. The portal will help people understand how these works were created, how to unlock their meaning and read the stories they portray, how they are being conserved and their historical and national importance. Examples show a range from the beautiful and gruesome to the downright bizarre [full list by county below]. Highlights include:
- St Peter’s Church, Preston Park, Brighton: The gruesomely-realistic depiction of the murder of Thomas Becket showing a knight (possibly William de Tracy) plunging his sword into Becket's head and blood dripping from the hand of Edward Grim, Becket’s chaplain.
- St Lawrence, Broughton, Milton Keynes: A vibrant and animated depiction of St George and the Dragon fighting to the death over the south door of the Church. The church boasts extensive paintings dating from the early 14th – mid 15th century, which remained hidden until 1849.
- St Giles Church, Imber, Wiltshire: The church for the now deserted town in the Army training area on Salisbury Plain contains, amongst other, a very rare depiction of the Seven Deadly Sins.
- St. John, Duxford,Cambridgeshire: Stunningly-detailed wallpaintings from 1100s to the eve of the Reformation, including a range of rare subjects, such as a scene of Joseph of Arimathea asking for the body of Christ - unique in English wallpainting.
- Undedicated Church, Whitcome, Dorset: A mermaid combing her hair. She was revealed during conservation work in 1912.
- St. John the Baptist, Inglesham, Gloucestershire: Astonishing wallpaintings painted layer upon layer from the 13th to the 19th century, which were saved from destruction by William Morris.
The Charity’s initiative is a two-phased scheme. The CCT cares for 340 historic churches no longer used for regular worship. Over 60 of these churches have wallpaintings. Phase one of the project has captured the wallpaintings from 24 churches, the focus being on cataloguing the most dramatic and significant wallpaintings from the CCT’s collection of churches. The remaining 36 wallpaintings will be captured when the Charity has raised a final £30,000 towards the second phase of the scheme.
The CCT’s new online resource will be the most accessible resource of its kind, featuring high resolution images, case studies of each church, a history of the development of wallpaintings and in-depth discussions on topics such as styles of dress depicted, the pigments and materials used to created the paintings and the role and meaning of the signs and symbols on show.
Visitors will be able to zoom into images to examine the detail of the wallpaintings and to scroll along a timeline covering historical events depicted in the paintings. Phase two of the scheme will also include interactive digital elements such as an invisible pen to outline the missing details of wallpaintings and a detailed education pack for schools.
Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, says: “Our charity cares for the largest collection of historic churches in the country. We believe that the best way to save these remarkable buildings for future generations is to bring them back into the heart of community life through people visiting and making use of the spaces.
“The wallpaintings in our churches are national treasures. Our new project contributes in their survival by helping people understand their value, locate them more easily and visit our churches and read the interior of these wonderful buildings. We have catalogued over 24 churches and are actively fund raising to secure the final £30,000 to finish the project and capture the remaining 36 churches and their wallpaintings.”
The CCT’s new online portal goes live on 9 November 2011: www.visitchurches.org.uk/wallpaintings
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For information and images contact:
Susannah Glynn: Susannah.firstname.lastname@example.org; 020 7221 7883
William Kallaway: email@example.com; 020 7221 7883
IMAGES OF WALLPAINTINGS: http://bit.ly/tzs457
About the Churches Conservation Trust (http://www.visitchurches.org.uk)
The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) is the national charity protecting historic churches at risk. The Trust is responsible for over 340 beautiful buildings which attract almost 2 million visitors a year.
- Established under Ecclesiastical Law on 1 April 1969 the charity receives its churches in the form of ‘vestings’ from the Church Commissioners. All the CCT’s churches remain consecrated and can be used for occasional worship.
- The CCT works with local people to bring historic churches back into the heart of the community and use as a social, tourism, educational or cultural resource. The CCT’s care of Grade I and II* buildings has given it an international reputation in heritage conservation and regeneration.
- The CCT currently receives £2.9m from the DCMS which was reduced from £3.1m in 2010 and will reduce by a further 20% by 2015 under the Comprehensive Spending Review, £1.3m of conditional match-funding from the Church Commissioners and raise a further £1.3m from philanthropic donations and self-generated income. The Trust needs a further £1.5m each year to fill a funding shortfall.
- Chairman of the Trust is Loyd Grossman OBE FSA, who was appointed in 2007. Crispin Truman is Chief Executive.
List of churches showcased for phase one of the Church Wallpaintings project.
Listed A – Z by County
St. Lawrence, Broughton
Exquisitely-detailed and expansive wallpaintings which remained hidden for 300 years before being rediscovered during a restoration in 1849. Most striking is the dynamic depiction of St George killing the dragon over the South doorway (the head of St George was destroyed when the roof was restored). Other highlights include one of two surviving Warnings to Swearers in the country and a Doom.
St. Thomas, East Shefford
A tiny Norman church which once a served a village which has long since vanished. The wallpaintings, which date from the 12th century to the post-Reformation period, include the remains of an Adoration of the Magi, 5 of the 12 consecration crosses and post reformation texts.
St. Mary, Edlesborough
All the details and decorative motifs in the symmetrical composition at this church were rendered free-hand, demonstrating an usually skilful confidence. These paintings are distinguished by their subtle colour-scheme with a predominance of ochre tones and their calligraphic quality.
St. Mary, Pitstone
Pitstone offers a powerful reminder that the Reformation altered but did not end the tradition of wallpainting. Texts and the Royal Arms of 1733 are preserved here, with traces of two earlier layers of post-Reformation painting.
St. John, Duxford
Stunningly-detailed wallpaintings from 1100s to the eve of the reformation, including a range of rare subjects, such as a scene of Joseph of Arimathea asking for the body of Christ - unique in English wallpainting.
All Saints, Cambridge
Almost every inch of the interior of this Victorian church, designed by George Frederick Bodley, has been painted, stencilled or gilded. Pomegranates burst with seeds; flowers run riot over the walls and the scheme includes a glorious painting of Christ in Majesty with throngs of angels.
No dedication, Whitcombe
Magical Medieval wallpaintings that include a vibrant image of St Christopher and the Christchild and a mermaid combing her hair. The wallpaintings were only uncovered during the restoration of the church in 1912.
St. Mary the Virgin, Tarrant Crawford
The ghostly 14th-century paintings were made to instruct and inspire the parishioners. These cover most of the walls of the nave, catching your eye as soon as you walk into the church. Though somewhat degraded, it is a rare treat to find such a extensive display of wallpaintings, and which still give a vivid impression of warmth and colour.
St. Peter, Preston Park, Brighton
800-years old, the paintings in this church still stand out in reds and browns against the limewashed walls. The violent scene of Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury is one of the clearest – it is still possible to see one of the knights, possibly William de Tracy, plunge his sword into Becket's head and blood dripping from the hand of Edward Grimm, Becket’s chaplain.
St. Mary, Little Washbourne, Gloucestershire
Fragments of Medieval wallpaintings remain at this largely Medieval church, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a boy who drowned nearby.
St. John the Baptist, Inglesham, Gloucestershire
An amazing series of paintings, from the 13th to the 19th century, cover the walls of this church, often with one painted over another, in places ten or twenty layers thick. While it is not always easy to puzzle out the subjects, you can make out 15th century angels above the chancel arch, an early 14th century doom on the east wall of the north aisle, and several 19th century texts, as well as a 13th century masonry pattern throughout the chancel. Inglesham was saved from destruction by the newly-formed SPAB, founded by William Morris and contempories of the ‘anti scrape’ movement.
St. Nicholas, Freefolk, Hampshire
The church has an early fifteenth century St Christopher partly covered by a Stuart Royal Arms, and a colourful, magnificent 17th century monument to Sir Richard Powlett, with an image of Time and Death on either side
St. Michael, Michaelchurch,
13th-century painting decorates the walls in the form of masonry lines, borders with chevron design, flowers and foliage and good example of how consecration crosses could be integrated into wallpaintings. Superimposed on these on the north wall are black letter inscriptions from the 16th-and 17th- centuries. Later thirteenth century build - extensive decorative scheme with ambitious imitation textiles and fashionable heraldic motifs.
St. Thomas, Capel
Becket himself is said to have preached in this small Norman Wealden church. The extensive Medieval wallpaintings cover most of the nave, depicting Cain murdering Abel, the Last Supper and Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The wallpaintings were recorded and conserved by Professor E W Tristram in 1927 and further work on the paintings by Mrs Eve Baker and Mr John Dives between 1967 – 1970.
St. Barbara, Haceby
Above a rare Norman arch is a wallpainting of the Royal Arms of Queen Anne. Peeping through are the remains of a Medieval Doom.
St. Lawrence (Chandos Mausoleum only), Little Stanmore, Greater London
The astonishing Chandos Mausoleum, which was added to the church in 1735 has a magnificent monument by master carver Grinling Gibbons as well as a rare and remarkable example of eighteenth-century illusionistic wallpaintings in an English parish church by artist Gaetano Brunetti to complement the tomb of the 1st Duke of Chandos.
St. Faith, Little Witchingham
Step inside St Faith’s and your view of the Medieval world changes. Stencilled vines laden with grapes spiral over arches edged with deep red and walls show scenes from the Bible – degraded to silhouettes against alternating plan and red backgrounds. This is an authentic Medieval church – a riot of colour and pattern, with picture stories that could be read by a largely illiterate congregation.
St. Margaret, Hales
Surviving wallpaintings include Medieval painted niches, a St Christopher and St James and the remains of a Doom.
St. Mary, Moulton
St Mary’s boasts a series of beautiful 14th-century wallpaintings, elegantly rendered in shades of grey and ochre depicting St Christopher and the Seven Works of Mercy.
Holy Trinity, Wensley
A beautiful local church featuring fine Flemish brasses and a sumptuous family pew for the Scrope family as well as good, if not extensive, examples of Medieval wallpaintings.
St. Michael, Upton Cresset
The surviving wallpaintings at Upton Cressett are not many or large: a couple of figures forming two incomplete scenes from a Nativity cycle. Yet these scenes, with hints of tiers above and below suggest that the unusually large and early south chapel was extensively painted with sacred stories shortly after its completion in the early thirteenth century.
St. James, Cameley, Somerset
The fabulous wallpaintings of this unspoilt gem date from the 12th-to the 17th-centuries. Fragments that have been identified include the fine early 17th-century Ten Commandments over the chancel arch, framed in twining leaves with enchanting cherubs’ faces peering out.
All Saints, Little Wenham, Suffolk
With their faces exotically dark (the result of pigment alteration), the wallpaintings on the east wall are among the most exquisite and alluring parish wallpaintings. Also present is an early elegant St Christopher.
St. Giles, Imber, Wiltshire
This lovely 13th-century church stands in rolling downland deep inside the military training area of Salisbury Plain. The interior, divested of its fittings, includes the remains of Medieval wallpaintings and a set of 17th-century bell ringing changes painted on the north wall of the tower.
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