Save Our Story - Wall Paintings
For centuries, England's story has been painted on church walls and castle ceilings in every corner of the nation.
Restoring these precious wall paintings is like drawing back the curtain on the lives of those who shaped who we are. But sadly, dozens of these irreplaceable treasures have deteriorated so much that they could disappear forever.
How your donation can help
Will pay for specialist mortar to be mixed and used to renovate plaster damage, which is taking its toll on our fascinating wall painting collections.
Will help consolidate powdering or flaking surfaces, which will combat deterioration to the exquisite paintings found at our locations.
Will go towards multispectral imaging, revealing a painting's condition, otherwise invisible to the naked eye. This investigative tool is crucial for the conservation and future of the paintings at our sites.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
We look after the largest collection of wall paintings in the country. Recently, our conservation team visited sites with significant wall paintings to assess and prioritise those most in need of important conservation work. They found that many were in need of urgent significant repair.
With your support, we can to bring together specialist conservators to accelerate this vital work, and save these treasures before it’s too late.
All donations made will go towards conserving our historic wall paintings.
How your donations have helped
Farleigh Hungerford Castle
St Leonard’s Chapel, within the caste walls at Farleigh Hungerford, contains significant wall paintings from both the 15th and 19th centuries. The earliest decoration, commissioned by Sir Walter Hungerford in the 15th century is dominated by a large depiction of St George and the Kneeling Knight.
Two weeks work have recently been completed to stabilise plaster and remove microbiological growth in the porch, as well as to carry out consolidation of paint and plaster in the figures. Further investigations have also been carried in the side chapel and it is likely that more conservation will be required in the coming years.
Dating back to the late Renaissance, the Little Castle at Bolsover is filled with significant wall paintings. Adorning grand reception rooms and intimate bed chambers, this suite of paintings tells the story of the life and passions of William, Marquess of Newcastle.
Conservation has been carried out to stabilise loose plaster in the Heaven Room as well as clean old drip marks from the surface. Consolidation was also carried out to paint and plaster in the Hall, and blinds have been installed to prevent solar gain which may have been contributing to the damage. We will be monitoring the situation here closely over the coming years to better understand the impact of and mitigate the challenging environment in the castle.
Lullingstone Roman Villa
Built around AD 75, the Roman Villa at Lullingstone contains a rare discovery and important treasure, a painting of three female water nymphs. By far the oldest painting in our care, this priceless work offers a fascinating glimpse into the minds of our Roman forebears.
Only two figures survive and we have noticed microbiological growth has developed on the painting's surface too. We are at the early stages of making a plan to remove salts from the surface of the painting of the water nymphs, as well as better record and document remaining in situ decorative plaster in the room. This is a complex process, not least due to the challenge of accessing the excavated basement room 9 feet beneath the surrounding ground level!
One of the most notable sets of 14th century domestic wall paintings in northern Europe can be found within the tiny tower at Longthorpe. Hidden for centuries, the paintings were rediscovered in 1945. These spectacular paintings chronicle the lives of kings, musicians and saints in a 'spiritual encyclopaedia' of the times.
Large areas could be lost so we're already taking action, there is ongoing work with the Courtauld Institute of Art students to stabilise and reintergrate poor past restorations. The tower's structure is prone to cracking and humidity is making the plaster separate from the walls, which is home to the paintings. We have assessed the microclimate in the tower to work out how best to minimise losses and save these astonishing works.
St Mary's Church, Kempley
This simple Norman church is home to some of the best-preserved medieval wall paintings in Britain. They are the most complete set of Romanesque wall paintings in northern Europe.
Following on from the condition audit in 2019, an initial phase of investigate work in early 2021 identified further areas of concern. Several weeks work were therefore carried out in summer 2021 to consolidate loose plaster in the chancel. We're now putting plans into action to more clearly identify the role later coatings are playing in the deterioration of the wall painting. This will involve materials analysis, bespoke environmental monitoring as well as specialist imaging.
Berry Pomeroy Castle
In 1978, a worker at Berry Pomeroy Castle caught a glimpse of a face under a thick growth of moss and ivy. Specialists uncovered the unique and remarkable painting, which turned out to be a late medieval Adoration of the Magi dated to about 1490–1500. This painting is important evidence that this part of the chamber was used as a chapel or oratory.
A first phase of investigation was completed in 2021, to better understand how we may protect the painting from birds and bats without disturbing the wildlife or causing damage to the surface of the image with a repetitive sequence of cleaning.
Our wall painting locations
Episode 26 - Rescuing England’s largest collection of rare wall paintings
We’re joined in the studio by Senior Collections Conservator Rachel Turnbull and Senior Properties Historian Dr Steven Brindle to find out about a new project to protect and conserve England’s largest collection of historic wall paintings. Learn the stories behind these rare and fragile works of art, how much work is going to be involved in their conservation and the work underway to ensure these precious paintings don’t vanish forever.
To find out more click here.Listen Here