Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wall paintings at St Mary's Parish Church, Lakenheath, to be preserved

Unique and important wall paintings at a Suffolk church are to be conserved for...
6 January 2009
Eastern Daily Press

Unique and important wall paintings at a Suffolk church are to be conserved for future generations thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund award of £32,500.

The paintings at St Mary's Parish Church, Lakenheath, date from the 13th to the 17th centuries and show scenes from the life of Christ, angels, birds and local saint King Edmund. Some of the medieval decoration is thought to be unique among surviving English wall paintings.

They were discovered during restoration work carried out on the church in 1864 when the lime wash, which had covered the colourful examples of medieval art since the reformation, was removed to reveal at least three individual painting schemes.

Having been exposed to the elements for over a century, urgent work is now needed to maintain the stability of the paintings and the plaster onto which they were painted.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, along with a number of local organisations, has provided the money to support a six-month project aimed at conserving and explaining the wall paintings. The project intends to fully involve the community in attempting to bring these fascinating examples of medieval art to wider public attention.

As they stand, the wall paintings are seen as difficult to interpret and an important part of the project is to make them accessible to local schools and community groups via a series of free events. These will include hands- on workshops and demonstrations, family activities, costumed live interpreters, talks and lectures, and educational packs.

Among the highlights will be the creation of a modern wall painting by local people as a lasting monument to the project, and the development of a 'wall painting trail' linking Lakenheath to other East Anglian churches fortunate enough to have surviving wall paintings of their own.

Father Robert Leach, the vicar of St Mary's, said: “We are deeply grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the funds to enable this project to proceed. Without their help these unique works of art would have faced an uncertain future.”

Matthew Champion, the newly-appointed project manager, added: “The wall paintings at Lakenheath are of national importance and the HLF funding will enable them to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

“However, the project isn't just about relics from the past. These fantastic images were originally paid for and created by the local community. This project aims to bring local people back into their church to rediscover their own parish heritage.”

The project, costing just over £54,000, will begin this month and is anticipated to run until the end of June. Roger Rosewell, the acclaimed author of Medieval Wall Paintings in English and Welsh Churches, will present a special lecture to mark its completion.