I’ve just been looking up church wall paintings as a result of their appearance in one of yesterdays posts.
I am trying to learn more about them, though it is not, at this time, possible to visit any churches.
One of the best preserved painted interiors seems to be found in St Botolph’s Church, Hadham, in West Sussex. It’s not a part of the country I’m familiar with,though it’s always seemed very pleasant on the rare occasions I have visited. The church is either Saxon or early Norman and is quite small and plain on the outside. It’s a different matter on the inside, where the original wall paintings were rediscovered in 1862.
There are 39 different scenes, including four of St George, the earliest depiction of him in a British church.
This is St George being tortured on a wheel. I’m fascinated by the age of the paintings, and the way they have survived over the years, less fascinated by the subjects. It seems to me that our ancestors took far too much interest in torture and death.
This church is one of a group of five churches known to have been painted by a locally-based group of crafstmen using locally available pigments (red and yellow ochre), which led to the colour palette being referred to as ‘bacon and eggs’.
There is a conservation dilemma at the church, as they also have bats. Bat urine is damaging the roof timbers and bat droppings have to be cleaned from the walls before services. This leaves the 800-year-old wall paintings at risk. It’s a case of irresistable force and immovable object. The paintings are listed for preservation purposes, but it is illegal to interfere with the bats.
One of the things I note, is that the paintings at Hardham were whitewashed in the 13th Century, when I normally think of it happening in the 16th century, at the time of the Reformation.