In 2006 a group of concerned villagers got together to talk about state of the church and the treasures contained within it. The famous wall paintings including those of Thomas Becket and Virgin Mary had already been carefully conserved and cared for. But there were obvious areas in and around the church fabric that required attention and work in the short to medium term. One of these was a doom painting on the chancel arch, which is the subject of this project.
However the group decided that it was more important initially to solve the problem of leaky and poorly maintained roofs, leaking windows with loose medieval glass and deteriorating stained glass and the general maintenance and decoration of the church and and its surroundings. Starting in 2008, A dedicated committee commenced fundraising and up to the present time (2015) have raised approximately £450,000 from major grant giving bodies, specialist grants for places of worship and bodies concerned with particular aspects of conservation.
Great support was also given by the village of South Newington as well as the church community, with a variety of fund raising events including festivals that focussed on the medieval wall paintings.
First the churchyard was cleared, made safe and presentable with major repairs to walls and gravestones. The nave was completely re-roofed including new timbers and the interior of the church was decorated throughout. Following this the chancel was also re-roofed and in several stages all of the leaded windows were made secure and weatherproof using original materials and techniques where possible. Stained-glass panels are now held in special cradles to prevent further deterioration to the coloured surface.
With the church building now in a secure and weatherproof state (many other smaller projects have been completed during this period), it was felt time to tackle the doom painting on the chancel arch. As a first essential stage a full technical survey of the state of the painting was commissioned and carried out by Richard Lithgow, a well-known and experienced paintings conservator who had already carried out works on the other wall paintings.
The report showed that the painting was indeed in a very fragile condition and in places was in danger of falling with the underlying plaster. English Heritage was consulted and their architect confirmed the findings of the report and also confirmed the church group’s opinion that the painting, although in a fragmentary state in places, was still a gem that should be preserved.
Fundraising for the conservation and preservation of the doom painting commenced in 2012 and funds were pledged by Viridor Credits, the Church Buildings Council and Veneziana Fund. The final major sum came from the Heritage Lottery Fund in the form of a stage I grant to enable preparation for the project and a stage 2 grant for the actual works.
Throughout the whole project we have been supported by Andrew Salter of Acanthus Clews, our church architect, who has applied his extensive knowledge of the conservation of historic buildings and architecture and the management of conservation projects to keep us on track. Using the earlier report as a basis three conservators were asked to quote to carry out the work on the Doom and we are very pleased that Richard Lithgow of The Perry Lithgow partnership have been awarded the contract. The company has extensive experience of painting conservation and preservation at some very well-known and high profile buildings (including the Palace of Westminster and Kensington Palace) as well as many painted schemes in cathedrals and churches.
For full details see attached – Perry Lithgow Partnership 2014
It is particularly relevant that Richard is involved as he has very close connections with South Newington, his family having been residents for 80 years up to 1999, and Richard was married in the church where he now is to carry out the conservation work.
So, scaffolding is due to be erected on March 5th, and work starts on March 9th. We do not know what further details will be uncovered during the conservation process, but we are sure that what is already there will be more pronounced and visible and that the overall scheme will be a lighter tone more in keeping with the rest of the wall paintings and internal decoration.
If you would like to see updates on the progress of the work, please see the Project Timeline on this site, which will be updated regularly.