Victorian Wall Paintings

conservation, restoration and re-imagining

Commissioned in 1864 to honour the memory of the principal instigator of the Pershore Abbey’s restoration programme, the Reverend Williamson, the west end wall painting was designed with the collaboration of Gilbert Scott, probably the most famous church architect of the Victorian period and Clayton and Bell, who were regarded as  the leading exponents of church decoration and design of their time.

The scheme at Pershore Abbey displays a typical monumentality, so often associated with the 19th- century design ethic of utilising a blend of medieval motives, such as masonry pattern, coupled with substantial figure painting style more redolent of Italian Renaissance executed with a limited palette of black and white (with yellow and ochre additions) yielding a grisaille effect to the overall design. The scheme features the use of fictive masonry pattern, foliage designs as well as figure painting of saints set within architectural frames, texts and also a Christ in Majesty.  Couple with the wall painting decoration are a series of stain glass windows also by Clayton and Bell.

The present condition of the painting is extremely poor, and is urgently in need of conservation, both to stabilise its condition and to improve the visual appearance that presently confronts the spectator.

On the south wall of the nave, on either side of the eastern window, are some interesting paintings. They appear to be of the 13th century, but have considerably decayed since they were uncovered at the restoration of the church in 1860. The first group apparently consisted of eight subjects, including one quite obliterated: a Virgin and Child; a saint with a palmer's staff and plague spot, probably St. Roche, with an angel at the side and a border of red dragons; the Annunciation; the Salutation; the Adoration of the Magi; the Crucifixion and Resurrection in one panel; and perhaps the Ascension. Of these only the lower part of the second and most of the Adoration of the Magi and the next subject are at all clear.

However, a single area of medieval wall painting (approx. 2mx2m) has survived the intensive cleaning processes that were done under the direction of Gilbert Scott, located on the south pier of the tower.

There is a conservation report available with the recommendation that work be undertaken immediately under the auspices and direction of an accredited conservator.  The 19th Century scheme on the West end wall needs to be restored and conserved.  The East and the south pier of the tower need more careful research by the conservator and a realistic plan put in place to enable the PCC to make decisions on the future of the wall paintings going forward.

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