Church undergoing conservation works

A CHURCH is undergoing major conservation works to preserve its recently discovered 800-year-old paintings.

St Mary’s church in Fowlmere had its original imagery and decoration painted over it after Henry VIII’s break with Rome, but a recent survey of the building by Cambridge conservator Tobit Curteis found that the decoration could be restored.

“After the reformation paintings in churches throughout the land were destroyed for being too linked with Catholicism,” said Mr Curteis.

“After this, people started painting simple texts on the walls because they were acceptable to the new regime.

“However in some rare cases paintings have survived against the odds and bear witness to how these churches would have appeared to previous generations, which is what we are trying to preserve.”

Mr Curteis carried-out a survey on the building two years ago, and found that there was more than one layer to the church’s walls.

After a two-year period of fundraising from the Friends of St Mary’s Church to ensure the building was not susceptible to water damage, he began work on the walls two weeks ago.

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“Over the last 50 years the church has deteriorated quite badly, but our job is to stop this and ensure that the paintings beneath the top layer don’t disappear completely,” said Mr Curteis.

“The church has spent a huge amount of time and money getting the building in good order. It is now in good condition with the causes of deterioration under control. We now need to stabilise it to stop it literally falling off.

“Afterwards we will be able to see the paintings much more clearly and if it is well maintained then they could be visible for another hundred years.”

Robin Dring, a member of the Friends of St Mary’s Church, said: “The church has been at the centre of the village for 800 years and what we are conserving now has been there for 200 years, so its got a lot of history.

“As we had the vital restoration of the church sorted we felt the time had come to conserve the walls, and I think it will look better for it.”