Villagers launch bid to raise £200,000 for 14th-century church paintings

A Doom painting featuring Christ on judgement day at a church in Ickleton, Cambridgeshire

The Doom Painting in St Mary Magdalene, Ickleton - Credit: Ickleton Archive

A 14th-century 'Doom painting' needs conservation and preservation work worth more than £200,000.

To raise the funds, Cambridgeshire villagers have formed a group to protect the painting and a series of frescoes in St Mary Magdalene, Ickleton.

The group, The Friends of Ickleton Church, has launched a guidebook - on sale at the church and village shop - and has begun a lecture series which runs until November 19.

The earliest fresco is thought to date back to the 1100s.

An arson attack at St Mary Magdalene church in 1979 led to the discovery of the paintings, which were previously hidden underneath plaster.

A church kneeler in Ickleton, Cambridgeshire which reads: 1979 - August 24th - The Night the Chuch was Burnt

A kneeler to commemorate "the night the church was burnt" in Ickleton - Credit: Ickleton Archive

Several images depict scenes from the Bible, including the Last Supper and the Betrayal of Christ.

A large 'Doom painting' - a picture of Christ judging souls to send them to heaven or hell - depicting the end of time as described in Matthew's Gospel, was also uncovered dating back to the 1300s.

Most Read

Jenny Duke, St Mary Magdalene's church warden, said the paintings need to be preserved for the benefit of generations to come.

"The paintings are a wonderful reminder of the centuries of worship which have taken place in this beautiful church.

"Norman wall paintings of this size are rare.

"Whole sequences representing the Passion of Christ even rarer, and series from the mid-12th century unknown elsewhere."

Medieval religious art in English churches is rare.

After the English Reformation under Henry VIII - when the Church of England broke away from the Catholic church in Rome - religious art was destroyed.

This was pursued on an "unprecedented" scale under the government of Edward VI, according to Tate Britain experts.

Red-coloured medieval frescos at St Mary Magdalene church in Ickleton, Cambridgeshire

The frescos at St Mary Magdalene church, Ickleton - Credit: Ickleton Archive

Jenny described the day the paintings were uncovered.

She said: "When the villagers entered the church after a fire on August 24, 1979, they saw a figure of Christ looking down on them - a 14th-century ‘Doom’ emerged through the peeling plaster.

"Restored by experts, Ickletonians now need to raise funds of over £200,000 for conservation and preservation."

The guidebook is on sale in the church and Ickleton village shop.

Details of the lecture series are online: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/friends-of-ickleton-church-34049542971

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter