Professor Kate Giles wins HBA book prize for The Wall Paintings of Pickering Church

News | Posted on Friday 26 January 2024

Professor Kate Giles has won the category for single-authored book with a subject before 1600 at The Historians of British Art Book Award 2024.

Her book, The Wall Paintings of Pickering Church: Their Discovery, Restoration and Meaning, was published by Shaun Tyas in 2022.

The HBA 2024 Book Awards Committee write: 

"The Wall Paintings of Pickering Church: Their Discovery, Restoration and Meaning offers a fresh, insightful, and meticulously researched account of an important programme of fifteenth-century mural painting. Kate Giles’s approach is novel in its archaeological focus and interest in the longue durée history of her subject.

"Rather than beginning when the paintings were made, she turns first to their rediscovery in 1852, then deals with their exposure and restoration (1882–91) and conservation in the twentieth century, before addressing their original making and meaning. The reader thus gets a sense of wider debates surrounding the preservation of such work, the heavy-handedness of early restorations, and the local responses to the sudden appearance of medieval art in the midst of a rural community.

"Giles also offers a new interpretation of these well-known paintings, observing that the selection and placement of the imagery was influenced by the festal cycles of the liturgical year. Few existing studies of English medieval wall painting rival the importance of this one."

Kate Giles is a Professor in the Department of Archaeology where, for many years, she has led research and teaching into the archaeological and historical study of historic buildings, running its MA Historic Buildings programme.

Her research has focused on the study of medieval and early modern communal and religious buildings, from projects on Shakespeare’s Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon to her most recent book project on the remarkable series of wall paintings in Pickering parish church (North Yorkshire).

She is most interested in the relationships between building construction and the communities and individuals behind it, both in the Middle Ages and in more recent centuries, through the work of antiquarians and conservators.

In 2020, she joined the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Culture at the University of York, combining research with consultancy and heritage interpretation of cathedrals and parish churches. In Autumn 2023, she became its Director.

Kate combines her academic roles with Trusteeships with Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust and York Civic Trust where she advocates for the conservation and preservation of the UK’s sacred and secular heritage.