Posted on 14 November 2022
The wall paintings of Pickering church (North Yorkshire) are one of England’s hidden artistic treasures, giving visitors and scholars alike a powerful experience of what it was like to step through the door of a late medieval painted church. In this stunningly illustrated book Kate Giles tells the story of the discovery, restoration and conservation of these paintings in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Their existence had been totally forgotten by the parish until they were revealed by the accidental collapse of some plaster in 1852, since when they have been understood in the context of shifting philosophies of conservation and arthistorical interpretation. In 1852 the vicar disliked them. They were recorded by the artist Tom Chambers and surveyed by the architect William Hey Dykes, and then whitewashed over. In 1876 a new vicar, G. H. Lightfoot, decided to have the paintings exposed and restored, but with much over-painting, work beginning in 1882. A series of photographs in 1902 are also here published, together with paintings by E. W. Tristram in 1915 and Janet Lenton in 1952 which attempt to reconstruct their ideal original appearance, together with a full survey in modern digital photography of their current appearance after recent conservation. The book concludes with a discussion of the meanings of the paintings with a reevalution of their quality and depths of meaning, with full bibliography, endnotes and index.
Kate Giles is a Senior Lecturer in historic buildings in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and Co-Director of the University’s Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture.