PRWP in London

We were recently invited to talk about the PRWP project at the Ecclesiological Society in London.

Ecc Soc Photo

PRWP PowerPoint

We had a good response to the paper, and their was a lot of interest in the project from medievalists and modernists alike.

Ecc Soc Photo2

CB Newham

Thanks to Trevor Cooper for organising the event.

Please let us know if you would like us to deliver a talk in your area.

Familial Connections: Heraldic Painting at Bloxworth Church

The Savage pew (or chapel) is located on the north side of Bloxworth church in Dorset.

Bloxworth, Dorset, Plan

This extension was added at the end of the seventeenth century, probably by George Savage (d.1683). Set in the east and west walls, and high in the north wall, are elliptical windows with raised stone surrounds, and below the latter a square-headed window with two lights.


The chapel would have been used by the Savage family during services, and also for burial and commemoration. Rather like medieval chantry chapels, such spaces were commonly entered through an external door. A blocked doorway with a moulded architrave is visible in the west wall (see below).


The Savage family lived at Bloxworth House until the end of the seventeenth century, when the property was sold to John Trenchard. It is likely that the Trenchard family assumed stewardship of the chapel at this point, for a number of Trenchard mural tablets are visible in the chapel, including the memorial to John Trenchard himself.

Bloxworth, Dorset3

The post-Reformation wall paintings in the Savage pew were almost certainly commissioned by George Savage (d.1683), who married Ann Bower of Spettisbury. The achievement of Savage impaling Bower is painted on the south wall of the chapel, a final visual reminder to those exiting the chapel into the nave (perhaps through a screen) of the patron’s wealth, generosity and familial connections.

Bloxworth, Dorset2

The paintings were possibly commissioned to establish the Savage family’s dynastic connection with the prominent Rock-Savages of Chester, and thus to raise the former’s familial profile.


Those of you who follow us on Twitter will know that our technical expert, C.B. Newham, is currently designing an app for the PRWP project.

App Screen Shot

App preview

The PRWP app will list all extant wall paintings in England, and include features such as church dedication, painting type, date, description, bibliographical references, and images.

App, Screen Shot2

App preview

Once the app is complete, it will be available to download. So watch this space for further developments!

Research in Progress: Mereworth, Kent

Over the last six months, the PRWP team has catalogued hundreds of church murals in every county of England, ranging from Cornwall to Northumberland. The most outstanding and intriguing examples so far, certainly in terms of preservation and sheer artistic quality, are the murals at St. Lawrence’s church in Mereworth (Kent).


Mereworth Church

Architectural History

Mereworth church was completed in 1746, a date which provides a terminus post quem for the interior paintwork. The building was commissioned by John Fane, 7th Earl of Westmorland, who had employed Scottish architect Colen Campbell (d.1729) in the 1720s to rebuild Mereworth Castle as a Palladian villa. The medieval church, which stood on the site of the stables, was pulled down in the 1740s as it was considered to disturb the symmetry of the new house. The present church was erected on a new site about half a mile away near the centre of the village.

Mereworth, Kent6

West End Portico, Mereworth

The Neo-Classical church is a rectangular building with a semi-circular portico, a high steeple, no chancel, and an east-end Diocletian window (derived from the Diocletian Baths in Rome). The Neo-Palladian building draws on the work of Inigo Jones, as well as on the designs by Nicholas Hawksmoor and Thomas Archer for the ‘Commission for Building Fifty New Churches’ in London (1710).

There is some disagreement about the identity of the Mereworth church architect. Possibly, the building was designed by Henry Flitcroft (d.1769), whose portfolios include St Giles-in-the-Fields (London), as well as Alfred’s Tower and the Temples of Ceres, Hercules and Apollo at Stourhead (Wiltshire). Another candidate is Roger Morris (d.1749), Colen Campbell’s assistant, who designed the Column of Victory at Blenheim Palace, Wimbledon House, and the Palladian Bridge at Wilton House (Wiltshire).

The Paintings

Inside, the church walls are painted using a trompe l’oeil technique to create architectural illusions. The yellow and brown colour scheme of the walls give the effect of plaster, while the nave columns are painted to give appearance of marble. A series of trompe l’oeil garlands and wreaths are positioned above windows and blind tabernacles in nave and aisles.

Mereworth, Kent2

Nave Looking East, Mereworth

A trompe l’oeil frieze with triglyphs and metopes runs round the nave, containing roundels with images of the Dove, the IHS monogram and the Jehovah tetragrammaton. The crowning masterpiece is the coffered trompe l’oeil painting on barrel vault ceiling, which spans the entire width and length of nave.


Frieze, Mereworth

A series of large trompe l’oeil flower heads encircled by garlands and foliage patterns are painted on the north and south aisle ceilings, rendered in a monochrome colour scheme.

Mereworth, Kent3

Painted Ceiling, Mereworth

Above the west doorway is a lunette with a trompe d’oeil organ in the centre, its pipes painted in silver, grey and white. A cherub’s head appears at the top of the central column, and two further cherubs flank the organ on both sides, each holding billowing drapery.

Mereworth3, Kent

Painted Frieze, Lunette and Ceiling, Mereworth

Context, Creation and Chronology

The Mereworth paintings are significant, not least because they were probably commissioned by the Earl of Westmorland as an integral part of the church design. It is likely that they were executed immediately after completion of the church as they were in situ in 1752 when the writer and politician Horace Walpole visited Lord Westmorland. Walpole’s contemptuous remarks about the paintings reflect commonplace contemporary attitudes to the Neo-Classical style:

‘The inside is the most abominable piece of tawdriness that ever was seen, stuffed with pillars painted in imitation of verd antique, as all the sides are like Sienna marble; but the greatest absurdity is a Doric frieze, between the triglyphs of which is the Jehovah, the I.H.S. and the Dove’.

As is the case with the vast majority of post-Reformation wall painting, the artist responsible for the Mereworth church paintings remains unidentified.

 Select Bibliography

Hasted, E., ‘Parishes: Mereworth’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Vol. 5 (Canterbury, 1798), 70-90: British History Online: (Accessed 23 December 2014).

Lane, G., ‘Panel of the Month: William Price, The Glass at Mereworth and the Pigott Panel at the V&A’, Vidimus, Issue 55 (2011): (Accessed 23 December 2014).

Wells, A., The Parish Church of St Lawrence, Mereworth (Church Guide, Revised 2011).

Wright, J., ed., The letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford: Including Numerous Letters Now First Published from the Original Manuscripts, Vol. 2 (Nabu Press, 2012), 444.

British Listed Buildings: (Accessed 23 December 2014).

Post-Reformation Wall Painting Goes to Leeds International Medieval Congress

Our very own Cameron Newham will be talking about the Post-Reformation Wall Painting Project at Leeds IMC in July 2015.  By then, the project will have been running for a year.

Cameron will be presenting in a session with co-researcher and medieval wall painting expert Dr Ellie Pridgeon, as well the Finnish visual culture scholar Dr Katja Falt (University of Jyväskylä).  The session, entitled ‘Change or Continuity?: Visual Culture at the Reformation and Beyond’, will examine the visual changes to churches and monastic interiors at the Reformation in England and Scandinavia.

Post-Reformation Wall Painting at Inglesham, Wiltshire.

Post-Reformation Wall Painting at Inglesham, Wiltshire.

Cameron’s paper will provide an update on the Post-Reformation Wall Painting Project, and consider the physical and iconographical relationship of these images to medieval paintings.

The session will be chaired by Dr Kimm Curran (University of Glasgow).


Welcome to the Post-Reformation Wall Painting Project

Welcome to our very first blog post!

We are currently cataloguing the substantial corpus of post-Reformation wall paintings which exist in English churches.  We will keep you up-to-date with our exciting discoveries and thoughts as the project develops.  So watch this space.

Teddington, Gloucestershire

           Teddington, Gloucestershire

In the meantime, please check out our Twitter feed and About pages for more information.

Blog and tweets by C.B. Newham and Dr Ellie Pridgeon.

Photography by C.B. Newham.