Introduction to the
As described in this and subsequent pages the wallpaintings at Willingham are almost unique in their diversity and range of ages. The importance of the paintings was recognized in 2005 by the award of a grant of approximately £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for a major conservation project. You can read more details of this project by clicking HERE.
In the following pages a brief history is provided based on the book "The Wallpaintings of Willingham" by Alan Fawcitt. Mr. Fawcitt is an expert on the painting and had dedicated himself to their conservation over many years.
The Church in Willingham was Catholic until the Reformation. Prior to 1559 services would have been in Latin and most of the congregation were illiterate. Therefore the only way to explain Christianity was though sermons - and the use of medieval "visual aids" such as stained glass windows and paintings. So as well as being decorative, paintings had a real function.
Many churches at this time were painted all over – walls pillars, even the roof! Usually the base would be a stencilled pattern, – the medieval equivalent of wallpaper really! A new priest would arrive, and commission a painting to project to the congregation a message he felt was important. No doubt fashion came into it too sometimes. The new priest would then limewash over old paintings they found, and promptly commission new ones. And so a series of layers would accumulate over time.
At Willingham we have identified 5 layers of paintings. What is so unique here is that we have examples from each of these 5 layers, – 34 paintings covering a period of some 400 years from the 1200’s to the 1600’s. It ranks as one of the most comprehensive ranges of wall paintings in the country.
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For more information on Church Wallpaintings we recommend you visit PaintedChurch.org