Tuesday 30 October 2012

Hoylandswaine - A Work in Progress

You know how much I love to hear from you lot, so if you ever have any news, projects or just fancy a chat I can be contacted on stonellwalker@googlemail.com.  Imagine my delight to find an email from a nice chap called Simon who brought my attention to a wonderful project that is going on in a village in South Yorkshire called Hoylandswaine...

Church of St John the Evangelist, Hoylandswaine
Here we have the very picturesque church of St John, built in 1867 and overlooking the gorgeous valleys towards Cawthorne (I have a very soft spot for Yorkshire as it was where I first lived with Mr Walker, in Wakefield).  The church was consecrated on 30th July 1868 and inside, on the east wall was a beautiful mural by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, the artist responsible for Thoughts of the Past and Robin of Modern Times, two of my favourites that have been featured here before...

Robin of Modern Times
Thoughts of the Past
The mural depicted the Ascendency of Christ and complemented the (probably) Burne-Jones stained glass window which was made by Morris and Co.  The window was given by the Spencer Stanhope family in memory of Louisa (John's sister) who died in 1867.  So far, so lovely.  Here it is in its glory...

Isn't it astonishing?  The shrewd ones among you will be slightly nervous that I'm showing this image in sepia, and you'd be right because in 1961, due to an issue with damp, there was a spot of redecoration...

Rats.  That's a lovely shade of cream.  Despair not, Gentle Readers, as the good people of Hoylandswaine, together with art historian and Spencer Stanhope expert Simon Poë (who you may remember from my piece last year on Robin of Modern Times) have started work on uncovering the mural and restoring it to its former glory...

Beginning the slow uncovering and conservation
The chalk outline you can see in the above image is the outline of the mural, sketched by a conservator using a UV or infrared lamp or whatever clever tool is used in such circumstances, and the blue paint is the first layer off, with the mural peeking out in the layer below.

They are not working completely blind, as it were, as Christ Church on the Isle of Dogs has a similar mural, painted in 1914 by Frederick Hamilton Jackson from a design by Spencer Stanhope.

Christ Church, Isle of Dogs
I think you will all agree that this is a marvellous project that I can't wait to know more about and see the progress of the work.  Can you imagine how astonishing it will look when it is finished?  You will be delighted to hear that they have been given a Heritage Lottery Grant to do the work and they are hoping that the work will be done by 2014.  In support of their mammoth task, they have set up Hoylandswaine Arts which lists activities and projects surrounding the restoration work.  Imagine, there is a village that has embraced Victorian art.  Why am I not living there?!

Here is a link to a piece in the Yorkshire Post about the project, complete with video.

Further to all this they are also hoping to design a new stained glass window to compliment the Morris and Co window, and it will be designed in the Arts and Craft style.

This is one of the most exciting Victorian art projects I have heard about for ages and I look forward to updating you with its progress over the course of the project.  Good luck to the fair folk of Hoylandswaine and I look forward to travelling up to see you at some point!


  1. Fantastic, what grants should be used for

  2. You have to wonder what those... people... were thinking; "I have a great idea! Let's fix the problem of the damp by painting over this lovely mural that is done by a famous artist! A nice cream color is definitely better than having a mural." 0_0

  3. Yes, I know, but thank goodness that people now value, care and are passionate about Victorian art and can uncover the hidden mural. I can't wait to see it. We must be grateful that it was only painted over rather than removed. Hurrah for the Lottery Fund!

  4. Thanks for letting the world know about this Kirsty, it's a lovely post and, as I would've expected, much funnier than the text I gave you to work with!
    A few older members of the congregation still remember the painting fondly, but that Victorian stuff was pretty unfashionable back in the 60s, hence the Dulux. Still makes you wince to think about it, though.
    Will keep you posted on developments.
    Simon (the nice chap)

  5. Absolutely gorgeous. It's so great to read about something like this and escape the Hurricane Sandy aftermath for a while... thanks!

  6. Thanks everyone for the comments, and thanks to Simon for contacting me in the first time, and for shamelessly flattering me. What a nice chap! Looking forward to hearing more...

  7. This is wonderful and I look forward to pictures as the restoration progresses! In your country and mine, murals and stencils were cheerily covered over, to avoid that passe' look ruining the new green shag carpet. I love nothing more reading about some wonderful find under blah paint.

  8. You really, really, really must get to the mural in St Mary the Virgin on the Bridge church in Henley-on-Thames (next two the two Angel pubs, one at each end of the bridge... I think there is some sort of local legend as regards the founding of the church). The church interior was re-decorated in the 19thC in a Pugin-esque style, and there is a mural of the Adoration of the Lamb, designed by Rev. E. Geldart, and it's wonderfully Pre-Raphaelite in the style of the figures, and reminds me of William Morris tapestries of Arthurian subject matters. It's sadly being damaged by damp as we type, and already has cracks and bubbles appearing in it. The composition isn't very Pre-Raphaelite; it's too formal, but the figures are all romanticised medievalism. Some of the faces of the female saints look oddly familiar, too... Anyway, the rest of the church is a Victorian fantasy on an original Gothic building, and it's got enough fancy paintwork to keep up with the Catholic Church despite being Anglican.

    Oh, and I used to sit in the choir on the right hand side as you face the altar, in the last seat on the back row, the one nearest the misericord. And the misericord is one huge extravagance of Gothic-revival wood-carving, with a very nice carving of the two Marys at the cross above it, that was sadly fire-damaged by an electrical fault with a light.

    And in Reading, five or six miles away, in the branch of Waterstones in the high street, which used to be a chapel, there's a rendition of Holman Hunt's 'The Light of the World' as a fabulous stained-glass window in the upstairs.

  9. I am packing my picnic as we speak. I really need to see that, it sounds lovely...

  10. Hi Kirsty.

    Why do you say the Hoylandswaine window is only 'probably' by Burne-Jones? It looks pretty thoroughly Burne-Jonesian to me. And Mike Swift (who has forgotten more about Morris & Co glass than I've learned yet) says it's by Sir Edward as well. I've got a good photo if you'd like to publish one and see what your readers think.

  11. Hi Simon, I was hedging my bets as I was told it was 'probably' Burne-Jones. If you and Mr Swift say it's Ned, then I'm happy to say it's Ned :)


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx