Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hoylandswaine: A Mural Revealed

I've just returned from a jaunt up north to see the results of the marvellous works that have been taking place in Hoylandswaine, a small village in Yorkshire...

Church of St John the Evangelist, Hoylandswaine
You may remember from my previous posts on the work (here and here), a mural by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope was being uncovered and restored on the wall of St John the Evangelist, an 1867 church built in the South Yorkshire village.  It used to look like this...

Good Lord!
...but the 1960s happened and it was painted over, so it looked like this...

Oh.  Rats.
Anyway, a spanky Lottery grant and two years later and this week brought the unveiling of the work, and the restored mural saw the light of day again.  So here it is...

Ta dah!
I was lucky enough to go to a splendid talk by Stanhope expert Simon Poë on a stunningly hot Friday morning, with the light streaming through the Burne-Jones widow beneath it.  The mural depicting Christ enthroned being praised by archangels (as identified by their red wings).

Angels, Angels, Angels...
Below it, the beautiful window takes on a new life as it has company again at last.

More Archangels at the top...
Christ, Mary and John in the window
From a distance I thought the window was clear glass other than the figures, but each diamond is pale green with a tiny plant.  Beautiful and so very subtle.

They have managed something remarkable, turning back time and bringing back to life something amazing and inspiring.  The way that the village has embraced the work of Stanhope, a local lad, is an awe-inspiring thing to a Pre-Raphaelite lover like me.  As I have reported before, the whole village got involved in the project, responding to the work with paintings, textile work and generally learning more about the treasure they had.  I was really impressed by the sheer scale of the work and achievement when I went to see the mural.  Also, there was a hint that the work has not finished and further adjustments could take place to restore the setting of the mural, repainting the roof to resemble one of its previous incarnations, more in keeping with the heavenly motif.

I encourage you to make the journey up the M1 to see the mural, and while you are there have a jaunt around the Roddam Trail, a copy of which can be downloaded here. Congratulations to the good people of Hoylandswaine and I look forward to seeing you again.


  1. I love old churches, and it is great to see this restored so much to what it looked like in the past! How ghastly they painted over it in the 60s! :( No accounting for taste! What a shame I am in the wrong country to see this, I could make a trip and have a picnic in a nearby field!

  2. Some odd stuff took place in the 60s, but then I wasn't born yet so I take no responsibility. It is splendid and I look forward to visiting again if they get to do more work. Lovely part of the world indeed.

  3. Thankfully the murals at St. Mary's on the Bridge in Henley-on-Thames didn't get painted over in the '60s! I really think you ought to visit that church; most of it was re-decorated in the late Victorian era. The design on the ceiling are very similar, but the entire walls of the sanctuary, above the beautifully carved choir stalls, are painted, and just before the sanctuary, above the misericord, is a fabulous mural of the Adoration of The Lamb, which while designed by the parish curate and not an 'artist', has figures in fabulously Morris-esque Pre-Raphaelite style. It almost looks like one of Morris' tapestries, but painted. For a chap that was not trained as a painter, it's a really amazing mural.

    I painted a Commonwealth Games mural at the school where I work and had to be all modern and bold graphics in my design. It's left me with murals on the brain, and left over paint, so I'm hoping to persuade the school to let me do a second mural in a slightly more artistic design (it's their paint, I have to use it at the school). Maybe I'll manage to get something Morris-esque done myself, with enough time!

  4. How nice that they were able to retrieve it under the whitewash. Thank god they didn't scrub it off! Thanks for posting an uplifting story!


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