Visitors to St George’s Chapel towards the end of 2008 would have noticed a considerable amount of scaffolding present in the South Quire Aisle. As part of the ongoing restoration of the Lower Ward, the stone in the aisle was scheduled to be cleaned. However, when stone-conservation experts began their work, they made a fascinating discovery.
Fragments of late-medieval wall paintings were found in the bay adjacent to the Oliver King Chapel. Further investigation by a medieval-wall-paintings specialist has demonstrated startling similarities with the designs inside King’s chapel. The discovery added a further complexity to the task of restoring the aisle as the decoration was found underneath a layer of later paint.
In the Archives, we have been kept busy looking for documentary evidence of the paintings and when they might have been covered. Unfortunately no contemporary description has yet been found although a bill dated 1789 does provide evidence that painting work in the aisle was undertaken by Sarah Crook (a painter and glazier):
Arms cleaned, painted and gilded in the north and south aisles [of quire] … Cleaning, oiling, painting, gilding and mending the figures of princes to Oliver Kings tomb and painting carv’d work … Painting in oil the whole arch over King Henry the 6th and Oliver Kings tomb, Hastings Chapel inside and out, Oxenbridge Chapel inside, east end of church and sundry other places. 3 times over. 427 yards. [SGC XIV/1789/3]
The scaffolding has now been removed but it will be a little while longer before the discovery is fully understood and can be interpreted. In the meantime those of us working on the restoration project have been reminded once again that the building we think we know is still capable of the occasional surprise.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)