REPAIRS to a leaking church roof have uncovered a number of historic murals unseen for more than 100 years.
Rumors of a colorful mystery hiding beneath a plain wall at Ringwood Church of St Peter & St Paul in Market Square have been proven true after routine repair work revealed lost artwork dating back at least 115 years.
If that new forest Church was rebuilt in the 1850s, the east wall of the choir – the area containing the altar and choir stalls – was covered with colorful murals. In 1906, however, they were painted over after roof damage. Repairs were deemed too costly and only images of the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John remained visible.
After further roof repairs in 2017, the wall had to dry out before conservation of the surviving paintings could begin. Only now did it become clear that there were many more paintings hidden under the white paint.
Work is now underway to completely remove the overpainting and show the murals in all their glory.
The restoration is being carried out by experienced paintwork restorer Peter Martindale. He said: “Considering the age of the murals and what has happened over the decades, their overall condition is very good. The fact that the murals mirror the style of the stained glass leads me to believe that the interior of the choir would have been stunning in the 1870’s.
“We hope to bring some of that back through the conservation program. The bevy of musical angels above the east window will catch the eye of anyone entering the church.
“It is a great pleasure to work in such a beautiful church.”
Vicar Matthew Trick said, “The images bring the message to life in a way that transcends words.”
The 2017 roof repairs were funded by the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Scheme and King’s College Cambridge. The grants allow most, but not all, of the paintings to be uncovered, and the church now hopes to raise funding to complete the work.