Divine touch to church

WORK on restoring one of the region's most impressive pieces of church artwork is nearing completion.Conservators have been hard at work in recent weeks restoring the painted ceiling at St Mary's Church, Huntingfield, near Halesworth.

By David Lennard

WORK on restoring one of the region's most impressive pieces of church artwork is nearing completion.

Conservators have been hard at work in recent weeks restoring the painted ceiling at St Mary's Church, Huntingfield, near Halesworth.

The work has been difficult for the team of experts as every square inch of the ceiling has been painted in brilliant colours depicting angels, apostles and saints.


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“This is a marvellous piece of work and it has been a joy to work on,” said conservator Peter Austen.

The project to restore the paintings and walls of the historic church received a grant of £106,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in September.

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Tom Organ, of the Wall Paintings Workshop in Faversham, Kent, has been in charge of the project supported by staff from R J Hogg, of Coney Weston, near Thetford.

“We are so pleased that this work has been carried out because if it was left much longer it would have deteriorated much more,” said Mr Organ.

“As it is these tremendous paintings should be here for people to enjoy and admire for many years to come,” he said.

The first stage of the restoration project involved restoring and cleaning the ceiling and that is now almost complete.

Felicity Griffin, from Southwold, has a long association with the church and is the wife of a former rector of Huntingfield.

“We are so delighted with the way the restoration work has gone,” she said.

“It is all on schedule and we hope to have the church open again as normal by February next year.”

In the meantime interested visitors are welcome to see for themselves how the work is progressing when the church is open later this week.

Members of the public are invited to visit the church between noon and 3.30pm on Thursday and from 9.30am to 1pm on Friday.

Church officials and conservators will be available to explain how the project is going and answer any questions.

“We have to emphasise that the church is still a works site and visitors enter entirely at their own risk,” said Mrs Griffin.

The parish church at Huntingfield has stood for more than 1,000 years but it is the artwork of a clergyman's wife in the 19th Century that helps make it so special.

In 1835, William Holland, who 12 years later was to become Rector of Huntingfield, married.

There is little known about his wife, Mildred, but she left an artistic legacy that continues to be admired today.

Between 1859 and 1866, she worked on the ceiling of the church with the aim of beautifying her husband's church.

Her remarkable feat has meant that the tiny Suffolk village has one of the finest painted ceilings of any church in the country.

One can only imagine how difficult the daily task of being hoisted up to the ceiling and having to lie on her back to paint must have been.

“Everyone involved in the project has nothing but admiration for Mrs Holland,” added Mr Austen.

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