Tiny Suffolk village is tourist hotspot

ONE OF East Anglia's most sparsely populated villages is becoming a tourist hotspot - thanks to the work of art restorers.A stream of visitors from all over the country and abroad has been pouring in to Thornham Parva, near Eye, following the national and international publicity given to the return to the village church of a unique medieval altar painting.

ONE OF East Anglia's most sparsely populated villages is becoming a tourist hotspot - thanks to the work of art restorers.

A stream of visitors from all over the country and abroad has been pouring in to Thornham Parva, near Eye, following the national and international publicity given to the return to the village church of a unique medieval altar painting.

Many of them have been leaving much-needed donations towards the upkeep of the church in a village which has a population of only 50 people.

The altar painting, originally made for Thetford Priory about 1330 and found in a stable loft in neighbouring Thornham Magna early last century, was removed from the Thornham Parva church in 1994 to enable a £200,000 restoration programme to go-ahead.


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Three months ago it was returned amidst of blaze of publicity.

Now the oak panel painting, depicting the crucifixion, is proving a big magnet for visitors from across the world.

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"We always had a trickle of visitors but now it has become a steady stream, day in, day out. It's been very nice and we're now on the map," said churchwarden, Martin Kay, who spearheaded the fund raising campaign to pay for the restoration.

He added: "Some visitors stay in the area overnight or have a meal in local pubs and restaurants so there is a benefit for the local economy."

Mr Kay, who was speaking after a service in the church yesterday to re-dedicate the painting, said local people, were "thrilled" that the painting was back in the church and that it was attracting so much interest.

The service was led by the dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the Very Rev James Atwell, assisted by local priest, Rev Anna Sorensen .

Among invited members of the congregation was Dr Charles Saumarez-Smith, director of the National Gallery which provided an expert adviser for the committee overseeing the restoration.

Dr Saumarez-Smith said the painting showed the quality of artists working in Norwich during the early 14th century. " It is exceptionally interesting," he said.

Others who attended the service in the tiny church included officials from the funding organisations - the National Heritage Memorial Fund and English Heritage – and art restorers from the Hamilton Carr Institute, near Cambridge.

The restoration of the painting involved the delicate removal of paint used to badly "touch-up" the images between the 17th and 20th centuries.

The paint had begun to pull the original pigments away from the oak panels.

Yesterday's service was followed by a buffet reception in the restored walled garden on the Thornham Estate.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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