Elaborate Medieval Carving Revealed!

During the initial stages of cleaning the Priory’s North Porch, the conservators discovered traces of red paint on the very elaborately carved stone canopy over the central statue of Mary and the infant Jesus. This suggests the exciting prospect that the canopy carving may be medieval. The conservators have sent a trace of the paint for analysis to identify its pigments and possibly its date. The carving is at present covered in black carbon deposits which cloud the fine detail. The conservators would like to remove the carbon with a laser, but if the paint contains vermilion, other means will need to be found because a laser would also remove the paint.

The Canopy being examined by the conservators and our professional advisors

In the 1890s the intention had been to restore the Porch but the extent of decay meant that the Porch was rebuilt as an exact copy of the original, largely with new stone. However, some of the bosses in the ceiling are medieval and some of the base courses on the east face are believed to be medieval also. Research by Katherine Little has found a report to the PCC in August 1895 by the architect which notes: ‘Mr Hopkins and myself carefully examined the old stonework of the north face and found that with the exception of the canopy it was in such a decayed state that it could not possibly be reused in its original position’. This, and a sketch of the Porch by J M Turner showing the canopy in place at an earlier date, confirms that the canopy is from the original Porch.

All will be revealed when the scaffolding is removed in November!

Howard Wells

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