Long lost paint schemes discovered in two churches

There’s been much excitement in our West office this month, thanks to the chance discovery of long-lost paint schemes in two CCT churches.

Traces of paint at Parracombe (with a light blue paper sample for colour comparison)

Red, white and blue at Parracombe

The first discovery was made at St Petrock's, Parracombe, one of Devon’s finest churches. The building is steeped in history and was saved by none other than conservation hero John Ruskin, the famous founding member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and author of The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Late last year, a panel fell out of the nave ceiling. The CCT team was alerted by the church’s friends group and immediately put up scaffolding to assess what had happened. During the inspection, we noticed a blueish tint to one of the beautiful moulded ceiling beams where the panel had come down. We started to look carefully at the rest of the ceiling, and found red paint on the carved bosses. All of a sudden, our perception of a serene white church was transformed. Originally, its interior would have been a riot of colour!

Traces of paint at St Petrock's, Parracombe
Traces of paint at St Petrock's, Parracombe

A heartwarming discovery at chilly Dodington

A few weeks later we had another surprise – this time at All Saints', Dodington, a new vesting in Somerset. Extensive repairs are being made to the church roof, requiring scaffolding to be erected both internally and externally so we can get close to the medieval timbers. In the first week of January, at a particularly cold site meeting with the icy wind howling in from the Bristol Channel, we spotted a streak of red paint on a beautiful moulded roof timber

Traces of a historic paint scheme at All Saints', Dodington
Traces of a historic paint scheme at All Saints', Dodington

History remains hidden

These historic paint schemes have been hidden for hundreds of years – and for the moment, they will have to remain mostly out of view. The CCT has a strict policy against uncovering wall-paintings and other features if the process could be damaging to them. We do not currently have the funds to analyse the paint remnants, which would help us to understand how old they are and how extensive the schemes might be. We’ll patch up the fabric of these venerable churches and leave their secrets hidden for another generation to explore. The fantastic colour schemes of our medieval forebears will remain hidden for now – but knowing that they are there adds a new dimension to these ever-surprising buildings. And at least Dodington feels a bit warmer now!