An adventure in conservation: the Stoke Orchard Wall Paintings Conservation Project

Published: November 9, 2020

St James the Great, Stoke Orchard, GloucestershireThe Stoke Orchard Wall Paintings Conservation Project is a success story of collaboration and partnership in the Diocese of Gloucester, demonstrating that heritage conservation can excite, inspire and benefit Christian mission.

Over the past 18 months or so, the PCC of Tredington and Stoke Orchard, Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), conservators of the Perry Lithgow Partnership and others worked together to plan, raise funds and deliver a project aimed to consolidate, stabilise and clean the unique paintings, which adorn the walls of the church of St James the Great.

Find out more: a short tribute to the project

St James the Great, Stoke Orchard is an active and well-loved place of worship where everyone is welcome. The PCC are proud custodians of this ancient church, which served thousands of worshipers and pilgrims, on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, over the centuries.

As the PCC member and project manager Roger Grimshaw often says: “This church gives you a big hug when you come in …”. Anyone who crosses the threshold of St James’ tends to agree!

The paintings consist of five different schemes from several different periods; from at least C14 to C18. The earliest – The Life of St James the Great cycle – is the best-preserved scheme of this type in England, and possibly in Europe. The professional treatment provided by the conservation team was a much-needed intervention and the most comprehensive one since the paintings were uncovered in the 1950s.

Although the conservation treatment was undoubtedly the most tangible of the project’s aims, the project group were keen to ensure that it delivered other important objectives. These included the ambition to create training opportunities for young people entering the conservation profession and to ensure that the project could excite and inspire the local community, as well as others across the Diocese and beyond. The project group recognised that telling the story of their ‘conservation adventure’ and communicating what they have achieved, can help those who may wish to embark on similar projects and get more involved with the heritage, and mission of their local church.

The video above, recorded to celebrate the Stoke Orchard Wall Paintings Conservation Project, is a tribute to the project group, our partners, supporters, and those who provided their professional advice, time and donated to make this important project happen.

Adam Klups – DAC Secretary

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