The Wall Paintings
All Saints’ Church retains fragments of up to seven examples of medieval and post-medieval wall paintings, largely because the Church escaped much of the heavy handed restoration which was common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The most significant painting in the nave is on the chancel arch wall, where two schemes survive. The earliest of these dates from the 13th century, and it would originally have covered the entire wall. To-day only small fragments survive on the left and right side of the arch. These fragments appear to show part of a Passion cycle, with, on the south side, the risen Christ with bleeding feet, holding the (a processional banner or cross), and next to another figure a background decorated with red florets (possibly part of a Harrowing of Hell) (See explanatory note ** Plates 3-4 and 48-49)
The later scheme, which covers the upper part of the wall, would originally have been centred around a hanging wooden Rood. On either side are the figures of the Virgin and St. John, each of whom is flanked by a Censing Angel (See explanatory note* **), set against a red drapery with white brocade decoration. The figures are finely painted in ornately decorated robes, and some of the surviving details are extremely impressive (See Plates 7-13)
North, South and Wast Walls of the Nave
A number of areas of Reformation text can be seen on the north, south and west walls of the nave. The most significant of the texts is towards the east end of the wall where at least three large palimpsests are visible, i.e. where the original wording has been wiped out to make for other writing. (See Plates 1416 and 21) The earliest of these three, possibly dating to the late 16' or early 17 centuries, is the Lord's Prayer in a light black gothic script in a square yellow frame, with blue and red fruit motifs.
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
On top of this is a second scheme, also possibly the Lord's Prayer, this time in a heavy black gothic text within a heart shaped frame, with ornate yellow strap-work decoration. From the style, it would appear to be 17th century. The most recent of the schemes, which appears to be 18th century, is the Creed, painted in a light square text within a simple red, yellow and black border with floral motifs.
I believe in God the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered Under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; The third Day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of Cod the Father Almighty, From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy catholic Church, The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
Plate 19 shows the three layers of post reformation text individually as they would have appeared.
During the latest treatment, removal of covering lime wash from the third scheme border exposed a griffin's head corbel, drawn in black.
On the south wall above the pulpit large fragments of text are also visible (See Plates 17 -18). The only identifiable text is the fragment from St. Paul to the Colossians.
The recent conservation work has revealed fragments of a colourful, post-reformation cartouche border to the north of the tower arch on the west wall. South of the tower arch a post reformation figurative paint scheme has been revealed, and although not enough detail has survived to be certain of the subject, it may well be a of Time and Death. The larger fragment appears to show the part of the lower body and left arm of the same figure. The left hand gips the middle handle of what appears to be a scythe. The handle is at right angles to the shaft.
Representations of Time and Death are interesting survivals of the medieval preoccupation with mortality. Time was often portrayed as Father Time, winged and holding a scythe. (See Plate43).
The North Trancept
The north wall of the north transept is decorated with at least five schemes of paintings. The earliest of the paintings is the heraldic decoration, including the coats of arms at the base of the painting and the arms at the top of the walls, supported by grotesque, below a band of vinescroll (See Plates 24 & 25).
From the style, this appears to date to the last part of the 13th or very early 14th century. On top of this are the two figures in the window splays between horizontal scrollwork bands (See Plates 8 & 9). The figures are particularly finely painted and appear to show St. Ethelbert and possibly one of the three Magi, and probably date to the first half of the century. Interestingly, there is a small red cross on the lower left of the wall which pre-dates this scheme. However, it is not clear if this is part of an earlier decorative scheme or a consecration cross.
To the west end of the south aisle a large section of medieval painting has survived, although very fragmented. (See Plates 71 - 76). The subject matter is unclear, but it appears to depict a walled city or large building painted in red, with white drawing for the brickwork and some of the turrets. Small figures appear in the windows, the clearest being to the west and wearing a dark beret type hat over yellow ochre hair. A large arch is visible towards the lower centre of the painting and at the top, red towers and a pointed turret can clearly be seen breaking the skyline. A subject commonly positioned over doorways and featuring architecture is St. George and the Dragon, and it has been suggested that it may be part of such a depiction.
** Harrowing of Hell
In medieval Christian theology this was the defeat of the powers of evil and the release of its victims by the descent of Christ into hell after his death. This event is mentioned in the Epistle to the Ephesians 4:9 and included in certain early creeds (but not the Nicene Creed). It is a frequent subject of medieval mystery plays and of Orthodox icons.
*** Censing Angel
An angel bearing a censer in which to swing the incense.
"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne" Revelations 8:3
Restoration Work Undertaken in 2009
All Saints' Church, Burton Dassett dates from the early 13th century and comprises of Chancel, Nave, North and South Aisles, North and South Transept, a West Tower and a North Porch. The walls are lime washed and contain wall paintings dating from the early 13th century until the 18th century. The medieval paintings are of the highest quality and are of national importance.
A survey conducted on the wall paintings in 2003 showed that large parts of the medieval paintings were found to be in a weak but stable condition, with the exception of significant sections that were unstable and vulnerable to further loss.
The principal underlying cause of deterioration to the wall paintings had been the failure of the building structure and the rainwater system. Over the years the recovering of some of the lead roofs had been carried out, and such repairs as have been necessary to ensure that the consolidation of the wall paintings could be undertaken when the funds were available.
In 2008 a proposal for the consolidation of the wall paintings and re-lime-washing of the Church was formulated, including the repair and regrouping of the plaster substrate using a lime based grout.
Part of this work also included improvements to the rainwater disposal system from the Nave and North Aisle roof. In addition, repairs to the roof timbers were found to be necessary where damp and death watch beetle had affected the beam ends. The cost of this work was estimated to the order of £70,000.u
The specification for the work was approved by English Heritage and the Council for the Care of Churches.
Work commenced in June 2009 and was completed in November 2009, during which time the Church was closed for reasons of Health and Safety.
A service of re-dedication was held on the 29th November 2009, to give thanks for the generosity of all those and individuals who contributed towards the fund raising appeal, and for all the hard work and effort that went into producing the end result of the restoration of this beautiful Church that is evident for all to see to-day.
Special thanks go to the following, without whose financial support this work could not have been carried out:
Church of England Church Bindings Council
National Churches Trust
Garfield Weston Foundation
The Idlewild Trust
All Churches Trust
Society of Antiquaries
Frances Coales Charitable Foundation
The Leche Trust
Pensioners, supporters and friends of the church
The dedicated and specialised conservation and restoration works were entrusted to the professionalism of the following:
Acanthus Clews: Project Architects Conservators
Perry Lithgow Partnership: Wall Painting
To it Curtis Associates: Conservators for specialised report/ project specification
P R Alcoc: Main contractors