Church back open after wall painting attack

St Mary's Church, Brent Eleigh ANL-160331-150806001
St Mary's Church, Brent Eleigh ANL-160331-150806001

The historic Suffolk church attacked by a vandal who defaced priceless wall paintings described as some of the most important in the country has re-opened its doors.

But it will be months before the painstaking work of repairing the delicate 800-year-old artwork is completed in St Mary’s Church, Brent Eleigh, which has been closed since the incident in March.

The delicate task of restoration will be carried out by the country’s leading expert in medieval wall paintings, Dr Andrea Kirkham from Norwich, who will have to piece together thousands of tiny fragments of paint and plaster in an attempt to put back as much of the original work as possible following the senseless attack.

Dr Kirkham has already carried out work to stabilise the paintings to prevent further deterioration.

The cost of repairs - estimated at more than £21,000 - will be covered by the Ecclesiastical Insurance company.

Church warden at St Mary’s, Derek McBride said on Friday: “The insurance company have been real heroes in this sad saga and we are also very grateful to all who have expressed their support and concern and who have given generously to our fabric fund since we re-opened the church.

“Unfortunately we have lost significant revenue while the church has been closed during which time the bats have had free reign. The last architectural survey in 2014 resulted in a repair bill of £23,000, £10,000 of which has so far come from the Parochial Church Council.

“To us who inhabit the church for reasons of faith, duty and obligation, the paintings are just, ‘there’, but to many, many more people they are a national treasure. It has been a humbling time.”

In March shocked church-goers discovered that someone had defaced the rare 13th paintings behind the altar, using a sharp instrument like a knife or screwdriver to score and scrape the images

Leading academic and historian Dr John Dunn claimed they were “A wonderful triptych of altar wall paintings in the chancel which rank as some of the finest and most exquisite medieval wall paintings in Britain.”

The Rev Carol Mansell priest in charge at St Mary’s described the attack at the time as “terrible and shocking.” and added that it was very disturbing that someone could have deliberately targeted religious paintings.

Police say the search for whoever carried lout the attack is on-going and meanwhile extra security precautions and equipment have been installed at the church.