King of Prussia Gold Medal for Repair and Conservation Architecture Awarded to North Devon Church
The best new UK’s church architecture projects were celebrated at the 2021 UK Church Architecture Awards. The King of Prussia Gold Medal for repair and conservation architecture was awarded to architect Alison Bunning and those involved with the work on St Peter’s Church, Knowstone, Devon.
The project centred around the discovery and then the restoration of wall paintings during routine repairs to an area of plasterwork.
Churchwarden of St Peter’s Church, Reg Howe, Architect Alison Bunning and Structural Engineer Paul Carpenter all attended the awards, run by the National Churches Trust and the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association (EASA) which were held at the church of St Mary Magdalene in Paddington, London on Thursday, 4 November 2021.
Reg Howe said they were both ‘delighted’ and ‘dumb-founded’ when the name of their church in North Devon was called.
Prince Nicholas von Preussen, Patron of EASA and Vice President of the National Churches presented the King of Prussia Gold Medal for repair and conservation architecture together with a £500 cheque to Alison Bunning.
The prize money will be going towards some work on the bells at St Peter’s.
Reg Howe said, “whether we won the competition or not, it was very rewarding that such great care was taken with such enthusiasm by everyone who was involved in this project. Great care, great enthusiasm and, as it turned out, a very good outcome.”
Originally the rood loft steps would have connected the main part of the church to the rood loft (a gallery which would sit above the rood screen in a church). In 1561 an injunction by Queen Elizabeth I said that all rood lofts should be got rid of and burned. In St Peter’s Church this meant they took the rood lofts down, blocked-off and plastered over the door going up the steps as well as the door leading out on to the gallery.
At the end of February 2017, Reg became concerned with some plaster on the wall and got some builders to take a look. When the plaster was removed the woodwork to block the entrance to the rood loft steps, a wall painting and some script was revealed. Realising how important and of historic interest this discovery could be, a team of experts were called in.
As the examination and research progressed, it became apparent that the dating of the successive layers of the wall painting schemes were tied with the history of the rood screen: from its initial construction to the subsequent removal of the rood loft, and then the final removal of the screen.
Throughout the project it had been explained to the PCC that they would not end up with a beautifully complete wall painting, as might be found in other churches.
The complexity of the different layers and schemes all played their part in the history of the wall, and all had equal merit.
A Grade II* church, the south doorway of the church is thought to be Norman, but the fabric of the main church is mainly 15th century and the north aisle 16th century.