Rare mural restored at 900-year-old Birstall church

A pair of passionate restorationists have given an 119-year-old mural a new lease of life.

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 12:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 12:18 pm
Paul Knight, vicar at the church

The mural in St Peter’s Church, on Kirkgate, Birstall, is one the last surviving murals painted by English avant-garde artist Edward Reginald Frampton.

Restoration work on the mural, which depicts Christ in Majesty surrounded by angels, began way back in 1996 by Lisa Shekede and Stephen Rickerby.

Ms Shekede (right) said: “It’s a rare survival, being now one of only three murals by Frampton which are known to exist.”

Part of the mural in St Peters Church, on Kirkgate, Birstall

The mural was painted in 1901, but over the many years has unfortunately sustained catastrophic damage caused by rainwater and varnish infiltration.

However, with the help of vicar Paul Knight along with possessing the patience of saints, Ms Shekede and Mr Rickerby are set to finally complete their long-term goal of restoring the artwork to its former glory this month.

“We’ve undertaken a number of long-term projects in Bhutan, China, Egypt, India, Italy, Spain, and Jordan, but we still love to work in the UK,” said Ms Shekede.

“I’m from Birstall and my parents are buried in the churchyard, so this project has a poignant significance for me.”

Rev. Knight stands in front of the mural

The Rev Knight revealed the restoration cost £22,000 after receiving funds from the Council for the Care of Churches.

Mr Knight said: “The restoration work is out of this world.

“It’s an amazing achievement to see near completion considering the work has been in the making since the mid 1990s.”

The Birstall painting shows Christ in Majesty seated over the chancel arch with his right hand raised in blessing, the other holding an orb, and he is flanked on either side by a host of haloed angels.

Lisa Shekede and Stephen Rickerby, with Rev. Knight

On the tie-beam above the mural are painted the words ‘Praise Him In The Firmament Of His Power’, while in between the tracery of the woodwork at the apex of the wall two smaller figures hold the sun and moon.

The mural’s restoration work coincides with the house of worship’s 900-year anniversary.

Other works by E. Reginald Frampton

The St Peter’s mural is one of only three surviving prayerhouse artworks by Edward Reginald Frampton.

Stephen Rickerby restoring the Frampton murals in St Peter's church

The other two preserved murals are in Saint Michael the Archangel Rushall Parish Church, Walsall (1905-06), and Ranmore’s St Barnabas Church, in Surrey (1918-19).

The other seven known Frampton murals were lost when churches were either destroyed or demolished during and after World War II.

These include paintings at churches in Clitheroe, Hastings, two in both Liverpool and London, and Southampton.

Stephen Rickerby restoring the Frampton murals in St Peter's church (1)
Stephen Rickerby restoring the Frampton murals in St Peter's church
The mural was painted in 1901
Lisa Shekede
St Peter's in Birstall