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The Bletsoe Fresco

The west end October 2009
The west end October 2009

The Bedfordshire Times for 17th May 1864 reported on a find at Bletsoe church whilst it was being restored: "CURIOUS FRESCO. - During the progress of the works in the restoration of Bletsoe Church some very interesting specimens of fresco painting have been discovered on the walls beneath a thick coating of whitewash. On the wall at the west end of the nave were a large crown and the Tudor rose, but the restoration involved the destruction of these devices. On the south wall some signs of colouring appear, although no definite design has yet been traced; but on the north side there is a very curious and remarkable specimen of medieval art. The portion which has been cleaned of the coats of whitewash displays a very complex picture. The first figure which came out beneath the scraping as a knight with his sword drawn; then appeared his white charger; then a castle, which was probably intended to be in the back-ground, but the perspective principle is not well observed: and the same remark applies to a kneeling monk and a lamb on the right hand side of the picture. A further scraping of the whitewash has developed of a monster which may probably turn out to be a dragon; and if so the device may be taken to have represented the fabulous exploit of St. George, and the crowned figures under a canopy may be supposed to have been for the King and Queen who witnessed the prowess of the chivalrous British knight. In the opposite corner of the picture are three shields of arms, and when these are sufficiently cleaned to show the blazoning they may throw some light upon the time when, and by whose direction, this curious fresco was painted. We understand that the Archaeological Society will have a copy of the painting prepared, and that the subject will be further investigated".

One would imagine that this wonderful find would form an attractive feature of the newly restored church. Not a bit of it. The Bedfordshire Times of 7th June reported: "THE FRESCO. - The curious wall painting in Bletsoe Church, to which we lately called attention, has been cleared and will, we are informed be allowed to remain for the inspection of the public for the next ten days; after that period it will be removed in the progress of the works". Which goes to show why Victorian restorations of churches were so despised by some ecclesiologists of the day, and goes to prove that architectural vandalism did not begin in the 1960s.