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Support Pounds for Panels!

2 June 2017

A CONSERVATION campaign aiming to raise thousands of pounds to uncover medieval art of national significance and hidden for almost 500 years has been launched at the Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon.

‘Pounds for Panels’ is asking supporters and visitors to donate their old £1 coins between now and October 15th, when they will cease to be legal tender.

Every old £1 dropped into the collection box at the Guild Chapel will be added up and used to support a very special piece of conservation.

Beneath the wooden panelling running down the south wall of the Nave within the Chapel is a hidden painting called the Life of Adam. Applied in the late 15th Century, it was limewashed over less than 100 years later during the English Reformation; an order given by Queen Elizabeth I and acted on in Stratford-upon-Avon by John Shakespeare, father of the playwright, who was effectively the town mayor at the time.

The Life of Adam was not the only painting limewashed, but while many others were well-documented when they were re-discovered hidden within the Chapel’s walls hundreds of years later, it has still never been properly documented or studied.

In fact, up until last year, it was thought very little of the painting had survived. But then, conservators working in the Chapel as part of a £100,000 Heritage Lottery Fund-backed conservation project, removed one section of the panelling covering it – to find a huge amount of detail preserved underneath.

They conserved what they found, revealing figures, one of them playing a ‘cornemuse’ – a medieval instrument similar to a bagpipe.

“That discovery was hugely exciting,” Pippa Brook, Volunteer Coordinator for the Guild Chapel, said.

“But what is even more exciting is the prospect of what still lies beneath the panelling, and we simply do not know at this stage. We’re hoping our campaign will help us shed light, literally, on the painting and reveal something else hidden for almost half a millennia underneath.

“It’s not as straightforward as simply removing the panelling or cutting a section out,” Pippa explained.

“Before we reveal what is an incredibly precious and fragile medieval painting underneath, we need to be able to cover it up again, to keep it protected, and it will need conservation work to remove any over-layers of later paint or limewash as well.”

Through the Pounds of Panels campaign, the Guild Chapel hopes to raise between £3,000 and £5,000 to enable one section to be revealed and conserved.

The more money donated, the more than can be discovered – an extra £500 for example would allow a further section of panelling to be removed and hinged (but not conserved).

“This is a way of turning your old £1 coins into a real lasting legacy – and the more we count up come October, the more we can uncover,” Pippa added.

To support Pounds for Panels, simply drop your £1 coins into the collection boxes at the Guild Chapel, or see a volunteer guide where possible.

The campaign was launched on Thursday (June 1st) when conservators and academics led a special talk at the Chapel, following last year’s conservation project: Death Reawakened.

The Chapel is open daily, free to all visitors. Paintings including the incredible Allegory of Death and the large, ornate scene of the ‘Doom’ or Judgement Day, both the subjects of last year’s conservation, can be viewed and enjoyed by all.

For more information go to www.guildchapel.org.uk or call 01789 207117.

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