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Battle to save ancient Becket wall drawing in Brighton church
Buy this photo » Conservator Ann Ballantyne at St Peter's Church near Preston Park
A medieval murder scene that has intrigued visitors for more than 700 years could soon disappear forever, campaigners have warned.
Emergency work has begun to repair a drawing in Brighton’s oldest church, St Peter’s Church near Preston Park, which shows the violent killing of Thomas Becket.
But experts say they need to raise at least £3,000 to help finish the restoration job so the precious mural can be saved for future generations.
The wall painting depicts Becket’s infamous death at the hands of four knights in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
Significant It shows one of the knights, possibly William de Tracy, plunging his sword into the Archbishop’s head with blood dripping from the hand of Edward Grim, Becket’s chaplain, who was injured while trying to protect him.
Two more murals, one showing the Nativity scene and another of the famous biblical scene St Michael Weighing The Souls, are also under threat.
Caroline Bell, chairwoman of the Friends of St Peter’s Church, said the medieval drawings were “completely priceless”.
She said: “These paintings are the reason this church is so significant.
“Water was coming up the walls and was affecting them quite badly so we have already taken steps to stop that.
“But now we need to clean all the dust and wax off before the bubbling plaster peels away.”
The paintings have already survived the wrath of Henry VIII during the Reformation, when they were covered over with plaster.
It was only in 1830 that they were rediscovered by the church’s vicar, Reverend Charles Townsend.
Victorian experts were soon called in to chip away at the plaster to reveal the drawings, which had been hidden for hundreds of years.
However the precious paintings were almost lost for good in 1906 when a devastating fire ripped through the church, leaving them blackened and smoke-damaged.
Now a conservator working with the Churches Conservation Trust has begun replacing plaster strips at the base of the Nativity scene and reattaching the leg of one of the knights.
Caroline Bell said: “It’s a miracle that the paintings have survived so long.
“So it’s really important that we do everything we can to preserve them.”
To donate send a cheque payable to Friends of St Peter’s to The Treasurer, 43 North Road, Preston Village, Brighton BN1 6SP.
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