PRESS RELEASE - 04/02/2009


Medieval Conservation Project Opens Doors To The Public


Beginning next Monday (9th February), the small Suffolk village of Lakenheath will be playing host to a team of the finest specialist conservators in the UK. The award winning conservation team, from the Oxfordshire based Perry Lithgow Partnership, will be carrying out high level conservation on the medieval wall paintings in St Mary’s Church and are anticipated to be on site for five weeks. As part of the wider Heritage Lottery Funded project the team are opening the church doors and inviting the public to come along, meet the team and see ’Conservation in Action’.


Each Friday lunchtime during the five week project the team will be hosting a series of free lunchtime lectures. These short talks are open to everyone and aim to show and explain the techniques and processes involved in such a complex project. Conservation experts and historians will be on hand to answer any questions.


Project Manager Matthew Champion said,

‘We are immensely lucky to have such an experienced team of experts available to the project. We would urge the public to come along and make the most of this unique opportunity. This really is a once in a lifetime chance to be involved in such an important undertaking.’


The paintings are thought to have been discovered during restoration work carried out in the church in 1864. The lime wash, which had covered these colourful examples of medieval art since the reformation, was removed to reveal at least five individual and unique painting schemes – the earliest of which is thought to date to the 13th century. Having been exposed to the elements for over a century urgent work is now needed to maintain the stability of the paintings and the plaster onto which they were painted.


Project Manager Matthew Champion continued,

‘This project has taken many years to get off the ground and has been strongly supported by the local parish. We want to open the doors of the church and let everyone see exactly what is taking place. We want local people to understand that these wall paintings are more than just pieces of medieval art. They are an important part of this communities history and something to be immensely proud of.’


Mark Perry, site conservation director, commented that,

‘St Mary’s church in Lakenheath is one of the few places in England where you can actually see several different medieval painting schemes lying one on top of the other. These different layers of paintings allow us to trace the evolution of the churches decoration through several centuries. From a conservation perspective this makes the paintings in Lakenheath both hugely interesting and something of a challenge.’


The lunchtime lectures will take place between 12.15pm and 1pm on Friday 13th, Friday 20th and Friday 27th of February. The series will culminate in a final lecture on Friday 6th March when a full round up of the project will take place.





For further information, please contact Project Manager, Matthew Champion, on 07810 677723 or by email at




Notes to Editors


The total cost of the project is £54,011. A significant part of this funding has been provided as follows:-


· Heritage Lottery Fund ( - £32,500

· Suffolk Historic Churches Trust ( - £7500

· Lakenheath Parish Council ( - £1000

· Forest Heath District Council ( - £3000

· Council for the Care of Churches ( - £5000

Anthony and Elizabeth Mellows Charitable Trust - £2000



The Perry Lithgow Partnership has carried out many dozens of conservation projects across the UK and act as advisors to both English Heritage and the National Trust.

Recent projects include:-


· The 16th century High Great Chamber Frieze at Hardwick Hall (NT)

· Extensive work at Peterborough Cathedral

Extensive work at St Albans Cathedral


The Partnership were winners of an Oxford Preservation Trust Award for their work on St Nicholas’ church, Old Marston and winners of the Cookson Award for Conservation in 1992 for work undertaken at Hascombe church, Surrey.