The cycle of wall paintings at St Kenelm’s Church, Clent

In the late fourteenth century (perhaps 1380), a cycle of wall paintings, illustrating the legend of St Kenelm, is known to have been made at St Kenelm’s church, Clent. As with nearly all church wall-painting, these were whitewashed over after the reformation. They were uncovered as part of a restoration of 1845-46, but were apparently ‘obliterated’ shortly thereafter. There are, however, surviving sources of information about this cycle of wall paintings.

Firstly, during the restoration of 1845-46, the architect, Richard Hussey uncovered the original paintings behind the whitewash and made the coloured tracings which are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum and are reproduced below. He did not, however, note the position of the paintings. We also have an account in The Rambler in Worcestershire by Mr John Noake, as well as some sketches and notes made on a visit to the church by two unnamed Edgbaston schoolboys, both from around 1845. Miriam Gill has combined information from these sources to reconstruct a plan of how the cycle of paintings would probably have looked. This is her diagram of the Chancel:

It is suggested that the painting would have been as follows:

1. The Coronation of King Kenelm

2. The plot of Quendryda and Ascobert

3. The vigil of the Cow over the Saint’s Body

4. This appears to be the painting from the earlier wall painting cycle.

5. The Noake’s account refers to a man clad in purple dress with a large sword. No reproduction of this painting survives. Gill speculates it may have been St Paul. I would have thought it may more likely be Ascobert.

6. The body of the headless Saint held by angels

7. The rule of Quendryda, the usurping Queen

8. The procession of the body of Kenelm

Only a fragment, the left-hand side was visible

9. The dispute over Kenelm’s body

This is known from a scene sketched by the schoolboys of a row of archers, very likely representing Worcester Abbey troops who laid claim to the saint’s body.

Decorative element

Reference

Kenelm Cunebearn… Haudes Bereafed: A Reconstructed Cycle of Wall Paintings from St Kenelm’s chapel, Romsley. Miriam Gill. Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 149, 1996.