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The Huntingfield Paintress

During these long summer afternoons in the sunshine, we’ve continued to find new places to explore.

Huntingfield Church in rural Suffolk is a new addition to our ‘must visit’ list. From the outside, it looks unassuming, just an ordinary yet beautiful British church façade, however step inside and you will discover something extraordinary, thanks to a woman named Mildred Holland.

Mildred Holland was the local rector’s wife. After moving to Suffolk from the Mediterranean, she found the colours of Huntingfield ‘were muted and washed out’, so she set about injecting colour into the church, and the ceiling was the perfect place for it.

It took a total of 8 years, from 1859 to 1866. A wonderful quote regales how she wondered whether she was mad to take on her task, but decided that she was “happily insane”.

Tradesmen provided scaffolding and prepared the ceiling for painting, but there are no records to suggest that she had any help with the work.

Legend has it that she did much of it lying on her back and suspended from a hammock. We imagine Victorian ladies wearing tight laced corsets and many petticoats, which adds to the impressiveness of the outcome.

The result is of a masterpiece. Dubbed the ‘Sistine Chapel of Suffolk’, the level of detail, colour and imagination is simply breathtaking.

Angels bordered in scalloped frames, squiggly rows of contrasting paint and re-imagined creatures inspired by the church gargoyles and beasties roam across the ceiling. The 15th Century windows depict medieval style illustrations of hares, dragons, graceful angels and winged lions.

This work created by Mildred is truly inspiring, and we find a lot of our own work reminds us of this, such as our creatures in my ‘Mythical Lands’ design, with a wonderful take on these medieval creatures and characters.

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