Conserving the Paintings
The deterioration of the paintings and the irreversible loss of paint from the surface makes their conservation an urgent priority. A professional Conservation Report has highlighted the critical need to treat the wall-paintings: to prevent further paint loss; to treat salt eruptions in the paint surface; to remove varnish and wax layers (from previous conservation treatment in the 1960s, now considered deleterious to their conservation); and to remove mould and clean dirt. Our project will employ an expert paintings conservator to complete this work.
Adapting the Church
The ancient fabric of the church lacks the facilities to allow us to work with visiting groups and the environmental controls needed to protect these spectacular murals.
Alongside the conservation of the painted interior, we will undertake the extensive capital works to the church needed to create an environment where the paintings can be stabilised and protected for future generations. Currently the church’s large and uninsulated roof and over-efficient heating system causes temperate and humidity fluctuations that are damaging to the unstable paint layers of the Bloomsbury murals.
Two major capital works will help create an improved environment for the paintings:
1) The roof will be insulated to reduce fluctuations in temperature
2) an underfloor heating system will be installed. The heating will be provided by a boreholes drawing heat from the ground.
This is a sustainable approach which minimises the environmental impact and maximises the longevity of the system. It will also create a more comfortable environment in the church. A new monitoring system will measure and control the environmental conditions.
At the same time, to make the space more flexible and accessible for people, we plan to replace the fixed pews with flexible and comfortable seating and to provide a toilet and small kitchen.
Berwick Church is a place of great historical continuity, remarkable modern creativity, stunning natural beauty and is sustained by a worshipping community. It is open throughout the year.
Many of the visitors who come have also been to the nearby Charleston Farmhouse, the home of the artists.
The Saving Berwick project will initiate a varied programme of onsite and digital activities to widen our educational programmes which promote a better understanding of the relationship between faith and the arts. During the project activities are planned with a particular focus on a number of groups of people: those who are vulnerable or marginalised; those who volunteer for organisations or who are caring themselves for others, educational groups – both schools and universities – and creative communities.
Through these activities the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of the church and its context will be shared and relationships established which we aim will last well beyond the completion of the project.
And more …
We will also be delivering a range of other artistic and creative heritage projects as part of Saving Berwick, including: having an artist in residence at the Church for the first time; community archaeology and oral social history projects; conservation open days; talks on art and faith; new educational resources; and improved interpretation of the paintings for visitors both to the church and online.