When a historic Church in Brent Eleigh was vandalised with priceless paintings believed to date back to the 14th Century victim to the attack, Quadra, as a heritage specialist, was called upon to assist Ecclesiastical Insurance Company with the restoration.
With hefty repair costs, shocked and scared churchgoers and community, and the devastation of the attack and damaged medieval artwork, these were the vital steps and key takeaways of the recovery process:
- The need for speed:
- The church community’s swift actions in leaving the crime scene untouched were key.
- We appointed a specialist Art Conservator as quickly as we could to inspect the damage caused.
- Resisting the urge to tidy up:
- Even the smallest piece of debris can aid an expert in the restoration process. Leaving the fragments aided the restoration of the artwork.
- A helping hand:
- “Something like this hits you pretty hard… to have someone holding your hand in the way our insurer, Ecclesiastical has, is a great comfort.” Derek McBride, church treasurer.
- Relieved and restored:
- The treasured paintings were fully restored, with the full cost covered by the church’s policy.
We have a wealth of expertise and a depth of experience in providing loss adjusting and claims services when dealing with Heritage buildings and historic artefacts.
Read the full story with our loss adjuster comments below, or find out more about our Church & Heritage services here.
St Mary’s Church, Brent Eleigh – the full story
Following vandalism in 2016 on priceless medieval wall paintings, St Mary’s Church in Brent Eleigh, Suffolk was forced to close. The paintings were victim to an unknown attack, with the lime plaster being gouged from all 3 of the paintings. The Church turned to their insurers Ecclesiastical, who then notified us enabling this issue to be dealt with quickly.
The need for speed
After initial conversations, we appointed a specialist Art Conservator, Mr. G Howarth who was sent to inspect and report on the damage caused by the vandalism.
The swift actions of the church community were key to this case. By leaving the crime scene untouched and making the decision to close the church, the plaster was able to be collected and stored safely whilst the restoration process awaited its start.
A helping hand
Since they were discovered in the 1960s, the medieval pieces became a huge tourist attraction for the Church.
Derek McBride, church treasurer at St Mary’s, said: “Something like this hits you pretty hard. There is an emotional as well as a financial cost, so to have someone holding your hand in the way our insurer, Ecclesiastical has, is a great comfort.”
Relieved and restored
The full cost of the restoration was covered under the church’s insurance policy. Mr McBride added: “It was such a relief not to have to start fundraising. The insurance company agreed to everything.”
Following the incident, the Church has increased its security with the introduction of CCTV and the paintings were placed rightly back on display where they belong.
What would you do in this situation?
In a situation such as this, it is important to quickly establish the extent of damage and call the right team of experts in to put it right. At Quadra, we have a wealth of expertise and a depth of experience in providing loss adjusting and claims services when dealing with Heritage buildings and historic artefacts and have a long association with Ecclesiastical, to whom we have provided services for over 20 years.
We take ownership of the full process, focused on combining people, systems and processes to deliver an outstanding service and make a real difference. Get in touch to learn more about how we can provide the service quality your customers need
As soon as instructions were received from Ecclesiastical, we held an initial discussion with the insured which provided an insight into the extent of the damage and the historical value of the wall paintings.
We quickly decided that an inspection was required by a suitably experienced and qualified Art Conservator.
John Carr, Director of Quadra with his vast experience of church claims was able to recommend Greg Howarth as he was known to be suitably qualified.
Greg Howarth attended promptly and recommended the appointment of Dr Kirkham to carry out emergency stabilisation works and to undertake the full restoration.
Dr Kirkham had previously worked on the wall paintings in 2005 and is known to us as she is held in high regard across the East Anglia area.
We authorised Dr Kirkham who carried out the emergency works which resulted in much of the original wall painting being retained.
Restoring the wall paintings was a complicated process which involved many hours of labour. Regular discussions were held on how best to approach the restoration and factors had to be taken into account such as the prevailing weather conditions, as Dr Kirkham confirmed that the best results would be achieved in the warmer weather.
“It was important to understand from the outset of the incident that the wall paintings are unique and priceless, and that the specialist restorer be allowed to complete the works on her own terms and within her timescales to achieve a satisfactory conclusion and to retain the wall paintings for posterity.”