Kitchen Remodel Reveals Rare 400-Year-Old Frescoes in York
In what has been dubbed an “exciting discovery,” workers revamping a kitchen and installing new cabinets in York unexpectedly stumbled across 17th century frescoes on the walls. The home was owned by a young couple, residents of the historic Micklegate neighborhood. Luke Budworth, 29, and his wife Hazel Mooney, 26, had no idea how their life would change when they moved out of their one-bedroom apartment temporarily in December to do the renovations.
The 17th-century frescoes in York were uncovered during renovations. (Luke Budworth)
The Fateful Finds: Frescoes Found Behind the Walls in York
They first they knew about the frescoes in York was when they received a fateful call from the contractors notifying them that a painting had been discovered during renovations at their apartment. Curious about what else might be hiding behind the paneling in their living room, Budworth suspected that there might be more hidden gems, reported Artnet News .
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“We always knew there was an odd piece of the wall, but just thought the flat was really wonky as it’s been a million different things over the years,” said Budworth, who bought the home in October 2020. “I'm very excited to have found them and loving them, but they're also kind of a burden,” he confessed.
“From what I gather there's no external funding and conservation fees are thousands of pounds. I've covered them up for now so direct sunlight doesn't hit them and make them lose their color,” he explained. “We've printed off a high-res version of them and put the replica on top to cover them up.”
Detail from the frescoes found in York. (Luke Budworth)
Uncovering the Mysteries Behind the York Frescoes
When it comes to the York frescoes, two painted friezes were eventually discovered on the other side of the chimney in the living room. Each painting is about nine-by-four feet (2.74 m by 1.22 m) in size and is cut off at the top by the ceiling. One of the frescoes portrays a man in a cage being pulled by an angel, while the other depicts a man in a white cart.
The paintings contain scenes from poet Francis Quarles’s 1635 book Emblems, and are believed to date between the year of its publication and around 1700, when the style of artwork portrayed in the York frescoes would have fallen out of fashion. The paintings had initially been found and photographed in 1998, before being covered up again and largely forgotten, reports BBC.
After the discovery of the hidden frescoes in the couple's apartment in York, Historic England took notice and decided to survey and document the paintings. They also advised Luke Budworth to recover the frescoes in order to preserve them. Once the survey was completed, Historic England passed on the images to the Conservation of Wall Painting department at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art.
The 17th-century frescoes in York were uncovered during renovations of a private residence. (Luke Budworth)
The Rich History of the Micklegate Neighborhood
The discovery of the hidden artwork came as a surprise, as it predates the building itself, a Grade II listed Georgian building from 1747. The Budworth home appears to have been constructed around an existing wall, and the friezes were likely painted before the house was built. This discovery highlights the rich history of York's Micklegate neighborhood, which is steeped in culture and tradition, having been an important location during the Roman, Viking, and medieval periods.
Today, the neighborhood is known for its beautiful architecture, charming streets and vibrant community. Many of the buildings in Micklegate have been carefully preserved and restored over the years, including churches, museums, and historic homes. The area is also home to a number of popular restaurants, cafes and shops, which attract visitors from all over the world.
“The discovery of these 17th-century murals in a home in Micklegate, York is fascinating,” Historic England told CNN. “They raise various questions about the ages of the buildings in this row of historic homes and the history of Micklegate itself. Finds like this tell us that our historic homes have many secrets.”
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The organization responsible for the renovations took professional photographs of the paintings, which they have sent to the conservation of wall painting department at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The organization also created a full-size, high-resolution replica of the frieze for Budworth, and helped to cover up the artwork to preserve it. However, Budworth is hoping to one day acquire funds for the conservation of the original artwork, reported Paudal.
The fact the York frescoes are cut off by the ceiling and the front of the building, will help researchers piece together how the street developed. “We think they are of national significance and in the context of York, where domestic wall paintings are quite rare, they are of special interest,” said Simon Taylor, a senior architectural investigator from Historic England.
Budworth hopes that the word will get out and conservation societies, PhD students and other archaeological groups will get involved. This may reignite interest in Micklegate, while its residents may begin to re-examine their walls and check for hidden historical gems. For now, the replica of the York fresco will be a focal point in the décor of the couple’s home.
Top image: Home owner Luke Budworth posing with the frescoes in York and the life-size reproduction produced by Historic England. Source: Luke Budworth
By Sahir Pandey
Cascone, S. 21 March 2023. “A Young Couple in York Renovated Their Kitchen Cabinets and Found 17th-Century Frescoes Painted Underneath” in Artnet News . Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/a-young-couple-in-york-renovated-their-kitchen-cabinets-and-found-17th-century-frescoes-painted-underneath-2273374
Cassady, D. 22 March 2023. “400-Year-Old Murals Found During Kitchen Renovation In Northern England” in ARTnews. Available at: https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/400-year-old-murals-found-during-kitchen-renovation-1234661907/
Kolirin, L. 21 March 2023. “Kitchen renovation unearths paintings nearly 400 years old” in CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/kitchen-murals-york-scli-gbr-intl-scn/index.html
Laversuch, C. 18 March 2023. “Rare wall paintings discovered in flat on historic road in York” in BBC News . Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-64993300