Paintings of British saints by Clayton and Bell in the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft

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05 December 2014

The picture above shows standing figures of St. Edward the Confessor, St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Edward the Martyr. They were painted by Clayton and Bell in 1864 for the reredos (an ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of an altar) in the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster. 

The three figures form part of a group of six British saints on the east wall of the Chapel. Edward the Martyr was King of England from 975 until 978. Margaret of Scotland (c. 1045-93) was Queen Consort to King Malcolm III of Scotland. Edward the Confessor ruled from 1042-1066 and was the founder of the Palace of Westminster.

Relatively few examples of high Victorian wall painting remain in the UK today. Examples uncompromised by severe and repeated restoration attempts are particularly rare. That the wall paintings in the Chapel have escaped such a fate is extremely significant and they are given regular condition surveys to ensure that they last for future generations.

The Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft originally formed the lower chapel of the Royal Free Chapel of St. Stephen and dates from the late 13th century. It was one of the few buildings of the old Palace of Westminster to survive the fire of 1834, although its stonework was damaged. The remedial work to the chapel was carried out by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the new Palace of Westminster. However it was his third son, Edward Middleton Barry, who undertook the lavish decorative scheme for the interior between 1860 and 1870.

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