The Mural Paintings - Cliffe History

Go to content


During the restoration of the north transept, in 1864,   this painting was discovered. The whole of the transept   shews traces of colour on the walls, but except on the east   side, the colours simply represent blocks of stone, marked   out upon the plaster. On the east and west sides immediately   under the wall plate, and on the south side over the arch   leading into the nave, there runs a band, two feet wide,   containing a scroll pattern of very elegant design; the   trefoiled ends are of various colours, but they have nearly   disappeared. The story of Saint Edmund's martyrdom is   depicted upon the east wall, which is enriched by a couple   of sunk arches supported on three slender columns. The   middle column terminates midway in a moulded base, under   which is a piscina.

The centre of each bay is   pierced with a lancet. The painting occupies the upper part   of the wall, between the arch and the southernmost lancet   window. The subject is divided' into three courses, or   bands, by horizontal lines; the upper line ranging with the   spring of the lancet window, to which it forms an   enrichment. A band containing a bold heart-shaped ornament,   of the form of a cockleshell, on a deep moreen ground, runs   along the top of the painting, and is continued over the   lancet window, the space above being marked out into blocks,   with a cinqfoiled flower in the centre of each. The painting   is below this, running horizontally in three courses or   bands, two of which have each two compartments. In these   four compartments are depicted four scenes, each under a   separate arcade of pure Early English date. The third or   lower course, which shews but one scene, has no such arcade.

In the lowest scene a figure on horseback is addressing   three ill-favoured men, variously armed with, sword, bow,   and hatchet. The figure on the horse holds up one hand in   the form of entreaty, the other being laid on his breast.   The men evidently mean mischief, and their countenances   depict every evil passion. The legend tells us that on an   occasion of an irruption of the Danes, A.D. 870, into East   Anglia, the young King Edmund, after the undecisive battle   fought at Thetford, rode out to meet the fierce invaders   with the view of making terms for his people. The Danes   finding him in their power, dragged him from his horse,   stripped and tied him to a tree, and shot him to death. In   the middle course, the compartment on our left represents   two Danes in the act of shooting, their bows are bent; and   the King stands opposite to them tied to a tree. After he   had been thus killed, he was beheaded, and thrown into a   wood. The adjacent compartment on the right shews a man in   the act of cutting off the head. When the Danes leave the   neighbourhood the King's friends search for his body, this   they find, but can nowhere discover the head; the story runs   that a wolf brings it to them in his mouth (some such animal   appears in the upper course, in the compartment on the right   side), and the head when brought into contact with the body   at once adhered to it, proving by the miracle that they   really belonged to each other. Thus assured, the friends pay   the last rites to the martyred King by burying his body   (which is shewn in the upper compartment on the left). The   figures are well drawn and sketched with a bold hand.

When the north transept was under restoration in 1864, while   removing the soil preparatory to laying down concrete for   the pavement, we uncovered the foundations of an earlier   wall. It ran parallel with, and close beside, the base of   the existing east wall of the transept. It was four feet   thick, and was met, at a point fifteen feet and three   quarters north of the chancel wall, by a cross wall, or pier   four feet square, at right angles to it. Beyond this cross   wall a similar pier, four feet square, terminated this   ancient wall. In the arch by which we enter this transept   from the north aisle I believe that we have remains of the   older (Norman) Church. Its northern pier and the northern   half of its arch seem to me to have belonged to the earlier   building.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Kent   Archaeological Society.
Back to content