Treasures in unexpected places, this one in Alton
It is incredible to think that some of England’s oldest public art is not behind glass and ropes in museums and galleries but on the walls of our most public buildings, our churches. There are many treasures to be found in Hampshire churches and this mural, on one of the pillars in the church of St Lawrence in Alton, is still so vibrant, despite it having been painted in the 15th Century, when the pillars were erected.
The mural is made up of three portraits, the top one thought to be St Cornelius, a contemporary of St Lawrence after whom the church is dedicated (could it not be St Lawrence himself?). The next is a king, possibly King Henry VI who reigned 1422 – 1461, at the time when this part of the church was erected and at the bottom, a martyred bishop. This is confirmed apparently by his red cloak and mitre. A suggestion has been made that this figure may be St Thomas a Beckett, as St Lawrence church was on the Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury.