Rare wall paintings revealed in Great Yarmouth restoration project
09:49 08 August 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2013
Decorative wall paintings said to be the finest ever found in Great Yarmouth will hopefully be preserved for public display as a major conversion gets underway.
The paintings date from around 1650 and were discovered in a former jewellers shop at 135 King Street.
Now the Grade II listed town house which is on the ‘at risk’ registers of both the borough and county councils is being transformed into flats and office space.
The site which includes two earlier Row cottages, a Georgian courtyard and a Victorian warehouse has been rescued by the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust who say its £600,000 renovation will further regenerate the area.
The 40-week project will see building conserved and converted, with an office and five flats, to be rented out through the borough council’s housing options system.
Crucially, the secular wall paintings will be cleaned and stabilised by conservators from Crick Smith, Lincoln University’s conservation consultancy, who will start work in September.
It is hoped the lavish artwork, which features a decorative marbling effect, can then be exhibited to the public at the address - second only to South Quay in terms of status in its day.
The former townhouse also features an original Georgian staircase and a bedroom closet containing wig hooks, both of which will remain.
Darren Barker, the project director for the preservation trust, who is also the borough council’s principal conservation officer, said: “I am delighted the preservation trust is able to conserve this enigmatic building, which is on the tipping point of rapid deterioration.
“The ethos of the conversion is minimum intrusion. There will be some sensitive repairs required but these will be undertaken in such a way that the character and appearance of the building is maintained.
“The secular wall paintings are a rare survival and reminder of when Great Yarmouth was a wealthy trading and naval port. It is possible that the person who commissioned the art was inspired by seeing real marble interiors in Italy and Greece during the Grand Tour of Europe.”
Bernard Williamson, the chairman of the preservation trust, who is also the borough council’s cabinet member for transformation and regeneration, said: “This project will not only provide much-needed quality accommodation and office space, but will preserve a building at risk and further the regeneration of the historic King Street area.
“And the start of work comes hot on the heels of the opening of 133 King Street, an 18th century former merchant’s house, which the preservation trust has converted into a commercial art gallery with studio space.”
The project is part of the £4m Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) scheme, an area-based conservation-led regeneration scheme for the King Street area, whose centrepiece was the complete refurbishment of the Grade I-listed St George’s Theatre.
The THI scheme, led by Great Yarmouth Borough Council, is funded through a number of sources, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the borough council.
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