Hackney church renovation unearths Victorian murals

Mural by E.W. Pugin. Pic: Diocese of Westminster

Mural by E.W. Pugin. Pic: Diocese of Westminster

A church in Hoxton Square is appealing for funding to restore the interior to its former glory, after unearthing hidden murals potentially dating back to the Second World War.

The remarkable discovery was made during a restoration process at St Monica’s Roman Catholic Church, Hoxton Square earlier this month. Father Paul Graham, the church’s priest, brought in art restorers after he received a black and white postcard of the church, taken before the Second World War, which detailed the original etchings of the mural.

Keen to explore its beauty, the restorers revealed,underneath layers of paint, murals by famed Victorian church designer, EW Pugin, son of Victorian neo-Gothic architect Augustus Welby Pugin.

The church needs to raise around £70,000 to restore the paintings that feature stylised floral motifs and Latin inscriptions by Pugin. During his lifetime Pugin contributed to designing over a hundred other churches in England.

Father Graham said: “We were surprised to discover how elaborate the decoration is. As we strip more of the more paint away we are also all amazed about how far the mural stretches to, it spreads right around the altar and we have yet to see it all.

“I’m delighted we uncovered these EW Pugin designs to reveal the aesthetic beauty for our parishioners and our visitors to the church in preparation for our 150th anniversary in 2014.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster said it is believed that the Order of St Augustine’s must have painted over these murals or etchings because they had a “different sense of the aesthetic” or simply because it was easier than restoring it.

The Church is asking for donations as well as selling copies of ‘The Saint of Hoxton’ – a book written by Jean Olwen Maynard about former parish priest Father Michael Kelly (1833-1914) – to help raise funds for the restoration. Nicknamed the ‘Saint of the Slums’, the moving story of Father Kelly is a testimony of a humble priest to a life inspired by the love of Christ.

Copies of “The Saint of Hoxton” can be purchased at St Monica’s Priory, 19 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NT.

By Katherine Cantwell

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