A dozen life-size reproductions of paintings from the National Portrait Gallery’s prized Tudor collection – including portraits of Henry VIII and some of his wives painted by Hans Holbein – will be accompanied by artefacts and images from St Mary’s Church itself.
Framing a tempestuous period of national history in the context of local stories, the portraits will be brought to life by Dr Jennie England, the church’s Heritage Learning Officer, whose video podcasts during lockdown shared the building’s history with a wider audience.
The first phase of a major 10-year project to restore St Mary’s is about to be completed, but it is another, earlier, decade-long rebuild that is the inspiration for this exhibition – dating from 1520, when the church’s tower collapsed.
“Fifty-five people were killed, as the Sunday service was taking place at the time,” said Dr England. “This loss of life in a close-knit town must have been devastating.”
The nave was rebuilt in an astonishingly quick time, taking only 11 years, said Dr England. “People often think of St Mary’s as a medieval church, and much of it is, but the distinctive tower, as we see it today from across Beverley, is actually Tudor.”
The Tudor significance in the building has been spotlighted through ongoing research as part of the National Heritage Lottery Fund supported restoration. In restoring the stonework of the Nave Clerestory, one of the most endangered parts of the building, the focus has been on the colourful Tudor carvings, or roof bosses, on the 1520s’ ceiling.
“Tudor history is enthralling for children and adults alike,” said Roland Deller, Director of Development. “With this exhibition we’re picking up on the idea that several of the characters right at the heart of these dramatic national stories have Beverley connections.”
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