Mr Vernon’s murals

Hanbury Hall. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Hanbury Hall, in Worcestershire, was left to the National Trust in 1940. An endowment was provided for the house by an anonymous donor in 1953.

Bust of Thomas Vernon attributed to Edward Stanton. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The house was rebuilt in its present form around 1700 by Thomas Vernon (1654-1721), a wealthy lawyer and Whig Member of Parliament.

The Painted Staircase at Hanbury. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Hanbury contains a staircase with an amazing set of murals showing Greek deities and mythological figures. These were created for Thomas Vernon by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) from about 1710. At about the same time Thornhill was also working on his masterpiece, the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital

A figure of Mercury hovering at the juncture of the wall and the ceiling. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Mercury under UV light, showing up earlier retouchings as darker areas. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

These murals were recently conserved by the Perry Lithgow Partnership. They had last been treated in the 1950s. Since then the retouchings had discoloured and coatings had become opaque.

Infilled losses, prior to retouching. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Cracks had opened up, especially where the murals had been painted over the dado panelling.

Retouching in progress. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

The paint was cleaned and stabilised, and cracks and losses were filled and retouched.

The Hall looking towards the Painted Staircase. Thomas Vernon's bust lurks in the niche above the chimneypiece. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

The murals should now be all right for another half century or so.

4 Responses to “Mr Vernon’s murals”

  1. columnist Says:

    Hanbury is a very handsome building, which I suppose one would label “Queen Anne”. The restoration work by the Trust is terrific, and your last photo shows the best effect of these murals, illuminating a rather dark panelled hall.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Apparently the architecture of Hanbury is quite similar to Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, and Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire, which were both built in the 1780s. So Hanbury’s early eighteenth-century rebuilding was slightly ‘old fashioned’, either because the master mason who seems to have been involved, William Rudhall (c 1660-1733), was not quite at the cutting edge, or because Thomas Vernon preferred it that way.

    The panelling is the hall is pine, and may originally have been painted a slate-blue colour. The brown wood-graining effect we can see now was done after Thomas Vernon’s time.

  3. Toby Worthington Says:

    I ought to have known Hanbury and didn’t. The murals, and the restoration
    of them, are first rate. Like the Great Hall at Greenwich, the quadratura holds
    just as much interest as does the mythological scenes. In fact, for these eyes,
    it’s the painted architecture, those moody grisailles, the shell motifs within trompe l’oeil coffers, etc that provide the thrill of it all.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Toby, I agree with you, sometimes these Baroque painted architectural elements seem to be more imaginative and gutsy than the pictorial scenes they frame.

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