130–136 Piccotts End
130–136 Piccotts End
|Type||Hall house converted to cottages|
|Location||Piccotts End, near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire|
|Address||130–136 Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead, HP1 3AU|
|Structural system||Timber frame|
|Material||Oak, red brick and whitewashed plaster|
|Designations||listed Grade I|
|Known for||15th-century religious wall paintings|
130–136 Piccotts End is a medieval timber framed building in Piccotts End in Hertfordshire, England. Originally a hall house, the structure has been divided into a row of cottages. Two of the cottages are of interest for the art work they contain.
Important murals were discovered at No 132 in the 1950s and the entire building was listed Grade I.
Piccotts End is a village near Hemel Hempstead. The original function of the building is not known. It has been suggested that the building was connected with Ashridge Priory, which was in existence from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century.
Inside the house at number 132 are a number of fifteenth-century religious wall paintings, which are of particular interest to historians as a rare example of pre-Reformation English Catholic art. The paintings are thought to originate from around 1470–1500. Following the English Reformation, religious art came to be regarded as a form of idolatry and many works were obliterated or destroyed; for this reason, some of the faces in the Piccotts End murals were mutilated and the paintings subsequently covered over by whitewash. They remained hidden for over 400 years until they were uncovered in 1953 by a resident.
The origins of the paintings are unknown. Historians surmise that the Piccotts End house may have served as a hospice for pilgrims, as it was located close to a pilgrim trail which went via the nearby Monastery of the Bonhommes at Ashridge. At Ashridge, pilgrims could venerate a phial of the Blood of Christ before proceeding to St Albans Abbey to venerate the holy relics of Saint Alban. The art historian E. Clive Rouse has noted that the murals exhibit a technique of woodcut illustration dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries, suggesting the influence of the artistic style of the Low Countries.
The wall paintings consist of five panels, arranged in a type of iconostasis, resembling a large screen covered with icons, set in tiers. In the centre panel is Christ in Majesty, with the "IHS" Sacred Monogram in the halo. In the right panel is depicted the Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist; in the background an archangel holds Christ's robes. On the extreme right is a badly damaged image of Saint Clement, the third Pope with a symbolic anchor on each shoulder and the Papal cross. The left panel contains a Pietà (the Virgin Mary holding the dead Christ), and on the far left is a representation of Saint Peter wearing the Papal Tiara, with a Papal cross and the Keys of Heaven. In the two lower panels are paintings of figures of St Catherine of Alexandria (with her Catherine wheel) and Saint Margaret of Antioch emerging from the belly of a dragon. Many figures are depicted wearing typical Tudor dress. They are decorated with orange-red, grey and blue and white foliation with yellow fruit and flowers. A blank space in the lower wall suggests the former presence of an altar.
In the 1820s the building was converted for use as a cottage hospital by the anatomist and surgeon Sir Astley Cooper. In the early 1830s the number of patients increased because of injuries to workers constructing the London to Birmingham railway. Accordingly, the hospital moved to larger premises at Cheere House in Hemel Hempstead in 1832.
In recent years there has been limited opening of No. 132, which is privately owned. The public has been able to visit under the Heritage Open Days scheme. In 2014 a local conservation charity, the Dacorum Heritage Trust, launched an appeal to raise funds to buy the property.
- "About 132 Piccotts End". Piccotts End Paintings. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- Historic England. "130–136 Piccotts End (1342208)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "The secret religious code of mystery medieval murals". Dacorum Heritage Trust. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- "Inside story". 2000.
- "Hemel Hempstead General Hospital (West Herts Wing), Hemel Hempstead". National Archives. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- Heritage Open Day at Piccotts End. The Dacorum Heritage Trust.
- Book Now as Hemel Hempstead's the Bury Is Open for Heritage Tours. Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette. Johnston Publishing Ltd. March 2014. Retrieved 18 Feb. 2017.
- "Trust in bid to save historic panel". BBC News. 13 March 2014. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
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