About us

After 20 High Sreet North, Dunstable had been acquired by Nationwide in 1985, a proposal was made to redevelop the site. A solution had to be found to the problem of preserving the wall-paintings. Following a careful inspection it was decided that it would not be reasonable to require the whole building to be preserved as much of the original 16th century work had been destroyed by later alterations, and much of what survived was in a very poor condition. It was agreed that the six panels of paintings on the north-west wall would be carefully removed by specialists and reinstalled for public view in part of the new building. When the specialists arrived, they decided to look closely at the other two walls in the room; previous glimpses had suggested no more paintings survived. In fact, several areas of decoration did still exist.
Removing the panels from the walls was a difficult operation. They had been painted onto hair plaster with natural pigments.

The panels were transferred to the conservators' workshop in Chipping Norton for four main stages of work.
1. They were individually treated to remove decayed plaster, and given a new strengthened backing.
2. The strengthened painted sections were secured to new lightweight backing boards.
3. The protective material and its glue were removed from the front painted face.
4. Any remaining limewash obscuring the design was removed, and plaster repairs were made from that side.

Finally, the six main conserved panels were brought back to be displayed to the public in the banking hall of the Nationwide Building Society in Dunstable, protected by plate glass. No attempt had been made to repaint them. This would be wrong: the aim is to conserve and present only what has survived from the beginning of the Jacobean period, and not mislead people by trying to reconstruct missing parts.
Not enough survived on the remaining seven panels to reconstruct the overall pattern, so, after mounting, they were put on display in Dunstable Library.

In 2006 Priory House, a Grade II* listed building owned by Dunstable Town Council, was transformed into a heritage and tourist information centre and a decision was made to move all the paintings there. The hunting scene panels were donated to the town by Nationwide and they funded the relocation work.

´╗┐´╗┐Brickwork beneath the plaster is revealed where one of the main panels has been removed and the others shown with a temporary covering of silk and cotton muslin to enable removal