Berwick Church

Our walk to Berwick Church

The day after our visit to Monk’s House we walked from Bo-Peep’s Farmhouse (where we were staying for bed and breakfast for two nights) to Berwick Church. This was part of our route:


The sun was shining and, as you can see, we walked through acres of arable land. There was a scattering of buildings dotted around and to our urban sensibilities, it was quintessential countryside and a million miles away from our daily rushed lives, incessant noise and sensory overload. I wonder if Virginia ever made this same walk? I wonder if she appreciated it as much as we did or whether this was just so usual for her that she barely noticed it?

Berwick Church

Berwick Church is well known for its extensive 20th Century murals that were painted during the Second World War by the Bloomsbury artists, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell. These artists transformed this traditional Sussex church with their murals. The murals were not painted directly on to the walls but on panels in the artists’ studios which were then attached to the walls.The artists posed for each other in biblical costumes and used local people as models to depict the life of Christ against the background of war.

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The decoration of the church was the idea of Bishop George Bell who wanted to encourage a closer association between the Church and the arts, and also wanted to continue the tradition of wall paintings in Sussex churches. Sir Charles Reilly, Professor of Architecture at Liverpool University from 1904 – 1933 knew Duncan Grant’s aunt and recommended Grant as a suitable artist, experienced in creating murals. Grant teamed up with Vanessa and her children, Quentin and Angelica, to work on the church which was only a few miles from their home at Charleston.

The Murals

Inside Berwick Church. A small church with huge paintings. Spotlights had been fitted that could be turned on as necessary to highlight the individual paintings. All photographs are my own.

The Annunciation by Vanessa Bell
Christ in Glory by Duncan Grant
The Nativity by Vanessa Bell
Wise and Foolish Virgins by Quentin Bell
The Crucifixion by Duncan Grant

Above: In Duncan’s painting Jesus’ feet rest on a ledge whereas the only support to the feet in an actual crucifixion was that provided by the single nail which would have pierced through both ankles. The nails to the hands would in fact have gone through just below the wrist to give greater support and the body would have hung down under its own weight.There is no apparent sign of suffering on Jesus’ face: in this painting Jesus is victor rather than victim.

All Berwick Church photos are my own.


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