Extraordinary find of 12 unique and medieval carvings in the roof and nave of St Clement’s Church, Outwell

A SET of grotesque and unique medieval carvings has been rediscovered at a Fenland church after being forgotten for hundreds of years.

Existence of the 12 demons in the roof of the nave at St Clement’s Church, Outwell, has sparked calls for the relics to be preserved and made more accessible to parishioners and visitors.

The carvings were found by Dr Claire Daunton, a historian at Trinity Hall, Cambridge while studying stained glass in the church.

Because of the light entering the roof area of the nave, the carvings are almost impossible to see clearly.

But Dr Daunton suspected they were quite extraordinary-early 15th century examples of a type of carving found in some European churches – and appeared to have been carved the wrong way round with the evil demons apparently overcoming each of the smaller apostles.

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Closer examination of the carvings last month by Dr Daunton and representatives of English Heritage using a cherry-picker and scaffolding confirmed their significance. They are considered of such huge local, national and international importance that steps are expected to be taken to ensure they suffer no further damage from pests and the weather.

Dr Daunton said: “It is safe to state that, in the present state of research, the figures are unique. They are beautifully executed, with fine detailing that is most unusual for a rural parish church and for the space they occupy in it.

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“Much more research on them is needed, but first they need preservation, conservation, cleaning and some attempt is needed at dating them.”

St Clement’s parochial church council with the help of bishop of Huntingdon the Rt Rev David Thomson has applied to English Heritage for lottery funding to have the carvings examined in further detail.

But the PCC will have to come up with pump-priming money in the event of a grant and so it is setting up a Friends of St Clement’s organisation to raise the necessary cash.

Kate Jackson, who is setting up the Friends group said: “We will aim to raise funds and bid for grants as part of a development plan to establish St Clement’s as a vibrant community centre for local people and to attract students of medieval architecture and tourists to the village.”

Rector the Rev Alan Jesson said: “This is a tremendously exciting and important discovery which has also highlighted other unusual and unique aspects of St Clement’s. It shows how important St Clement’s was in the Middle Ages.”

St Clement’s is open, with a coffee shop, every Tuesday, 9am to 5pm.

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