'Time Machine' of Wall Paintings Dating Back to 1500s Uncovered After Removing Plaster

Removing bits of plaster ahead of an extensive repair project on Yorkshire, England's ​​Calverley Old Hall led to uncovering a "time machine" to wall paintings created in the 1500s.

The Landmark Trust announced that while checking the main joints of the building's frame, stains that looked red, green and black caught the eye of workers. Though there was a distinct possibility that the smudges could have been dirt or mold, workers with The Landmark Trust decided to reach out to Lincoln Conservation, an organization that restores historic buildings and artifacts, to take a look.

Calverley Old Hall is part of The Landmark Trust organization, which is a group that aims to save historic buildings. After restoring the buildings, they are available to people to stay in for vacations. The Old Hall, in particular, is described as a "solidly romantic place to stay" by the group.

When the team from Lincoln Conservation first came to uncover some plaster around the room, the wall paintings were revealed.

"We were speechless," Dr. Anna Keay, the director of The Landmark Trust, said in a release. "It was clear at once that these almost certainly dated to the Tudor period. But still we only had specks."

English Cottage
While preparing for a major renovation project, wall paintings that date back to the 1500s were uncovered in a historic English structure. Above, a traditional country cottage is pictured in the rural village of Kelmscott in the United Kingdom. Tim Graham/Getty Images

Members of the Lincoln Conservation team were given two days to remove the plaster. When Keay returned at the start of the second day, she found that the team uncovered artwork on three full walls.

"Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, a complete, highly decorated Tudor chamber, stripped with black and red and white and ochre," Keay recalled. "Mythical creatures and twining vines, classical columns and roaring griffins."

She went on to say that she never experienced this type of discovery throughout her 27 years of experience working in historic buildings.

Paul Croft, a research fellow with Lincoln Conservation, told Newsweek it was the first time the two organizations worked together.

He explained the team received permission to open a number of small areas on the walls and they were able to take a look at the wall paintings.

"It was a Howard Carter moment, when Lord Caernarvon asked him, 'What do you see?' and he replied, 'Wonderful things,' at the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb," Croft said. "We have never encountered such a remarkable and rare survivor in such a good state of preservation before, we were astounded."

Croft said it is unclear whether they will work together on the conservation efforts, but believed they will be involved in the process in some way.

To achieve the conservation process, he explained the first step is to produce a detailed hi-resolution record of the surfaces. Over time, those involved will conduct an assessment of the timber, plaster and paint along with a scientific analysis of the materials that were used in the 16th century.

These paintings are part of the "Grotesque" style, which Caroline Stanford, a historian with The Landmark Trust, explained comes from the Italian word grotteschi. It means "from the grotto," and stems from the story of a man who fell into what he thought was a grotto and needed to be saved by friends.

"Exploring further by torchlight, they found they had discovered not a cave but the glittering interiors of Emperor Nero's buried Domus Aurea or Golden Villa, built in the 1st century CE," Stanford explained in a release published by The Landmark Trust.

She said that prints and engravings influenced by Renaissance design made their way to England and likely inspired the unknown creator behind the wall paintings of Calverley Old Hall.

As the organization continues to investigate the history behind the paintings, it is looking to raise money to conserve the paintings, according to a release sent to Newsweek from The Landmark Trust.

Updated 12/01/2021, 5:56 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from Paul Croft.