About Saint Peter’s Church Wenhaston
Though less famous than nearby Blythburgh and Westhall, Saint Peter’s Church is home to one of the most staggering medieval church paintings in Britain – the Wenhanston Doom.
History of Saint Peter’s Church Wenhaston
A church has existed on the site since Saxon times when it was under the patronage of Blythburgh Priory. Most of the present building today dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, though it suffered badly under the Parliamentarians and William Dowsing during the English Civil War: windows were smashed, angels were removed from the roof, and the organ, altar and pulpit were removed.
The church today is famous for its extraordinary doom painting. The Wenhanston Doom was discovered in 1892 when the chancel was undergoing restoration work. Workmen removed some whitewashed boards which blocked the upper section of the chancel arch, and tossed them outside onto a scrap pile. It rained overnight, washing away the whitewash.
What this revealed was that the boards are covered in paintings made some time between 1500 and 1520. They depict the Day of Judgement, when the dead rise from their graves and souls are weighed to determine if they go on to heaven or are banished to Hell.
This is the ‘Doom’, or day of reckoning. These are a particularly special find due to their not being discovered by the Parliamentarians and William Dowsing, who would have destroyed them otherwise. They are also bright and vivid in colour due to being protected by the whitewash.
It has been argued that the painting is the finest Doom painting in the world.
Saint Peter’s Church Wenhaston today
Today, the doom paintings make the church a popular attraction. The rest of the interior is similarly striking, with the chancel roof being decorated with carved bosses, and colourful Victorian glass decorating the east window and 18th century marble monuments to the Leman family being prominently featured. The church is open daily to visitors and is a popular place of worship.
Getting to Saint Peter’s Church Wenhaston
From Norwich, the church is reachable by car in just under an hour via the B1332 and A144. If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s a two and a half hour cycle.