The new guidebook for St Benet's Abbey was launched this week by the Bishop of Norwich, it will sell for £3.50. It was written by Tim Pestell and published by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, who commissioned me to create a reconstruction painting of the Abbey.
The book launch took place in the vestry of Norfolk Cathedral. The vestry has two walls panelled with carved oak panelling that came from the Abbey after it pass into the ownership of the Bishop of Norwich in 1536. The panels were originally in the Bishop's Palace and were later moved into the vestry. The carvings are not of religious figures but secular classical characters including Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Penelope the wife of hero Odysseus. The carvings show the characters in the fashions of the 1530s, the bottom panels are a fine example of the 'linen-fold' style of panel carving. One of the panels has the carved arms of St Benet's Abbey.
The first step of creating the reconstruction painting for the guidebook was to chose the angle of view that would be most useful to a visitor to the site. As visitors from land and water will be entering the site close to the gatehouse/windmill I chose that area as the foreground for the painting. The next thing to do was to find an ariel view of the site from that direction, we are lucky in Norfolk to have two wonderful collection of photographs taken by Derek Edwards that is housed in the Landscape Archaeology Section at Gressenhall and those taken by Mike Page an independent photographer (there is a link to his website on this page). The photograph I used as a base was one of Derek Edwards. I then collected all the other available information from different sources including the detailed earthwork survey that was produced by the Royal Commission and a geophys survey. Ariel photographs of the Abbey taken over the years showed crop-marks in the grass, these all added to the detailed evidence of the buildings that once stood on the site. There were also early photographs, engravings and drawings in the counties public collections and the British Library that showed some of the buildings and features that have now disappeared. Working with Tim Pestell and Stephen Heywood we pulled the evidence together and I drew the reconstruction, the result is show below.