Church’s hidden staircase revealed during construction wins architectural restoration award


Almost five hundred years after their cover-up, the steps of a country church were once again revealed with restoration work, winning a conservation award.

Routine repairs to the 15th century St. Peter’s Church in Knowstone in Devon on the plaster cast led to this award winning project.

In February 2017, Churchwarden Reg Howe worried about the plaster on the wall and asked builders to take a look.

When the plaster was removed from the woodwork to block the entrance to the attic steps, a mural and script were revealed.

The steps leading to a rood screen at St Peter’s Church, Knowstone in Devon were discovered after almost 500 years. (Photo: Alison Bunning)

Realizing the importance and historical interest of this find, a team of experts was called in and a major restoration project began.

Everyone involved, including architect Alison Bunning, have now received the King of Prussia’s Gold Medal for architectural repair and conservation.

Mr Howe said those involved were “thrilled and dumbfounded” during his announcement.

He added: “Whether we won the competition or not, it was very gratifying that such great care was taken with such enthusiasm by everyone who was involved in this project.

“Great care, great enthusiasm and, in the end, a very good result. “

Besides the restoration of the steps, a number of paintings and some writings on the wall dating from the 17th and 18th centuries have been discovered.

Originally, the steps would have connected the main part of the church to the rood screen (a gallery where the head of the church would have directed the services).

In 1561, Queen Elizabeth I declared that all rood screens should be banned due to the connection to Catholicism, and at grade II listed St. Peter’s Church, that meant they had dismantled the rood screen and blocked the steps. .


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