Skip to Content

Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Alton, Staffordshire (†Lichfield) C.15?

The Three Living & Three Dead

Three Living & three Dead, Alton

Apart from a few indecipherable fragments, including some that may have been more trees like the one on the right, this is all that is left of the subject at Alton. A now headless young man stands frontally, right hand to his chest and index finger extended either in consternation or to draw attention to a speech-scroll (some of the other fragments suggest that there were once speech-scrolls here). He has an elegant short tunic with buttons down the centre and a scalloped lower edge, and I think he once had a long cloak worn open over this, as do the comparable figures at Heydon in Norfolk. He also has highly fashionable shoes with very long points and a short sword or long dagger hanging between his legs. When the painting was uncovered some time in the early 1930s he was apparently holding a crossbow in his left hand, but this, together with the crossbowman’s head, came away with the crumbling plaster during the uncovering¹.

The subject in its entirety once extended along a considerable part of the north wall, and superimposed on it were many painted texts from a later period. This particular part of the painting seems to have escaped being overpainted in this way.

¹The details of the uncovering are given in an extract in the church leaflet from Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club, Vol.LXIX, 1934-35, pp.80-81
† in page heading = Diocese

Website for St Peter’s, Alton