A knight in armour under the whitewash at Hornton Church, and there might just be room for his horse.

Following last week’s post, the Hornton Church guidebook mentions another painting of a knight in armour on the North wall. On the North wall of the church, between the bricked up North door and the window to the West of it, there are several painted areas. The guidebook doesn’t mention that he’s riding a horse, but there’s evidence that it might be there.

(c) ZCIM

From the top, they are clearly a raised sword, what looks like a hand in a gauntlet holding something, and an armoured leg from the knee down. It’s likely that more of this figure was seen in earlier restoration, before the damaged portions of painting were whitewashed over again.

The idea of covering up medieval wall-paintings seems a shock, but it was common practice when they were too fragile, or there wasn’t the time and money for a proper restoration. In that sense, it’s a wise thing to do. It does them no harm. One day there’ll be some incredible rediscoveries. There are no paintings to see at St Nicholas’s Church in Mile Oak, a village on the very edge of Brighton, but they’re there. Restoration in 1847 revealed a 20 by 12 foot Doom, possibly by the same workshop who painted the Byzantine-style wall-paintings at Clayton Church. An observer drew a sketch of it before it was whitewashed over again.

image (c) Parish of Portslade and Mile Oak

So, someone in 1915 probably knows exactly what I’m about to say, and whether it’s true or not. But it looks as though the knight in armour is mounted. The foot seems to be in a stirrup.

The angle of the raised sword is typical of the ‘charging knight’ and it must show the actual manoeuvre, like Robert FitzWalter’s 13th Century seal matrix, exactly the way a knight held his sword at the charge.

(c) British Museum (image reversed)

Just forward of the hand in the Hornton painting, there is a painted roundel with a stylised rose design.

Comparing it with a mounted Saint George and the Dragon from Pickering Church in Yorkshire suggests that this roundel is a decoration on the horse’s harness, and that knight is holding the reins in his hand.

(c) Holmes Garden Photos Alamy.com (detail)

Zak wondered if the dark areas to the right of the foot might be one of the horse’s legs.

Dad thought that it would be very cramped to try and fit the horse’s body in between the leg and the window at the left. And it would be. But not impossible, perhaps. I read that the windows at Hornton were remodelled in the 15th Century, but whether that includes the North windows I don’t know.

The Pickering St George dates from the first half of the 15th Century, later than the 14th Century standing St George at Hornton. Perhaps this mounted knight on the North wall is also from the 1400s. An arms expert might look at the armour on the leg and be able to date it at once. I’d be very interested to know. It’s intriguing. I wonder who the knight is. It would be brilliant if it was Sir John de Verdun on Grisel de Coloigne, but it might be Saint George again. It’s less usual to show him attacking the dragon with a sword, but it does happen.

To the right in the photo at the top you can see some painted texts on the wall. They belong to the last chapter of wall-paintings at Hornton, of which more another time.

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