The Huntingfield Paintress – Pamela Holmes
I have to admit to knowing very little of the story of Mildred Holland and a church in the village of Huntingfield in East Suffolk. The Huntingfield Paintress was a story just waiting to be told. Painstaking research by Pamela Holmes and the story is now being told.
This is really is an incredible beautifully told story of Mildred Holland the wife of the vicar of St Mary’s Church in the village of Huntingfield, Mildred defied the conventions of being a vicars wife in 1850 a time in rural Suffolk of depression being surrounded by farmland and the villagers being poor. Water-borne disease nearly claimed the entire village.
When the couple married it transpires life is great for Mildred, unable to have children of their own after Mildred lost a child she has to find something to keep her interested and having spent the early years sketching churches while travelling they finally are given the parish of Huntingfield. The villagers eye Mildred with suspicion as she defies all conventions of how a vicar’s wife should be. She suffered from depression after settling in the village she clearly feels that she does not fit in to village life. After visiting another church in Southwold she is inspired by the art she sees and now she has a vision to re-create the glorious ceiling in their own church for once before St Mary’s did have a stunning ceiling until Henry VIII came to power. This is Mildred’s calling and despite a fear of heights she sets about in bringing back the church’s glory. In doing so she upsets some of the locals who seem to want to cause harm and distress during the project. This story brings alive the 19th Century English life in all greyness.
This is a celebration of the work of Mildred Holland and her incredible self-sacrifice in bringing back the colour to the church of St Mary’s and in doing so causing her permanent damage to her back. The final result is something to behold and Mildred’s life and work are a living testament to her. The Huntingfield Paintress is a celebration of her life and her calling. It brings colour to what was a dull and grey period in history. A charming and delightfully written story and a stunning debut.
Thank you Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.
The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.