Four world-class marble sculptures in a Northamptonshire village church are to be unveiled to the public following a loving restoration.
The Montagu Monuments are four 18th and early 19th century memorial sculptures which take pride of place in Grade I listed St Edmund’s Church in Warkton, near Kettering.
After a year-long conservation project, members of the public will be able to view the stunning pieces of art in all their restored glory from Thursday, April 30.
The church will be open throughout 2015 to showcase these special monuments, from 10am to 2pm every Thursday and at the same times every day in August except Sundays.
Considered to be of world class importance, the statues commemorate four members of the Montagu family from nearby Boughton House.
Two of them were created by Louis Francois Roubiliac, who is considered to have been one of the greatest sculptors working in 18th century England.
Having been ravaged by the elements over time, the sculptures had reached a poor conditionin recent years, with one of them structurally unsound, and their future was uncertain.
But thanks to a £489,000 conservation project, the monuments’ future has been secured and they are in their best condition since they were first installed between 1750 and 1835.
The project was led by St Edmund’s Parochial Church Council and the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust and managed by The Prince’s Regeneration Trust.
Essential conservation work took place throughout 2014, partly funded by a £318,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
A highly skilled team of conservators from restoration specialists Skillingtons cleaned and restored each monument, protecting them for the future.
The four monuments, each created from white Carrara Marble, are in the specially designed chancel of St Edmund’s Church, which is a Grade I listed building.
Chief executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust Ros Kerslake said: “These monuments are a hidden gem in the heart of Northamptonshire.
“It is wonderful that the British public will finally get a chance to see them in all their splendour and I would urge people to visit St Edmund’s Church to view them.
These monuments are a hidden gem in the heart of Northamptonshire.Chief executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust Ros Kerslake
“We are very proud to have contributed to the renewal of these truly world class pieces of art.”
Director of collections for The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust Gareth Fitzpatrick said: “We are delighted that many more people will finally be able to enjoy viewing the monuments as much as we have during the conservation work.
“These amazing pieces of world–class art, in such a surprising setting, deserve much greater recognition.
“Thanks to the conservation work, the monuments now look as the sculptors intended 250 years ago.
“With the planned access and interpretation, the monuments are now available to the wider community to visit and enjoy.
“We are delighted and thank the funders, especially the Heritage Lottery Fund, for working with us to secure this part of our heritage for the future.”
The four Montagus commemorated span three generations of the family:
John, second Duke of Montagu (d 1749), by Louis François Roubiliac (1702-62). Period of construction: 1749-55.
John’s wife, Duchess Mary (d 1751), by Louis François Roubiliac. Period of construction: 1753-55.
Mary, third Duchess of Montagu (d 1775), by Peter Mathias Van Gelder (c.1742-1809). Period of construction: 1777-82.
Elizabeth, Duchess of Buccleuch (d 1827), by Thomas Campbell (1790-1858). Period of construction: c.1830-43.
Booked visits to the church are being offered throughout the year.
You can make a booking or find out more information on the project here or call 07909 254598.
The Montagu Monuments Conservation Project is also seeking volunteers to lead tours of the monuments, or to get involved in the project in other ways.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Adam Clarke, Montagu Monuments Learning and Outreach, Boughton House, Kettering, NN14 1BJ.