Only known Henry VIII mural found during home reno

A couple in Milverton, Somerset removed layers of old wood panels, plaster and wallpaper from their living room wall to get it ready for repainting only to find a a large mural of Henry VIII had already claimed the space in the early 16th century. This mural is the only one known of Henry VIII. There was another one decorating a wall in the Palace of Whitehall, but it burned down in the 1698 fire that destroyed the palace complex. (Hans Holbein’s iconic portrait of Henry VIII was also destroyed in that fire. We only know of it now from copies.)

The artist is unknown, but the home, categorized as a “particularly important building of more than special interest” on England’s Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, belonged to Thomas Cranmer who was Archdeacon of Taunton at the time the mural was painted (ca. 1530). The personal chaplain of the Boleyn family, Cranmer was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry in October of 1532, and on May 23, 1533, two months after his consecration, he ruled Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon null and void. Five days later he declared Henry and Anne’s secret January marriage valid. Four days after that he crown Anne Queen of England.

You can see why he might have enjoyed an enormous mural of the king in his home.

Henry VIII mural, detailMichael Liversidge, former head of history of art department at Bristol University, said the discovery was “totally fascinating” and of “enormous importance and significance”.

“It would have been an expression of loyalty,” he said.

“Cranmer could have done it as a tribute to Henry and that would make it an object of great importance and significance. It is a unique image.”

Once the 20-foot-wide, 6-foot-high mural was revealed, homeowners Angie and Rhodri Powell brought in conservation experts to clean off the plaster, glue and assorted building materials and to fill in holes behind the facade.

Conservator Ann Ballatyne said: “This is quite special. I’ve not seen anything like it and I’ve been working on wall paintings since 1966.

“I’ve not seen anything as magnificent as this.”

You can see some BBC video of the mural and its conservation here.

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Comment by Qingdai
2011-01-31 22:42:01

Hah! I find a shoe when I renovate, and some Capri Sun bags.

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Comment by livius drusus
2011-01-31 23:12:05

I found a newspaper once.

Comment by Mr. Murphy in VA
2011-02-01 11:19:57

How old is the house? If it is old, then maybe you have something special. Placing shoes inside walls and attics was a common practice long ago. It was thought to bring good fortune to the occupants. Many surviving examples of very early shoes have been discovered during renovations and restorations.

Comment by Petra
2011-02-01 03:50:32

Beautiful blog, livius!

I didn’t renovate, but I did do a whip around with the vacuum cleaner and found the Eiffel Tower under the couch. I don’t think it’s the real one though, ‘cos if it is then it’s not as impressive as I’ve been lead to believe. (

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Comment by livius drusus
2011-02-01 13:22:32

😆 That reminds — in some weird way — that I found a figurine shoved into a cabinet in my old apartment. It was ugly as hell, but the bottom was stamped “Made in Occupied Japan” which I thought was pretty cool so I kept it for a while.

Thanks for blog lovin’, Pets.

Comment by edahstip
2011-02-01 08:59:51

Haha. They’re totally going to have to buy new furniture to go with the mural.

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Comment by livius drusus
2011-02-01 13:22:59

Something heavy and wooden with iron studs, I would think.

Comment by edahstip
2011-02-01 14:10:10

Heavy, wooden and with longitudinal cuts in the top. A tasteful waste basket to go in front of it.

Comment by History Blog
2011-02-04 20:48:34

I’ve always wanted to own an historic home. stories like this only increase that desire!!!

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Comment by livius drusus
2011-02-04 21:05:31

Me too. My house is from 1910, but it was extensively renovated before I moved in, so the chances of secret murals are slim.

Comment by LadyShea
2011-02-14 14:08:00

I am very jealous of your lovely home, BTW. Not sure if I have told you that lately.

Comment by Anonymous
2011-02-05 18:44:24

how do u guyz knpow that henry

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Comment by livius drusus
2011-02-05 21:08:11

Because that’s what Henry VIII looked like. No other monarch looked anything like him.

Comment by Anonymous
2012-05-07 06:41:46


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Comment by Dane Landstrom
2018-04-06 15:04:54


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