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The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes

The Huntingfield Paintress

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"Plucky and headstrong Mildred Holland revelled in the eight years she and her husband, the vicar William Holland, spent travelling 1840s Europe, finding inspiration in recording beautiful artistic treasures and collecting exotic artifacts.

"But William's new posting in a tiny Suffolk village is a world apart and Mildred finds a life of tea and sympathy dull and stifling in comparison. When a longed-for baby does not arrive, she sinks into despondency and despair. What options exist for a clever, creative woman in such a cosseted environment?"

An enjoyable read, this book is a fictionalised account of the true story of Mildred Holland and the parish church of St. Mary’s in Huntingfield, where her husband was the rector. Mildred was an exceptional and feisty Victorian lady whose travels in Italy and gifts as an amateur artist inspired her to dedicate over six years of her life in the 1850s and 1860s to creating a stunning fifteenth century style roof complete with golden carved angels, saints and cherubs.

This story is enriched with some lovely characters, not least William, her husband, who unfailingly supported her through this enormous and challenging venture as well as paying for all the paint and gold leaf.

Mildred was also an engaging character, and this combined with the local and settings to producing a story with real read-on factor. The omissions in proof reading could be slightly distracting, however.

This is a good story made the more enjoyable by being based on a real person who lived in Suffolk. It was an inspiration to see for ourselves the wonderful painted roof and visit the church, which is open daily to the public.