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Norwich medieval masterpieces saved for the county

One of the roundels which has gone on display at Norwich Castle Museum.

One of the roundels which has gone on display at Norwich Castle Museum.

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Four medieval stained glass windows made in Norwich are to stay in the county after almost £200,000 was raised to buy them.

Experts believe the rare circular windows, known as roundels, were made in the 16th century by city artist John Wattok for the home of former Norwich Mayor Thomas Pykerell.

In the 19th century they moved to Brandiston Hall near Reepham, but in the 1980s scholars lost track of where they had gone. Last year they were acquired by a London dealer and offered for sale.

To prevent them ending up in private hands, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery raised £194,000 to snap them up, with the cash coming from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the Friends of Norwich Museums, the Pilgrim Trust, The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts and the Paul Bassham Charitable Trust.

The roundels, which depict the central tasks of the agricultural year, known as the Labours of the Months are now on show in the castle museum keep.

Barry Stone, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for cultural services, said: “There aren’t any other comparable works known to survive in such good condition elsewhere in the region, so it is fantastic that we have been able to keep them in Norfolk to preserve our local history for the enjoyment of future generations.

“It’s only by hanging on to treasures like these that we can gain insight into the lives of our late-medieval ancestors.

“It is incredible how their lives were so very different to ours , yet their experiences of work and leisure, as depicted in these fascinating pieces, seem strikingly familiar.”

Dr Francesca Vanke, Keeper of art and curator of decorative art at Norwich Castle, who led the fundraising drive, said: “What makes these five-centuries old images so remarkable is their realism: they seem quite contemporary.

“Our lives today may no longer be so strictly ruled by the seasons, but the activities portrayed are timeless.”

There were once a dozen of the roundels. Along with the four which have been bought by the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, two have been purchased by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and two more sold to a private collector. The whereabouts of the other four remains a mystery.

• Have you made an unusual discovery which sheds light on the city’s past? Calling Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk



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