'A pair of carved wood relief portrait plaques, early 20th century, depicting Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cranmer. By repute originally from an Oxford College.' So read the catalogue for a provincial auction in November 2011. The online catalogue was discovered after the remarkable panels had been found in a Lincolnshire antique shop a few weeks later. It seems a cruel paradox that portraits intended to honour the cardinal who opposed Henry VIII's divorce from Queen Catherine and the most famous man who refused to accept it should be taken for the cardinal who tried to secure the divorce and the man who did most to deliver it.
Based on Hans Holbein the Younger's sketches of John Fisher and Thomas More, the portraits, each carved from a single panel of wood 2ft 6in by 2ft, appear to date from around the time of the saints' canonisation in 1935. They were acquired in a sorry state indicating an unsettled history.
After fine art restorer John Malcolm had painstakingly and devotedly reversed the signs of age and abuse including cracks due to shrinkage, grime, damage to paintwork, and overpainted backgrounds and frames, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More were again looking their best. They were dedicated at a special Choral Evensong on 6th July 2012, the day of Thomas More's execution and of both martyrs' commemoration in the Anglican calendar.