Homeowner finds secret 30-year-old paintings under wallpaper and tracks down painter

Virginia and her brother’s old art was unearthed after 30 years (Picture: PA Real Life)

A homeowner has unearthed 30-year-old childhood artwork under her wallpaper and tracked down one of the painters.

Shellie Dormand-Bean found mysterious childhood drawings under the wallpaper in her home after she’d started redecorating.

She was able to track down the previous occupant and then-teenage wall artist Virginia Offiah, formerly Shaw.

Virginia is now living 20 miles away in Ealing, west London, with her husband – former international rugby league and union player Martin Offiah – and their two children.

The 46-year-old who like Martin, 54, is a wellness coach, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it when I got a message on Facebook Messenger saying, “Hi, I moved into the house your parents used to live in 12 years ago.

‘”We’re finally redecorating the spare room and just found this when we scraped the wallpaper off”.

‘She attached three photos of my brother-in-law’s initials, RJS, and the date 7/8/81 – although she thought they were my dad’s initials, as he was Raymond Shaw. But it was my brother-in-law Roger Stephenson, who did the decorating.’

This isn’t the only strange coincidence to have peppered this series of events,

A painting in the kitchen (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)

A few days before Shellie reached out, Virginia – mum of Tyler, 14, and Phoenix, 11 – was fondly reminiscing about her wall artwork in the old family house in Banstead, Surrey.

She said: ‘Funnily enough, only a few days before I got the message out of the blue, I’d been thinking about my art and doodles all over the kitchen wall – so I was completely blown away by the coincidence. I was so happy and amazed.

‘My parents had all my painting wallpapered over and I never thought I would see any of it again.

‘But I remember painting that wall and thinking it was a bit of fun and wondering if the house was ever sold, what would it be like if the next owners peeled the paper back and discovered this kind of time capsule.

‘Even if it remained intact somehow, though, at no point did I think I would ever get to see it again myself decades later.’

The secret artwork Shellie unearthed had been painted with white brushstrokes when Virginia was a teen.

They also painted lyrics to songs that she and her brother – who’d joined in the drawing – had enjoyed at the time.

There were words from classic tunes like Tainted Love, Steve Winwood’s Higher Love, Love Cats, James’ hit Sit Down, Hotel California and Stairway to Heaven.

She was allowed to paint on the walls before they were covered with wallpaper (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)
As well as pictures, she chose popular song lyrics (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)

Virginia’s brother-in-law Rodger’s initials were also painted there from when he had re-decorated the bedroom where Virginia used to sleep in 1981.

Shellie was able to use these initials and the date also written there to find a mother at the local school who had played at Virginia’s house when she was younger.

She then learned Virginia’s first name, and was able to use it to find her.

‘Shellie thought my dad had written RJS as his initials for Raymond Shaw, as it was his house, so she started her search on that basis, but his middle name is actually Stanley,’ said Virginia.

‘It’s really remarkable that she has gone to so much trouble to find me and let me know she is now living in my old house.

‘She did some super sleuthing work.’

She was also impressed that her brother-in-law’s handiwork had been able to last so long.

She joked: ‘I think it’s remarkable that Shellie hadn’t done any decorating for 12 years, as that wallpaper was already 18 years old before she thought to replace it.

‘When she contacted me and said she was redecorating other rooms I said, “There might be a lot more to uncover when you get to the kitchen.”

‘She said she was planning to do that in February this year, which she did.

‘Then I was amazed when she sent me the photos of all my childhood work all over the kitchen wall.

Virginia was a fan of Soft Cell’s hit single Tainted Love (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)

‘She said it was good that I’d made her aware of the kitchen, as otherwise she might have damaged it ripping off the old paper.

‘She wrote to me saying that she was glad she didn’t hack away at it because she could have destroyed my family’s memories.

‘Instead, she spent extra time taking care not to disturb it, which was very kind of her.’

Not only did the fact that Virginia’s brother-in-law and dad both have first names beginning with R and surnames that start with S help Shellie find her, but it seems Facebook’s algorithm was nudging the women together too.

The social media platform had suggested Virginia’s mum Micky, 83, as a potential friend for Shellie – even though their two families had never met.

While Virginia’s brother-in-law redecorated the bedroom in 1981, it was in 1991 that the redecorating in the kitchen began, and she was allowed to paint over the walls in that room for two weeks before her work was papered over.

She said: ‘I remember it was a real buzz doing it all.

‘As well as the songs, for some reason, one of the other things I painted was a cowboy leaning on something.

Virginia with husband Martin, sons Tyler and Phoenix and mum Micky (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)
Virginia said: ‘She was so glad to know our doodles were still there’ (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)

‘There was even a typical 16-year-old’s doodle saying “Cinda ‘n Pete” about one of my friends Lucinda, and another message about teenage love.’

Virginia’s parents didn’t sell the home until 2009, deciding to more somewhere smaller in Surrey after Virginia, her brother and two sisters had all grown up and moved out.

When Virginia’s mother was shown the pictures of the unearthed wall art, she said she was shocked too.

‘She was completely blown away,’ Virginia recalled.

‘She was so glad to know our doodles were still there and, hopefully, remain preserved under Shellie’s new decorating to go on and become like some sort of ancient hieroglyphics!

‘I was quite arty at school but now I’m a wellness coach, as is my husband.

‘And this has certainly made all of us happy. It’s made my year.’

Shellie and Virginia have since become friends, and Shellie has invited Virginia to come and visit her old home for a cup of tea and chat when she’s next in town.

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