Monnington was commissioned to paint the ceiling of The New Bristol Council House, designed by Vincent Harris, in 1953. The ceiling, measuring 95 x 45 feet (over 4000 square feet), is amongst the largest post-war decorative schemes in Europe. Monnington insisted on painting in the Renaissance manner, directly on to wet plaster. The colours were ground and mixed with an emulsion of eggs, chalk and water. Bristol’s Clerk of the Works delivered baskets of eggs daily.
According to Judy Egerton, ‘A suggestion by the Bristol city fathers that the subject should be ‘something connected with the Merchant Adventurers’ fell on deaf ears. Monnington determined that his design should instead commemorate those scientific achievements which future Bristolians would associate with the mid-twentieth century, and which he himself had become excited by over the last twenty years : modern nuclear physics; electronics, which had enthralled him first in the shape of radio masts and later in radar equipment; aeronautics, whose laws he had begun to comprehend during the war; and biochemistry, where enlarged photographs of recent research revealed amazing quasi-abstract patterns.’
Monnington’s design bears similarities to the paintings of the Italian futurist Balla but is underwritten by his deep admiration for Piero della Francesca, constructed as it is along the lines of the Golden Section. A number of studies for the ceiling are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museum and Bristol City Art Gallery. Monnington’s assistant W.B. (Peter) Lowe recalls : ‘Tom maintained that it was difficult to draw angels in the twentieth-century and was comforted by the enduring qualities of geometry and light.’