Since we have been unable to get out and about on our various projects, we are including write-ups of some of our projects – maybe this will whet your appetite for when the lock down eases. The first of these reports is about our medieval graffiti surveys.
For some time we have been surveying medieval churches in our area for old graffiti. Much of this is what you might suppose: someone scratching their name and the date – although this may have been done as far back as the 1500’s – but a lot are clearly of ritual significance and are known as apotropaic marks. The graffiti are usually carved so as not to obstruct previous marks, indicating some respect for them, and they can also be quite elaborate.
Research into these marks was pioneered a few years back by a historian and writer, Matthew Champion, to try and understand their meanings and SVCA has been contributing to this by forwarding our findings to a central database.
Having found a suitable church we get permission from the church wardens – who are often surprised at what we manage to find – to do the survey. We generally work as a team with pairs working in different locations of the church. We use an LED light held at an oblique angle to bring out the details and hold a scale card against the graffito being recorded before taking the photo – it can be like playing Twister to get everything into the shot! Generally overcast days are best for doing the surveys as the graffiti are not so visible on bright sunny days.
Here are some of our findings:
So next time you are in an old church, take a look around you and see what you can find, If you want to seem more about graffiti see http://www.medieval-graffiti.co.uk/ or in Matt Champion’s book “Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England’s Churches” – or better still, join us on our next survey when lockdown restrictions are eased. We have covered nosy of the churches in the upper Stour area so we mat have to go further afield.
As usual, you cane-mail us at email@example.com for any information about us.
Finally, a big thank you to our committee member, Jane, who has masterminded SVCA’s work in this field.
Hopefully, I will get to meet you face to face in the not too distant future.
David Orrell (SVCA Chairman)