Friends of St Lawrence Church - March 2018 event

Historic Graffiti in Churches - speaker Jamie Ingram

Did you ever think Graffiti could be interesting? All those who were lucky enough to hear Jamie Ingram's fascinating lecture on Friday, March 16th' certainly came away thinking there was a lot more to the subject than they had imagined. I have never seen so many questions to a speaker at a Friends' event.

Jamie began by giving us an overview of the recent interest in the subject. Although the first important paper was written in the 1950s it has only been in the last 10 years that academics have come to recognise the value of the ancient scratchings on the walls. Graffiti goes back as long as Greek and Roman times, but were cave paintings graffiti?

UK work started with a study of churches in East Anglia but has now spread to other parts of the country. There is a coordinated programme in Wiltshire headed by Tony Hack, and at the Cathedral spearheaded by Steve Dunn. History is written by the educated and particularly in the Middle Ages by clerics. Graffiti is a source of history of the poor and illiterate who could only scratch their contribution in hidden corners of churches and other old stone buildings.

St Lawrence church is rich in graffiti — some of it very old with more modern (18th century) cut on top. The two doors — the south door and the north door (now sealed up) — have a lot of interesting designs. The north door was clearly much used at some time. St Lawrence used to be in the middle of the medieval village with houses in the field immediately north of the church as well as to the south. The west door was only used for ceremonial purposes and has no graffiti on it. The Tower has many marks tucked away from the gaze of anyone without special access. Some of the marks are-very intricate involving the use of tools such as metal dividers. Behind the screen on the south side is a detailed drawing of a church window which could be our east window. The left outside pillar of the porch has a most intricate design which Jamie reserved until the end to reveal to us.

Jim Platt