St Gregory's west tower

I like towers. I don't get into enough of them. My husband jokes about my Rapunzel aspirations but the truth has less to do with being rescued by Prince Charming and more to do with the graffiti that is often found there.

Once I have checked the porch door it is straight to the West Tower to look on the pillars and behind curtains. At Saint Gregory's I was rewarded with this shield like design atop a fish tail.

But you need a co-conspirator to get into the really secret places, as these are invariably locked up. This time it was the building firm who let me in and lent me a light as I hadn't come prepared.

I hasten to add that I did get permission from the vicar, who kindly warned me that the steps weren't necessarily in the best of condition. I kicked off my shoes, said a small prayer, gave a good solid tug on the rope of uncertain anchorage, and went up.

It was dim and dusty and full of graffiti 

 The stones were pieced, scored with compass marks, scratched with grids and arrows

At one of the doorways the tradesman Issac left his mark as "maker"

Some of the graffiti was younger, some older.
Some pieces were easier to read then others 

But to be honest, the further up I climbed the more nervous I became. I started to want to go back down. I had seen lots of graffiti, and getting the photos was tricky in the half dark. If the rope gave out now it would be a long neck breaking tumble.
Then I saw (to my mind) the best piece of graffiti in the tower. Scratched into a stair rise was what seemed to be elevation of a grand house, vaguely tower like itself with three stories decorated along the roofline with stone ball finials.
 Why and who had sat up here scratching it into the stair rise?  To take the picture I leant back as far as I dared and tried not to romanticise about the motivation behind the graffiti or the drop beneath me.
Once my feet were firmly back on the ground and I had dusted myself down I thought some more about the design and those stone spheres. The only time I have seen that kind of ornamentation is on Clare College bridge in Cambridge. That was built in 1640 so was it a 17th c builder up there creating his fantasy build?  Or was someone recording something that could be seen from the top of the tower?
If course I'm never going to know and it really doesn't matter. I'm not a professional archaeologist, or historian. It's probably just as well. I'd never be allowed these flights of fancy.  


"A subita peste...
Die Dicto"
Late medieval according to the guidebook - A sudden plague/pestilence? Scratched before the windmill was cut over it.
I came to Hardwick when I was back home visiting. I have fond memories of the villages around Cambridge, place of the bicycle. I spent many hours cycling around, stopping at churches.

marmaduke messeynden off helynge yn the county of lyncolne

I took the chance to go up the rood screen stairs (with permission of course). I've always wanted to do that. It gives a totally different perspective of the church.

I had bought a copy of Violet Pritchard's "English Medieval Graffiti" so I was expecting to find harps. I didn't see a single harp, but I did find a lot of windmills and the most lovely lady churchwarden.

and other wonderful things...

Bell ringing changes

Closest thing to a harp I could identify (I wonder who made the mistake, was it me, Ms Pritchard or her publisher?)


But this face... gave me shivers! I wasn't expecting to see him there, on the main door jamb, above the windmill and text! 

Nayland (The trouble with tradesmen)

Some graffiti is a straightforward case of making a mark.
It is the impulse to record that a person was here, temporarily maybe, but here -  at one moment in time.

You see it all over the place and not just in churches - initials carved, scratched, drawn. Some hasty, some considered, depending on  how significant the instigator wished the graffiti to appear.
Then there is the situation where claiming to have *been* is not enough. There is more ego and pride involved; because the place of being is partially constructed or decorated by the graffiti makers hand. This piece of glass was bought to my attention by a window cleaner whose ear I was bending about my present hobby (I am not very good at small talk). "You want to go down to some of those houses by the river" he said "There's some old graffiti on the glass".
F Whittell Painter Bildeston July 1904
You can't read this very easily from the outside, you have to go indoors and look out over the garden. The finding of this graffiti was sad. The house was being renovated, the elderly occupant gone. A pile of personal things, books and pictures was heaped into a bonfire by the pleasant enough builder. Would he try to get the glass out intact? He said he would try but the glass being thin didn't lend itself to optimism. 
Now rewind some centuries - cross county hop into Cambridgeshire (Hardwick) and look in the chancel of the church.
This needs a little translation (not done by myself I hasten to add). It says ...
 marmaduke messeynden off helynge yn the county of lyncolne
Marmaduke worked on the church and then he put his name on it, so that everyone else knew that it was his handiwork.
Some things never change.